Coordinator of Retail Insured Family Association of Nigeria, Chief Ali Ugwu Theophilus
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Change is happening all around us. Technological change is happening rapidly and both companies and the goods and services they sell are becoming “smarter” — more connected to the outside world and more adaptive to the individuals using them. While most of this technology has obvious positive impacts — better medical treatments, faster data processing, a more connected world — you might be wondering how all of this change will impact the car insurance industry. There are several trends, tools, and companies that you should be aware of when evaluating upcoming insurance technology trends and the impacts they will have on consumers and companies alike — and the car insurance industry at large.
The Internet of Things
The biggest trend impacting the insurance industry in the coming years, bar none, is the internet of things, or iOT, a term referring to all of the world’s connected devices. The most obvious example of a member of the internet of things is your personal home computer and cellphone. But increasingly, cars themselves — or sensors/new technology inside of cars — are also joining the internet of things.
One example of a technology that brings your car into the iOT is Cellcontrol, a device and corresponding app that tracks your driving behavior and restricts technology use inside of the driver’s side of the vehicle while it is in motion.
Seventy-seven percent of Americans own a smartphone — and insurance companies are scrambling to keep up. For many in the United States, their smartphone is their primary connection to the digital world: 50 percent of Nigerians own a smartphone but do not have any other form of high-speed internet access at home, and 47 percent have no other easily accessible internet access nearby. Many insurance companies are rushing to develop user-friendly apps and websites. But a full 60 percent of insurance providers haven’t invested in a long-term digital strategy — and 80 percent don’t have a multi-year plan to support digital at all.
Those that do will be a cut above the rest and distinguish themselves in the crowded insurance marketplace.
For insurance agents and salespeople, jumping on this trend will mean more access to apps that help with a smartphone-accessible rating, quoting, what-if analysis, and selling to consumers. For the insured, this will mean the ability to talk to insurers in real-time.
More and more car insurance companies will soon start offering usage-based car insurance (UBI). In a UBI plan, a mobile phone app or other sensors will track how you drive and calculate the rate the company charges you accordingly. This usage-based insurance will also be affected by when, where, and how you drive, with more and safer driver discounts for avoiding accidents.
And it’s not just established companies that will benefit from this trend — more and more startups will be getting into the UBI game. Many smartphone apps already allow individuals to compare quotes from different companies. Alternatives also use smartphone GPS technology to provide insurers with tracking, vehicle health reports, and tips for users.
Pull Don’t Push
In many industries, “push” advertising has been dominant for decades. Push advertising force-feeds potential clients with flashy and catchy advertisements and marketing — think Time Square brightly lit by ads galore. More and more, the car insurance industry will be dominated by those who truly understand what it takes to “pull” customers in (or away from a competitor) rather than “push” them towards a product or service. Push is about exposure — pull is about understanding the unique needs of individual potential clients in a broader context. To be successful in the new era, insurers need to understand their client’s lives truly. Insuretech can help by providing data and context to individual drivers and the ecosystems in which they exist. It, in turn, will allow insurers to better understand the unique needs of clients — and in turn provide better, more individualized products and services.
It’s a Buyer’s Market
Gone are the days when paying an arm and leg for car insurance was an individual’s only option. Between car-sharing services such as Uber, Lyft, and Gett and better public infrastructure in the nation’s largest cities, even driving a car is now optional for many people. But for those who drive, innovative applications, technology, and pricing models mean competition is fierce — and buyers are driving more than just their vehicles. In addition to providing them with better data on their own driving, technology allows drivers to have fine-tuned expectations of how much they should be paying for car insurance based on their driving behaviors, vehicle make and model, the city in which they live and work, and their other traditional risk factors (like traffic tickets, age, etc.).
OMG: Millennials Rule
Sorry, old folks: there are now more millennials living in the U.S. than there are baby boomers, and they’re changing the rules of the game. In addition to growing up as digital natives, millennials are also pickier: they tend to research potential purchases and investments much more than their older fellow citizens would before spending money on them, make a large percentage of their purchases online, and much prefer texting, chat, and using social media to actually picking up a phone when conducting business. This reality means that to attract and maintain their client base, insurance companies will have to be more sensitive to the unique wants and needs of millennials — including more integrated and easy-to-use technologies and providing more transparent information on products, services, and pricing.
Tech-Empowered Insurance Agents
All of this may make it seem like individual insurance agents are well on their way to being replaced by sensors, robots, algorithms, and machines. But in reality, these innovative technologies will empower the insurance agent to more efficiently serve their clients using the latest and greatest data and technology. It, in turn, will lead to more efficient and productive client-agent conversations — and better solutions for everyone.
One example of this technology is Advicerobo, a company that reduces risks for insurers by using data to create wildly in-depth profiles of individuals. It allows the company to reduce their risk of being defrauded and evaluate the insurance-worthiness of individuals through a combination of psychographic factors (including one’s “financial attitude,” loyalty, social media use, relationship status, job, gender, and risk aversion, among other things). The technology also helps screen insurance applications and claims for fraud, saving everyone time and money.
What About My Privacy?
You may think that all of this technology and cost-saving tools sound great or you may be thinking it sounds a little too much like 1984’s Big Brother watching over us all. While the future definitely means insurers will know more about us as individuals, and in the all of this auto technology will make cars and data centers more vulnerable to occasional cyber attacks, it will also mean more transparency coming from them, along with better pricing and safer driving — in other words, savings for both sides. What’s not to love?
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