For the past several years, we have seen a significant increase in the number of auto insurance quotes being requested online. The latest studies from comScore, the global leader of digital measurement and analytics show that 67% of insurance shoppers start their research online. comScore also reports that of those online shoppers, 83% obtain more than one quote. Our internal quote data reinforces these studies as we saw a 38% increase in online quotes through TurboRater for Websites from 2012 to 2013 with the trend continuing upward in 2014. In addition to the number of quotes received online, comScore also reports an increase in the number of shoppers that want to purchase their policy online.
To capture market share in the online venue, we have seen several insurance carriers come out with 'online portals' for their agents to place on their websites. These portals allow online prospects to complete the fulfillment process and bind the policy right from the agent's website with no intervention required by the agent.
Unfortunately though, several problems arise with the use of individual carriers online portals. The first and most prominent issue is these portals are being used by independent insurance agents. What is an independent agent? An agent that represents MULTIPLE insurance carriers. If only one of the agent's carriers is offering an online portal, then their online shoppers are only obtaining quotes from one of their carriers. What is the likelihood that one carrier is going to offer a competitive price to every person that obtains a quote from the agent's website? Minimal, otherwise, the agent would have no need for multiple carriers and would simply place all of their business with the one carrier. Therefore, the agent has not put their best face forward when they have presented a quote for only one of their carriers. For those prospects that the one carrier did not offer a competitive quote, the agent will lose. The online shopper is not going to take the time to call the agent and ask for a quote from the rest of their companies. Instead, the online prospect will remember that agency provided a high quote and they will never return. The lead is lost. The marketing dollars the agent spent to get that lead to their site is lost.
For those agents that have multiple carriers with online portals, they are faced with another quandary. They have to find a way to navigate the online prospect to the portal that will provide the prospect with the most competitive rate. We have seen agents try to get very creative with this navigation process. Many have multiple buttons on their website such as 'Click here for a liability quote' and 'Click here for a full coverage quote' or another common set of buttons are 'Click here for a quote with a license', 'Click here for a quote without a license'. I have even seen several agencies have four to five different buttons 'Click here for a quote with a matricula', 'Click here for a quote with a passport' and it goes on and on and on. The problem with this tactic though is there are too many choices for the online prospect.
As the nation's largest provider of websites to the independent agency channel, we have designed over 5000 websites for agents. Our websites are award winning with the awards not based on the 'looks' of our websites, but instead the awards were based on the performance of our websites. The performance was measured by the premium volume the websites generated. We know what it takes to get an online visitor through a quote process. This is our area of expertise - effective website design. Asking too many questions, presenting too many options to an online prospect is one of the fastest ways to turn them off and send them looking for a competitor to get an easy quote. This practice of presenting multiple options to go through before they can start the quote process is no different than calling a business and having to listen to multiple menu options before you can find out what number to push to get the answer to your question. It's frustrating and there are just too many other websites that make it easy to get a quote. Therefore, having multiple online portals and attempting to navigate your online prospect to the 'right' portal will increase abandon rates, in other words, increase the number of online visitors that simply leave.
Another problem with these online portals is the quotes that do get entered into them are not sent to the agent's rating nor agency management system. How is the agent supposed to track these quotes or policies? What about the leads that do not convert to sales? For example, maybe the online visitor had to exit the quote process because they got interrupted. Did the agent get the contact information they need to follow up with the online prospect at a later date? Most likely not. What if the online prospect stopped in the middle of the quote and decided instead they want to call the agent and talk to a live person. The agent has no record of the quote. The online prospect has to start from scratch. How frustrating! Is that really the impression an agent wants to give to someone trying to get a quote?
While agents recognize the need to allow their consumer to purchase online, they do not want to be confined to only representing only the few of their carriers. They want the ability to represent ALL of their carriers. This is where TurboRater for Websites comes in. With this tool, agents can offer MULTIPLE quotes to their online prospects without requiring the online prospect to enter their quote information into multiple portals. Just like agents use comparative raters to enter their quote in once and get multiple quotes, TurboRater for Websites allows online prospects the same.
Throughout the entire quote process, the quote information is stored in the agent's TurboRater account so the agent at all times has all of their prospect's information. With all of their quotes stored in one central location, agents can measure and monitor their quote volume and closing ratios. TurboRater for Websites gives agents the control they need to effectively and efficiently quote and sell insurance online.
If a consumer requests a quote from TurboRater for Websites and either does not complete the quote process or does not choose at that time to purchase the policy, ITC's automated agency marketing system AgencyBuzz starts a follow up email campaign designed to help the agent close the sale. Agents who use this follow up process from AgencyBuzz report a 27% increase in closing ratios and a 7% cumulative increase in client retention.
But most importantly, through TurboRater for Websites, agents give their online prospects the opportunity to get quoted through ALL of the agent's carriers, thus reinforcing the most important reason to choose an independent agent. For those quotes that are presented from our Bind Online carriers, the online prospect can finish the process by simply clicking the 'Buy Now' button and completing the application and payment process. No action is required by the agent.
Every year more and more insurance shoppers turn to the Internet to start their research. The Internet has given the insurance consumer more choices than ever before. This is exactly why a consumer should choose an independent agent - choices. With TurboRater for Websites, independent agents can clearly demonstrate the advantage they have over direct writers by offering quotes from multiple insurance carriers and providing the consumer the means to purchase the policy of their choice online.
About the Author
AnMarie Bozick, CIC, manages ITC’s rating products, including TurboRater and TurboRater for Websites. She has more than 20 years of property and casualty insurance experience, including owning her own agency and serving as president of the Alliance of Insurance Agents of Texas. She joined ITC in 2008.More Content by AnMarie Bozick, CIC