As the Internet becomes increasingly accessible to different segments of the U.S. population, the demographics of usage by various ethnicities continues to shift. Both statistical and anecdotal research across the industry indicates that Internet usage amongst the Hispanic and Latino communities is increasing at a rate that eclipses that of other ethnic groups.
Accordingly, over the past two years the insurance industry has seen a rise in the number of carriers supporting Spanish language content on their Web offerings. For several years, carriers like Allstate (Northbrook, Ill.), Amica (Lincoln, R.I.), GE (Richmond, Va.), Nationwide (Columbus, Ohio) and State Farm (Bloomington, Ind.) have offered online product and marketing content in Spanish. Since the latter half of 2002, P&C insurance carriers such as SAFECO (Seattle), Progressive (Mayfield Village, Ohio) and Travelers (Hartford) have added a host of Spanish language content to their Web sites with the aim of better serving the needs of their Hispanic policyholders and prospects.
Different carriers go to different lengths to extend the breadth of their standard English language offerings to Spanish speaking customers. Most carriers that offer Spanish language provide, at a bare minimum, information on products and services, FAQs and agent locators in Spanish. This is achieved in different ways. While firms like Allstate and State Farm link customers off to separate areas (a select group of unique pages) that are entirely in Spanish but do not include all the content of the English language site experience, firms like Nationwide present the same online experience (homepage and navigation) that is provided to its English-speaking customers. The upside is that customers can navigate all pages, content, and functionality of the standard offering; the downside is that the site bounces between Spanish language content and English content for non-translated pages.
Where the insurance industry differs from other industries in financial services, however, is its support of online functionality beyond simple marketing and education. While 50 percent of the 18 P&C carriers on the Q3 2002 GómezPro Internet Insurance Carrier Scorecard offer Spanish language marketing and content, support of online quoting in Spanish is limited to only two carriers and online policy management is only supported in Spanish by one carrier. To put this in perspective, in GómezPro's Credit Card Scorecard, 28 percent of firms offer Spanish versions of their online credit card applications. Twenty-five percent of brokers in our most recent Discount Broker Scorecard rankings provide online account management to their target minority demographic " Chinese speaking customers.