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Canadian Insurers Going SmartPhone Mobile: Will the Customer Follow?

Canadian P&C insurers are taking tentative steps to support mobile technology through smart phones.  But will the customer follow?  And how will brokers react?

In 2010, State Farm Canada introduced an App that allowed insureds using iPhones, Android phones, and, subsequently, iPads to perform a variety of functions including accessing account information, filing claims, and contacting agents.  State Farm was give an Insurance-Canada Technology Award for this effort earlier this year.

Recently, Aviva Canada announced a mobile website for customers to access information such as locating service stations, or service providers, filing new claims, or locating brokers.  While the functionality is more limited than that offered by State Farm, it has the advantage of being accessible by a wider range of smartphones (since it is mobile enabled web site.

The real questions are whether consumers will find these offerings useful and, in the case of Aviva, how brokers will react.

We previously posted on the lack of on-line and social marketing support for insurance marketing, noting that an increasing number of consumers are expecting financial institutions to provide information and facilitate access.  However, there is still a leap between consuming information (such as locating a service provider)  and conducting transactions (such as purchasing insurance and filing a claim).  Consumers have not taken that leap en masse using current technology (most consumers still rely on agents and brokers).  Is there a reason why a mobile device will change this?

Also, for companies such as  Aviva which support independent brokers,  providing more direct access to consumers might not be well received by key distributors.  Daryl Angier, editor of CITopBroker, commenting on research by IBM, noted that only 11% of brokers indicated that mobile technology helped with sales.  Also, Angier noted,  “brokers said they feared mobile applications would allow insurers to bypass the broker and connect directly with policyholders, thus threatening the broker’s position as trusted adviser in the ‘real’ world.”

All that said, it is refreshing to see Canadian insurers embracing new technology and taking measured steps with new approaches to the consumer.  As we noted in our last post on Location, there are opportunities for using location data (and mobile technology is key to that) for both customer service and analytic purposes.  So, hats off to Aviva and State Farm Canada.

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