On March 5, 2015 Google announced the introduction of Google Compare
Google Compare has officially launched on-line. The site, which for now has only gone live for the California auto insurance marketplace, is planning to roll out into other states in the coming months. As Agency Checklists reported earlier this year, Google has already obtained the necessary licenses and filings in order to begin offering auto insurance in Massachusetts.
In making the announcement on its website, Jerry Dischler, Vice President of Product Management, AdWords expanded on the ideas behind the creation of Google Compare.
“Whether it’s buying the right car insurance or finding the best credit card, people want an easy way to understand and compare financial products online. In fact, when it comes to buying car insurance, 80% of drivers think they’d find a better policy if they could compare more than two providers.* That’s why today we’re introducing Google Compare for car insurance in California, with more states to follow. This represents the newest addition to a suite of Google Compare products designed to help people make confident, more informed financial decisions.”
Why Google Compare just might not be the death knell for independent agents that everyone thought it might be
While Google definitely has plans to dominate the on-line market for auto insurance in the United States, at first blush, it appears that it is not planning to do so by putting independent agents out of business. Rather, the site as it now stands (but, which might change over time, however) is more of a way to connect insurance companies with clients rather than in becoming a major direct writer itself.
Apparently, what Google Compare will do is allow potential clients to compare auto insurance rates from 14 different carriers. It will then allow a customer to review the options and to give them the opportunity to either speak with a licensed agent before finalizing a purchase or to purchase on-line directly if a customer’s chosen provider offers on-line purchasing of policies. And since, Google Compare only charges insurers and not insureds, it has no interest in promoting direct writers over insurance providers who sell exclusively through independent agents. The surprising result is that Google Compare might actually help independent insurance agents rather than hurt them.
For example, in the same announcement of Google Compare, Mr. Dischler goes on to write the following:
“Google Compare for car insurance provides a seamless, intuitive experience for connecting with your customers online. Whether you’re a national insurance provider or one local to California, people searching for car insurance on their phone or computer can find you along with an apples-to-apples comparison of other providers — all in as little as 5 minutes. You can highlight what makes your business unique, whether that’s an “A” rating in customer service or better discounts for safe drivers. And when users adjust their deductible or add additional cars to their quote, you can show updated pricing that matches their needs. They can then buy their policy online or over the phone through one of your agents.”
Even more interesting is one of the testimonials that Google features from one of its new partners for the California market, Mercury Insurance.
“The lifeblood of Mercury’s business has and always will be our partnership with independent agents. We also know many shoppers want to buy anytime, anywhere, and Google Compare gives them a fast, easy way to do so. Partnering with Google Compare provides us with a tremendous opportunity to connect with a segment of the market that would have been out of reach.” – Erik Thompson, Advertising Director at Mercury
So far, Google Compare in California has approximately 15 insurance provider partners with MetLife Auto & Home being the largest insurer partner to day. Others include Mercury Insurance; The General Insurance; 21st Century Insurance; Infinity Auto Insurance; Titan Insurance; Stillwater Insurance Group; Dairyland Auto Insurance; and CSE Insurance Group. The company, however, is actively looking for more U.S. insurance providers to join.
As the internet giant rolls Google Compare out to other states, the company says that it also plans to introduce ratings and review as well local agent support for providers with agent networks. As for how Google Compare will get paid, it says that has organized the site based upon a “flexible cost-per-acquisition (CPA) mode” but emphasizes that payment will not factor into a company’s ranking or eligibility on the website.