Guest Post by Lonnie Hill, Agency Development Field Specialist

lonnie

 

By now you have probably heard Google is shutting down its online auto insurance shopping tool, Google Compare.  In a previous post, Tony discussed how this is likely only a brief respite and how agents can prepare themselves for more “disruptors” to enter the insurance marketplace.  But why did Google Compare close down and what lessons can be learned from its closing?

Recently, I attended a webinar by Trusted Choice which featured a panel discussion on this very topic.  The panel included executives from insurance carriers such as  Safeco, Progressive and Westfield Insurance Group, along with other insurance technology vendors and organizations serving independent agencies.

Google has been quite vague on why it was shuttering Google Compare, however many of the panelists agreed on a few key factors driving the decision:

  1. Google figured out it could make more money selling ads on its search engine.
  2. Google underestimated the complexity of insurance at the state level. In essence, each state is a completely different insurance environment.
  3. Insurance carriers were slow to sign on. Google’s goal was to be in 20 states by 2016 and they were only in five at the time of closing.
  4. Google failed to recognize the process would be slow to ramp up. Insurance is significantly different from the tech world where most concepts develop faster.
  5. Google didn’t fully appreciate shopping behaviors differ from buying behaviors for insurance consumers. They will shop online, but ultimately want advice and counsel before the actual purchase.

The panel of experts also weighed in on how independent agents should react.  Suggestions included:

  1. Beware of a false sense of confidence. Agents still must demonstrate value and expertise to the customer base.
  2. Agents must recognize people will still shop online for insurance.
  3. Don’t reduce investments in the digital marketplace. These investments can help meet the top three desires by insurance consumers…ease of doing business, choice of carriers and advice before the purchase.
  4. Understand others will not shy away from trying to disrupt the insurance marketplace.

Google’s exit from the insurance marketplace surprised most in the industry.  However, more disruptors are coming that agents should recognize and develop strategies to combat against.  Independent agents must keep customer service at the center of decisions and be a trusted advisor.

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