There are rumblings on the horizon (well over the Atlantic) that the two biggest names in technology are about to sink their claws into the insurance market in the United States. Amazon is strongly considering entering the life insurance market and Google is about to jump into car insurance according to the news.

Google and Car Insurance

This really can’t come as much of a surprise to anyone. Google has been pioneering driverless car technology and it perhaps has the world’s largest GIS database thanks to all the effort that’s gone into Google Maps. Insurers should be alarmed by this news though.

In the recent PWS survey of CEOs it was clear that 60% of CEOs are alarmed by technology and aren’t certain which path to follow in implementing technology benefits in insurance companies. Google is likely to have no such qualms. Google has a huge portfolio of new technology products under constant development and while the company also prunes that portfolio mercilessly when products fail – it will be pretty confident that it can harness it’s access to nearly unlimited data and established technology in its portfolio to carve out a big chunk of the auto insurance market.

Insurers are going to have to ask some big questions of themselves if and when Google launches this offering. Google is a brand which has a lot of public trust and respect; even following the Edward Snowden revelations.

Amazon and Life Insurance

This is perhaps the more surprising rumour. However, Amazon has carved out a huge chunk of the cloud computing market and it probably has access to more computing power and data storage than nearly any other company out there. That’s going to give the company a real edge if it does decide to enter the insurance market – it’s going to be able to crunch risk assessments and build complex risk models with no perceptible drain on resources.

Amazon also has a good reputation for customer care; something that the insurance industry doesn’t always get right and while current regulatory actions may be over-the-top compared to the situation on the ground – there’s no doubt that customers aren’t delighted with the industry.

It’s also worth considering that if Amazon and Google have seen the potential in the insurance marketplace than there’s a whole host of other technology companies who may feel that they compete there too. Social media providers in particular may be looking at ways to exploit their huge databases of personally created content to create even more accurate risk models in the future.

The insurance industry needs to act now to combat the threats posed by technology companies before it’s too late. Both Amazon and Google could take a substantial bite out of the markets they are said to be entering and they could well use that to expand their product range and service.

Bite of the Apple Insurance Brokers

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In a lot of ways the insurance industry has struggled with technology. Industry adoption of new technologies runs far behind other financial services sectors. Consumers have latched on to price comparison websites to drive down margins for brokers and insurers alike. Customers expect service across a whole range of contact points that didn’t so much as exist two decades ago.

Then of course there’s the need to meet the switched-on client’s needs for information across all channels; websites, print, blogs, social media, TV, radio, etc. All that promotion doesn’t come cheap and once again it drives down margins in the industry.

Brand Identity

One of the more noticeable things about the insurance sector is how little weight brand identity carries with consumers. The industry has, in many respects, failed to capture the hearts and minds of its customers and thus price-sensitivity dominates much of the retail market for insurance products.

Does It Have to Be Like This?

We think that it doesn’t and that the industry needs to start using technology to build the brand identity of its insurers. One possible way to achieve this is to take a leaf out of the gaming industry’s book and use games to build brand loyalty.

Games? But we’re insurers!

Games were once the purview of the young and/or highly technically minded. Then Facebook opened its doors to simple games online. Farmville became an overnight sensation; people who had never played games before suddenly wanted to grow their own virtual vegetable garden and help their neighbours keep their gardens nice.

Farmville demonstrated that everyone will get involved in games if you make it easy enough to do so.

Technology companies noticed the trend and jumped on the bandwagon. If you want some free storage (over and above the basic level) with DropBox you complete a series of tasks (letting friends know about their service) and hey presto – more storage is yours.

Knowledge Tests?

A simple type of game which could be adapted to the insurance sector is the “pub quiz” style general knowledge test. A discount on a premium in exchange for demonstrating you know all about how to secure your car or home might work nicely.

Rewards for referring other people to your products, in the form of future discounts or even cash rebates, might help drive sales without too much effort.

The advantage of games and rewards is that they’re fun. They give people space to engage with your brand at an entertainment level. The loyalty you build with the customer is based on genuine enjoyment rather than any sense of obligation. Clients like games, they like to share high-scores and results – they like rewards too and they like to tell their friends when they get them.

The insurance industry is already adopting high-tech solutions like telematics to improve service; maybe it’s time to consider gaming as part of the future of the industry?

Insurance Gaming

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