It’s no secret that the online experience for direct-to-consumer property/casualty insurers has resulted in new competitive set for traditional insurers.  The revelation that traditional insurers are stepping up to the plate to successfully compete with these carriers reveals the importance of this market.

In a report issued by Change Sciences, a New York firm that provides online experience benchmarking, research and consulting services, 17 such carriers were benchmarked for effort, usability, content quality, persuasiveness, the use of social media and more. Change Sciences’ benchmarking efforts are the result of a proprietary technology called Kantuit used to simulate the user experience.  A unique browser was used to visit the 17 sites, and using a custom-built model, measured everything from keystrokes to mouse click-throughs to user eye movement in navigating the sites.

“Right now the competitive landscape for the auto insurance rate quote user experience is shifting in an unexpected way,” Steve Ellis, partner at the consultancy, tells Insurance Networking News. “Traditional providers such as The Hartford and Liberty Mutual have become competitive with the online-only providers, like Esurance and Progressive.”

The report notes that the top three sites overall, The Hartford, Liberty Mutual and Progressive, have a laser focus on persuading the prospect and sealing the deal.

“Every element of these sites reinforces the goal of purchasing a policy, notes Pam Pavliscak, the partner with Change Sciences who headed up the research.  “Other top sites clearly communicate the value they provide, combining low rates and other benefits (Progressive, Nationwide, GEICO).  More importantly, they have a short and simple rate quote process (21st Century, Esurance) with a clear call to action and persuasive details (The Hartford, Liberty Mutual) at the end.”

Ellis explains that sites that require less effort, while being both informative and persuasive, outperform those that require more effort, are less informative and less persuasive. “In our approach, a low score is a good score,” notes Ellis. [See list below]

The report notes that the best site, The Hartford, can be compared to the competitive set overall in the following ways:

•    The Hartford is 0.89 times better than the average performance, 5.2
•    The Hartford is 2.2 times better than the poorest performer, LowerMyBills.com
•    The Hartford is 1.2% better than its nearest competitor, Liberty Mutual

Sites that land in the middle of the rankings are doing some things well but are missing a key piece of the picture, notes Pavliscak “Some of the sites are adding persuasive details to their sites (State Farm) or tools (Allstate, Travelers), but the quote process may still require significant effort,” she notes in the report.

Others have a simple rate quote process but do not offer an option to purchase online (Amica, AAA California). Near the bottom of the rankings are sites that have significant problems with the rate quote process, such as asking for too much detail (Safeco) or not providing a quote at all (GMAC, LowerMyBills.com), notes the report.

Change Sciences counts among its clients AIG, Fidelity, GEICO, TIAA-CREF, State Farm, and Washington Mutual.  The company suggests that to account for the pace of change it recommends insurers conduct quarterly or biannual monitoring of site experience.

“Creating a best-of-class online experience is a moving target,” says Pam Pavliscak, partner with Chance Sciences Group, New York.  “Meaningful innovations that enhance user experience (and improve business) are happening all the time.”

Overall Site Ranking*

Rank/Site Name/Score

1. The Hartford 2.761
2. Liberty Mutual 2.793
3. Progressive 3.707
4. 21st Century 3.847
5. Nationwide 3.962
6. GEICO 4.085
7. State Farm 4.625
8. Esurance 4.803
9. Travelers 5.257
10. Amica 5.509
11. Allstate 5.771
12. AAA California 5.778
13. Unitrin Direct 5.949
14. Farmers 6.080
15. Safeco 7.501
16. GMAC Insurance 7.630
17. LowerMyBills.com 8.864

*Source: Change Sciences Group