In preparing content for our next digital issue, which is all about mobile and should be available for download in a few days, I took the view that we all know mobile is table stakes right now. That is, the real story isn't that consumers are adapting to the channel. They've adapted. Now, for insurers, it's about creating a development organization that is able to identify the rapid shifts in handset and operating system capabilities, and corresponding expectations among policyholders, and deliver an experience befitting that.
It's sort of like this: We all know how to find the form to e-mail an insurer on their website. (Click "Contact us" and maybe on a following landing page, "Send us an e-mail.") If one was to go to an insurer's site and not find such a form, we'd find them behind the times, or worse, frustrating. This is amplified exponentially on mobile. If someone gets in a car accident and can't find a way to kick off the claims process on the insurers' mobile web site or app — that's a dealbreaker. Ditto showing up at a new doctor's office and not being able to get an updated ID card.
Leading companies have a way of shifting the market. Today GEICO announced a new VIN scanning feature that allows users of its smartphone app to scan a vehicle’s window sticker and get a quote. Progressive announced that last summer, and has since famously expanded that capability to all kinds of mobile document imaging. A year ago, this capability was totally off the radar — but things like UPC scanning in retail and mobile check deposit in banking changed the game quickly. Soon this will become a differentiator in the ultra-competitive P&C market — or more accurately, soon something we haven't even heard of will become a differentiator in the ultra-competitive P&C market.
Driving these jumps in expectation are rapid changes in the mobile handset and operating system environment. As some of you have probably heard me say, when I was a marketing writer in 2007 and 2008, nothing was hotter than mobile WAP sites. Then, the App Store opened in July 2008, and WAP sites went out the window as consumers flocked to the more customizable, richer experience of smartphones. All of a sudden, flip phones were out, WAP went with it, and the rest is history. So how can insurers ensure that they aren't developing today's equivalent of a WAP site? Increasingly, they're working with vendors who have expertise in the entire mobile ecosystem and provide development platforms that work across the major operating systems. This allows the insurers' innovation organizations to work on coming up with new capabilities, and leaves the coding to experts.
Kony and Interactive Intelligence are vendors who have come up with such a development platform. But they are cross-industry players. Insurance-specific vendors are likely to seize on the opportunity presented by the desire for single-service mobile development capabilities, playing up their industry knowledge as a differentiator from their competitors. For example, Insurance Data Processing (IDP, Wyncote, Pa.) announced at last week's ACORD/LOMA forum the InsuraSphere Mobile Policyholder application, which it says supports "all major mobile platforms, including iPhone, iPad, Android Smart Phones, Blackberry, Windows and tablets."
IDP's platform allows insurers to develop apps for policyholders to access and manage their policies, bills claims and quotes in 30 days, according to president and CEO Bob Blitshtein. He told me that the company is planning a version that helps create apps for distributors, demand for which is another side effect of the consumerization of IT.