Mobile Matters

Kevin Rice
Insurance Experts' Forum, January 21, 2014

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I went shopping with my family to take advantage of some deals. I used my smartphone often, sometimes too much, and so did the rest of the shopping crowd. Some of the behaviors I observed fit into familiar patterns: browsing deals on other sites while in a store, scanning bar codes for price lookups, texting, and playing games while in line.  (I may, or may not, have done one or all of those.)

As a student of mobile trends, I analyzed the news stories coming in after the weekend.  One study reported that mobile-based activity was up significantly over last year for visits, page views, and mobile sales. Over the Black Friday weekend, it was reported that mobile accounted for 39.7 percent of all web traffic and 21.8 percent of all web sales, substantial increases over last year. Another trend is the pace at which mobile phones and tablets are connecting us online. According to an August eMarketer report, mobile is becoming a dominant platform for consuming media.

So, what does that mean to us in the insurance industry? We know that insurance is not an industry with high-volume mobile transactions, especially when you compare it to banking, financial services, retail, or gaming. An Allstate customer might go through the web or use the Allstate Mobile app once or twice a month to make a payment, look up information, or request a policy change, but this is not very high engagement.

Nevertheless, the insurance industry can’t afford to be passive in mobility. Once, having a mobile application or having a mobile-optimized web site was cutting edge; now it is a customer expectation. Having an application for an iPhone or Android, a mobile-optimized website, and a “touch” user interface is expected – gone are the days of hyperlinks, the mouse and the keyboard alone. 

We need to be at parity with all of the other icons on a customer’s device, not just with our industry competitors. Just because we are in the insurance space does not give us a bye when it comes to a great user experience. With apps like Digital Locker, Good Hands Roadside Assistance, and QuickFoto Claim, Allstate can offer its mobile customers additional services, but these features need to be constantly updated and refreshed. It may calm down eventually, but it is happening at a break-neck pace right now.

If the holiday season teaches us anything, it is that more people will be getting and using mobile technologies. They will watch videos, stream music, play games, buy goods and services, browse the web, text, and socialize. I think being there when, how, and where they want to interact with us is critical. Extending that relationship and having the customer engage with us more is the new norm.

Kevin Rice is Allstate's director of mobile, Internet and social technology. 

Readers are encouraged to respond to Kevin using the “Add Your Comments” box below.

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