This is a white paper our team produced that points at the need for insurance professionals to go mobile.

 

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Why Your Company Needs to Act Now

Canadian insurance entities need to embrace the mobile revolution that is under way and find ways to deliver value to their customers using mobile platforms. This “mobile imperative” is driven by:

  • Significant and ongoing growth in the adoption of mobile devices by Canadians
  • Changes in the usage habits and expectations of Canadian mobile users
  • The risk of being seen as out of date or irrelevant
  • The opportunity to meaningfully differentiate in a “me-too” marketplace
  • New and evolving understanding about how to deliver mobile
  • The chance to reduce costs and improve organizational effectiveness and profitability
  • The possibility of collecting rich user data

This white paper provides a snapshot of emerging trends and current thinking on how industry participants can succeed in mobile delivery of services.

 

Mobile is Exploding

On October 23, 2012 Apple unveiled the iPad Mini an extension of its line of hugely successful iPad tablet computers. At the launch, CEO Tim Cook reported that just two weeks earlier Apple had sold its 100 millionth tablet – an astonishing number given that the iPad first hit the market in mid-20101. Apple’s share of the tablet market is about 57% meaning that industry sales to date exceed 175 million devices2.

In Canada, roughly a year and a half after the iPad almost singlehandedly transformed the tablet market into a significant consumer category, penetration had reached 10% among all adults peaking at 14% in the 35-49 age group but also highly penetrated in the 50-64 age group at 9%. Category expansion rose from 3% to 10% from Fall 2010 to Fall 20113.

Tablets, of course, represent just one slice of the booming mobile device market. The other significant category, Smartphones, is also roaring along at a frenetic pace. At the end of 2011, IAB Canada reported that there were 25.9 million mobile phone subscribers over the age of ten in Canada and about 45%, or close to 12 million of them, were using Smartphones4. As mobile users reach the end of their multi-year contracts they often upgrade to Smartphones. It is a highly competitive market currently led by Google’s Android platform with a 36% share, followed by Apple with 29%, and RIM with 27%5.

In brief, more and more Canadians have, or will soon acquire, a mobile device. This trend is likely to accelerate as competition heats up and prices come down. There remains ample room for growth in this market.

 

How do Canadians use Mobile?

The rapid proliferation of mobile devices in Canada raises questions of how Canadians use them and what particular benefits they see from their use. Bell Media’s 2011 Canadian Mobile Media Snapshot revealed that a key use is browsing the Internet and that:

  • 82% of mobile media users agree that mobile media is a good way to learn about new products and brands.
  • 80% of mobile media users agree that mobile media can influence them to investigate a product or service.
  • 71% of mobile media users agree that mobile media can change the way they think about a product or service.
  • 65% of mobile media users agree that mobile media can influence them to buy a product or service6.

Significantly, downloaded application (app) use outstrips browser use by Smartphone subscribers, 85% reporting that they use downloaded applications monthly versus 76% reporting monthly use of a web browser. Email at 69% usage and accessing social networks by 59% of survey respondents round out the four dominant Internet activities of Canadian Smartphone subscribers7.

 

What is Essential for a Good Mobile Experience?

Websites that are not optimized for mobile are a key source of dissatisfaction among mobile users. In its 2011 mobile media survey, Bell Media noted that:

 

 “Canadian mobile users are also issuing a call to action for Canadian brands to make more content mobile friendly. When asked what would encourage them to use the mobile Internet more, the top reasons respondents gave all spoke to issues solved by more mobile-optimized sites including: sites better designed for mobile browsing; easier to use mobile sites; and more mobile sites.”8

 

In a similar vein, industry research and anecdotal evidence point to a need for developers of mobile apps to deliver products that take advantage of the unique technology and capabilities of mobile devices, and the context in which these devices are being used.

A successful real-world example is an app provided by Starbucks9. It allows customers to: locate nearby stores based on the user’s current location; manage the prepaid balances on their Starbucks cards; check loyalty points and reward status; and to pay for their store purchases by “swiping” their mobile device against a point-of-sale bar code reader. The app also provides static resources in the form of menu information and the ability to store details of favourite drinks, food items or store locations. The app succeeds by helping a consumer who wants a coffee right here, right now, locate a store, make a purchase selection and pay for their choice in the easiest way possible.

The consumer benefits are obvious. The mobile app provides convenience and utility that was simply not possible to deliver previously. The benefits to Starbucks include strengthened brand loyalty, likely incremental sales and rich data that may help them better understand their customers’ buying behaviour. An app that is static and only provides basic information such as contact details or product information, as useful as that might be, potentially risks eroding brand equity by failing to deliver meaningful benefits to users at the moment and place they seek those benefits.

 

The Context Hurdle

Forrester Research has identified “context” as being critical to the success of mobile services10. By context, they are referring to the time, place and current activity of the user as well as the user’s preferences and attitudes. It means that what a person is doing, when and where they are doing it significantly impact how they will judge their experience of mobile services. “Consumers expect robust mobile experiences that are more than a squeezed PC experience, meaning that ebusiness professionals must design for mobile to take advantage of its highly contextual and task-oriented nature.”11

Some users reviewing the app of one Canadian insurer describe it as “useless” or “a pointless app”. Other users highlight that the limited functionality on offer doesn’t work properly. Their comments reflect that the app is largely just static content – contact information, “helpful tips”, and the like. The app fails to clear the context hurdle because it doesn’t solve a problem or meet a need that a user might be experiencing in real time. This is a digital strategy that is clearly off the rails, but not uncommon, and highlights the need to build mobile apps from the user out.

 

Unique Challenges for the Insurance Industry

A recent article in the Globe and Mail on car insurance began with the statement that “Insurers are your modern stone-age industry.”12 The general thrust of the piece was that, collectively, the insurance industry has been slow to adopt emerging technology and has a poor track record for innovation. The article suggests this is particularly problematic when servicing the needs of Gen Y customers (the children of the baby boomers) who have grown up with the Internet and who expect to purchase services and have them delivered online. The adoption rates for mobile across demographic groups indicate that the problem is not confined to Gen Y customers. The important takeaway is that the industry is being left behind in terms of how it delivers service to its customers. Customer satisfaction may be negatively impacted when service does not meet the standards set by financial services peers.

To be fair, the industry faces some unique challenges. Insurance is a low transaction volume business. Most consumers shop for the product infrequently; typically when changing circumstances, such as buying a new car or moving to a new home, force them to consider their insurance needs. Insurance is what marketers call a “low involvement” product, meaning that it isn’t a fun, sexy or exciting purchase that has much capacity to engage the consumer. More often, it is a forced purchase brought about by the need to satisfy regulatory or lender requirements. It is also a complex product with its own opaque lexicon that can be confusing or intimidating to the consumer. As a result, policyholders are often unsure of what they are actually covered for and are wary of using the product, i.e., making a claim, for fear of either real or imagined consequences.

This is a landscape into which it is particularly difficult to drop digital solutions. Unlike selling coffee, or even other financial services like banking, where transactions are both simpler and more numerous, there are few obvious touch points where an online solution can be readily deployed. It is, of course, possible to get quotes and purchase insurance online from the direct writers, but there remains a void when it comes to using mobile platforms to provide post-sale services. For brokers and broker-based insurers, it is important not to cede any further digital advantage to the direct writers. Instead, mobile should be seen as an opportunity to extend the superior, advice-based and high touch service that consumers expect from brokers.

 

Delivering Mobile for Insurance – The Importance of Relevance and Functionality

The key to delivering successful mobile experiences is to look carefully for touch points where a mobile app can meet a contextual need. A list of potential touch points for policyholders could include:

  • managing an accident when it happens;
  • making or managing a claim;
  • renting a car;
  • lending their own car;
  • buying a house or car shopping;
  • buying expensive personal items such as art or jewellery;
  • home renovations or moving.

It is critically important to think beyond the simple provision of information, e.g., checklists and text, and try to imagine functionality that helps the user at the time they need it, at their present location, and in a way that eases or simplifies the execution of whatever activity they are engaged in. Developers should also be considering how mobile can reduce the costs of delivering specific services and/or improve operational effectiveness. The cost of developing and deploying a mobile app could be fully recovered or profitability could be enhanced if the app can reduce the number of calls to agents for example, or contribute to a reduction in loss costs.

If the context challenge cannot be met, then the need for a mobile app must be seriously questioned. Mobile solutions should be part of a broader digital strategy that, at its core, seeks to enhance the value proposition and product offering of the business, not just replicate it in a different medium. As an example, brokers can use mobile to extend their hours of service, deliver advice on the spot, and reinforce their value proposition of delivering superior, needs-driven service.

Scale is not critical; it isn’t necessary to deliver a fully integrated policy sales or payment solution. Solving one or many small, real-world problems with immediacy is how any company, regardless of its size, can leverage the immense potential of the rapidly expanding mobile universe. The important thing is to get busy now, and become an early leader instead of a distant follower. Providing mobile solutions as part of an integrated digital strategy can help companies increase brand equity, meaningfully differentiate their service, increase customer loyalty and possibly turn customers into brand advocates. Mobile can also help to reduce service delivery costs and improve operational effectiveness.


Endnotes

  1. Financial Post, Apple shares dip on iPad Mini reveal, Wednesday, October 24, 2012
  2. The Globe and Mail, Apple’s Dominance Challenged, October 26, 2012
  3. IAB Canada, Mobile in Canada: A Summary Of Current Facts + Trends, 2012
  4. Ibid
  5. CBC News, Android popularity swells among Canadian Smartphone users, September, 17, 2012
  6. bellmediapr.ca, Canadian Mobile Media Snapshot, August, 2011
  7. IAB Canada, Mobile in Canada: A Summary Of Current Facts + Trends, 2012
  8. bellmediapr.ca, Canadian Mobile Media Snapshot, August, 2011
  9. money.usnews.com, Starbucks Brews Loyalty With Mobile Payment, May 15, 2012
  10. Forrester Research Inc., The Future Of Mobile Experiences Is Context, Julie A. Ask, October 26, 2011
  11. Julie A. Ask, cited by Chantal Tode, Mobile Marketer Daily, Mobile experiences are quickly falling short of consumer expectations: Forrester, October 17, 2012
  12. Note to car insurers: It’s 2012 out there, The Globe and Mail, October 11, 2012

 

 

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