Latest data shows the growing importance of agents having online quoting capabilities
With over 1,700 independent agencies in Massachusetts as clients, Needham-based Boston Software might know a thing or two about online quoting trends in the Commonwealth. In a recent press release, the comparative software and custom rating company says that over 75,000 auto insurance and homeowner online quotes were generated in Massachusetts over the past year using the company’s SinglePoint Leads.
“Online consumer quoting continues to build momentum in Massachusetts,” said Charlie Walsh. “Since we introduced SinglePoint Leads Auto quoting in 2013, we’ve seen a steady march of progress – with growing participation from carriers, agents and consumers.”
In May of this year, the company introduced SinglePoint Leads Homeowners with three carriers MAPFRE/Commerce, Safeco and Quincy Mutual.
As part of that expansion, the company announced in a press release the addition of two more carriers to its instant homeowner quotes for its SinglePoint Leads platform: Safety Insurance and Union Mutual of Vermont. These two carriers already provide auto insurance quotes on the platform that are available through participating Massachusetts independent agencies’ web sites and Facebook pages.
“Though our agents will maintain strong personal relationships with our customers, we recognize that consumers appreciate the ease of an initial online quote,” said Ann McKeown, Vice President of Insurance Operations at Safety Insurance. “This tool supports our agents in their ongoing efforts to meet customer needs.”
“We are excited to partner with Boston Software and utilize their expanded Single- Point Leads functionality,” said Robert Glass, Union Mutual of Vermont Senior Vice President of Product Distribution. “The resulting ease of doing business and increased delivery speed of the initial Homeowners quote will help us – and our participating independent agents – better compete to win more customers,” Glass added, concluding, “This new feature is right in line with our broader Personal Lines strategy.”
As the trend in online shopping continues to surge in Massachusetts, Boston Software’s goal is to offer all the Massachusetts auto and homeowners insurance carriers on its platform. “We’ll continue to partner with carriers and agents to give consumers what they want,” Walsh said.
A trend that is not only growing in Massachusetts but across the nation
And it is not only in Massachusetts where the increase in online consumer quoting is growing. According to a 2013 report from McKinsey, 73 percent of all auto insurance shoppers cited the internet as their direct channel for gathering information, up from only 55 percent of consumer in 2008. As a result, 70 of those consumers ultimately ended up obtaining a quote directly from the internet.
An interesting and insightful caveat to that number, however, was that at purchase point and beyond, a majority of insurance shoppers actually preferred to speak with an agent when it came time to buy a policy. Sixty percent of shoppers ultimately ended up using agency channels to bind coverage. “And while 60 percent used direct channels for post-purchase support…over 75 percent spoke with a person (either agent or call center) highlighting the importance of the personal touch during this stage of the journey.
Global media measurement and analytics company comScore has also been tracking this trend for the last few years. In its 2014 U.S. Online Auto Insurance Shopping Report, the company noted that while insurance shopping remains flat overall, when consumers do shop they are more and more likely to begin their shopping experience online. The report notes that while just 46 percent of consumers shopped for auto insurance last year, 71 percent of those shopping obtained an insurance quote online, a four percent increase over 2013 numbers.
The trend in online quoting in the Massachusetts insurance industry
Many independent insurance agencies in Massachusetts have already begun to offer online quoting capabilities via SinglePoint Leads or as an Advantage member of the Trusted Choice’s online consumer portal. In Massachusetts, Trusted Choice’s online comparison rating tool is run by Boston Software.
In August of this year, Agency Checklists featured two different debuts of online quoting capability tools in Massachusetts. In our most recent Agency Interview article, we spoke with Bill Suneson of MassDrive, an independent agency that sells insurance online or by telephone only. Building on the Boston Software SinglePoint Leads platform, the company introduced its own proprietary online quoting tool for their agency. The result is a personalized and user-friendly experience for MassDrive’s customers that rivals those of direct writers.
On the carrier-side, Boston-based Plymouth Rock was one of the first carriers in the Commonwealth to offer an online quoting tool to its agents. This past August, the company announced a new online quoting capability product called Prime. Prime provides consumers online access to buy and manage their auto insurance policies online directly from Plymouth Rock. However, the difference for agents with Prime is that Plymouth Rock will assign the consumer using Prime to a Plymouth Rock agent, who can further assist the consumer and cross-sell additional coverages as required.
In addition, many agents have been opting to use SinglePoint Leads on their website. The end result it that with over 75,000 quotes last year in Massachusetts alone, more Mass. agents should be recognizing the importance of having some kind of online quoting capability tool working for their agency.