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Digital Does Matter in Insurance-- And Insurers are Missing the Mark


Amazon. Google. Apple. Three companies that have raised the bar on customer engagement, defined “great” customer service and dramatically transformed the entire customer experience landscape--all by putting the customer at the center of the equation.

No industry has been immune from the pain or fortune--but mostly pain--of digital disruption, including insurance. It has even created an inviting environment for companies like Amazon to investigate and analyze opportunities to enter the lucrative insurance marketplace.

So how are insurers performing in the this relatively new digital world?

According to the second annual “Gartner L2 Digital IQ index: Insurance U.S. Report,” released in July of this year, the results were, to put it mildly, underwhelming. The report, which ranks the digital performance of 54 brands operating in the auto, life and/or property & casualty sectors of the U.S. market, measured 1,200 data points against four critical dimensions: digital marketing, social media, desktop site, and mobile site. From these calculations, two brands were classified as Genius, 17 as Gifted, 11 as Average, 14 as Challenged, and 10 as Feeble.

Here is what the categories mean:

  • Genius: companies whose digital competence is a point of competitive differentiation

  • Gifted: companies that are experimenting and innovating across their website, mobile and social platforms

  • Average: companies whose digital presence is functional, yet predictable

  • Challenged: companies that have limited or inconsistent adoption of mobile and social media platforms

  • Feeble: companies where their investment does not match the opportunity.

In Gartner’s survey, the majority of brands landed in Gifted (31%) or Challenged (26%) categories. State Farm maintained its Genius classification year over year, while GEICO swapped positions in 2019 with last year’s other two 2018 Geniuses, Allstate and Liberty Mutual. Fourteen out of 17 of the net new brands in the 2019 study were either Feeble or Challenged. Amica was the only case in the cohort of new brands to earn the Gifted classification.

The good news? All of the participating brands offered some level of service across many aspects of the digital spectrum. 

The bad news? Despite these efforts--and the prospects’ willingness to provide data and information--insurance providers are still hard-pressed to bridge the digital divide.

According to the Gartner study, people looking to purchase life insurance online have doubled in the last six years. Yet only 38% of these brands allowed users to enroll online after filling out a “Request-a-Quote” form, and 28% did not even offer next steps. Additionally, nearly half of all site traffic is driven to the homepage, but only 46% of brands have a call-to-action in their primary navigation. A disconnect that can dampen prospect activity and leave customers wanting more.

“U.S. insurance brands reached the mobile tipping point in 2019,” says Elizabeth Elder, principal, financial services at Gartner, with an average with an average of 52% of total traffic to brand sites taking place on mobile devices. “However, the numerous drop-offs in mobile site features showed that insurance brands have not adjusted well to the new landscape.”

According to Elder, basic features such as site-specific login, editorial content and keyword search were found on desktop sites, but not mobile sites. Some brands failed to port certain customer service elements, such as their “Contact Us” page, to their mobile sites. Mobile promotion was the only basic feature to see higher adoption on mobile sites than desktop sites.

“To thrive in this new landscape, insurance brands must create a seamless transition from desktop to mobile and ensure all crucial elements on the desktop site translate to smaller devices,” adds Elder.

The study centered on three key questions:

  • How has the digital marketing landscape evolved, and which channels are insurance brands prioritizing?

  • How are brands leveraging content to differentiate themselves on various digital platforms? 

  • What does digital success look like across different dimensions and what are replicable tactics?

Some of the key findings were enlightening:

The declining quality of brand sites

Gartner observed a 6% decrease in the average brand site score (compared to last year’s insurance study). It attributed this decline to the lack of basic features on many brand sites. It also demonstrated a marked disconnect between customer expectations and what brands provide. “As insurance brands increase their investment in digital,” says Elder, “it is vital they do not ignore the branded-site experience, as these sites facilitate conversion opportunities, customer utility and promotional cross-selling.”

The rise of text ads

In the 2018 study, text ads represented only 21% of nonbranded search results (i.e., “best life insurance”). This figure nearly tripled to 61% this year. Gartner found that more text ads surfaced at the bottom (32%) of a result page than the top (29%), which highlights a competitive environment dominated by spending, rather than strategy.

Mobile site falloff

Insurance brands reached the mobile tipping point: 52% average of total Index traffic to brand sites was on mobile devices during the study period. However, as indicated by the numerous drop-offs in mobile site features, insurance brands did not adjust to the new landscape. Basic features like site specific login (89%), editorial content (81%) and keyword search (74%) were on desktop sites, but not mobile sites.

The Top Digital Players

Only two insurers out of the 54 participating companies in the study earned Genius status: State Farm and GEICO. What made them different from the rest of the pack?

  • State Farm

From a digital marketing perspective, State Farm was the only brand to have greater than 30% organic visibility in three different nonbranded keyword categories: renter insurance (63%), car insurance (36%) and life insurance (31%). The company also operated two brand-building Twitter accounts, @Statefarm and @JakeStateFarm, earning the second most Twitter interactions in the Index.


GEICO was the second most prolific display advertiser on both desktop and mobile; representing 30% of all static and video ad impressions in the Index. The company also earned the third most Facebook interactions in the Index through a heavy promotion strategy (promoting 73% of its posts). GEICO also had a robust iOS App Store optimization with 89% of their nearly 1.4M ratings across their three apps were 5 stars.

While these two companies were touted as the digital leaders, there were other notable mentions:

  • Liberty Mutual was a best-in-class example of a brand with extensive agent profiles. The brand’s agent tool is wrapped into the same infrastructure as a branch locator. Once a user chooses a branch, they are prompted to view the agents in that location. Each agent profile has contact information, a bio, a list of accolades and the ability to connect on social media.

  • Amica’s Request-a-Quote tool was a best-in-class implementation of information due to the user interference facilitating all prospect concerns. While “visually dated,” the tool was packed with information. Amica explained that the purpose of its quote process included a customer service number at the top of the page, provided frequently asked questions in a sidebar, and inserted its important privacy policy at the end of the page before a user proceeds.

  • AIG had unparalleled levels of Facebook performance. The brand amassed more than four million interactions during the study period, whereas Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company (the No. 2 brand in terms of interactions) only garnered 650,000, a differential of over six times. AIG posted about six times per week, just two more posts per week than the Index average, with only 43% of its posts being promoted. Nationwide, on the other hand, posted nearly 12 times per week--the second most of all brands.

Key Recommendations

So, what were some of the key recommendations coming from the study results?

“First, be sure you incentivize a prospect on your desktop site. Most brands have their non-gated assets geared toward clients versus prospects,” says Elder. “This is a lost opportunity.

“Second, search and display advertising are highly competitive markets. Understand your niche before launching expensive awareness campaigns. And third, create a seamless transition from desktop to mobile, and ensure none of your crucial elements fail to translate to smaller devices.

“In the digital ecosystem, separating the winners from the losers is not based on which digital elements an insurer merely possesses, but how they translate their efforts into holistic experiences across multiple customer journeys. That’s the key to digital success,” adds Elder.


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