E-commerce: The outlook for online B2C insurance in the Irish retail market.

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1 E-commerce: The outlook for online B2C insurance in the Irish retail market. Presented to the Society of Actuaries in Ireland Brian Heffernan FSAI Martin Ryan FSAI

2 Introduction There are as many different opinions on the commercial value of the internet as there are businesses. Some believe that it can be the answer to all of their business prayers while others view the Web as over-hyped and best left alone. Many people have argued that the internet renders strategy obsolete, while others argue that the increased information provided to the consumer via the internet means it is more important than ever for companies to distinguish themselves through strategy. It is clear that internet strategy within organisations is still evolving and will do so for some time yet but trends have started to emerge within the winning organisations. So how has the internet impacted on the general insurance industry and what can they learn from these emerging trends in corporate internet strategy? Now that the initial e-phoria that greeted the Web has dissipated somewhat, we take a look at who is online in Ireland, the trends in insurance and the Internet from abroad, the developments in the Irish market and the outlook for the business to consumer (B2C) segment of the online matrix here.

3 The market - Ireland online? One third online Over the last two years Internet use in Ireland has doubled. Almost a third of Irish adults, equivalent to about 895,000 people currently use the Internet, although some slowdown in the rate of growth has been observed (Amarach 2001). % of Irish Adults Online 50% 45% 40% 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 0% * 2003* (*Amarach Forecast) According to Amarach, 47% of Irish adults say they will never use the Internet, while 43% of Irish adults will be using the Internet by 2003 Are reluctant online shoppers with only 15% of Internet users e-commerce active, with travel being the number one online purchase. This compares with 43% of the online population in Great Britain. The value of the Irish B2C market is forecast to grow to 330m by Amarachs research has been supported by Forrester s report which found 18% of those online in Ireland having bought anything online. Amarach also found that of those who never used the internet, seventy-four percent thought that this would remain the case. This equates to 47% of Ireland s adult population saying they will never go online. This figure is obviously critical for anyone developing an internet strategy for the Irish consumer market.

4 Recent business news coverage has highlighted how Ireland is leading Europe in terms of high-tech investment and exports. Yet Irish consumers represent a negligible market for Internet commerce. Forrester (Jackson 2001) believes that Ireland-only dot-coms will not survive as the customer base is too small given the low numbers shopping online. So who is online in Ireland? ECommerce activity is highest among year olds, ABC1s, those living in the East, credit card owners and have home access to the Internet. The top 5 purchase categories for Irish e-consumers are travel services, books, music, videos/dvds and computer software There is a digital divide in Ireland when it comes to Internet access. Over 60% of internet users can be classed as ABC1 higher income earners Table 1 below provides some further details on the profiles of Irish consumers. It is clear that Dublin is in the fast-lane, having 61% of Ireland s online shoppers. Table Ireland s Technology Map Dublin Rest of Leinster Munster Connaught & Ulster % High Income 45% 27% 36% 30% % Higher Education 29% 21% 24% 21% Sidelined Citizens 19% 26% 25% 33% Online 39% 26% 26% 22% Online Shoppers 28% 14% 11% 8% Mobile Phone 70% 56% 57% 60% PC at home 48% 35% 34% 30% Ireland s Technology Map; Ireland IT Industry Leader, Consumer Laggard, Forrester Research (Jackson 2001) Although the take up of internet use in Ireland has been slow, this is not the case in all European countries, with the Scandanavians generally being ahead of the rest of Europe. The following table gives a comparison of the e-connectivity across of European consumers. Table - Europe s Technology Scoreboard People Online Online Shoppers Mobile Phones PC at home Fast Lane Sweden 60% 28% 80% 66% Norway 56% 20% 83% 45% Switzerland 52% 34% 69% 70% Middle-of-the-road Finland 47% 18% 81% 46%

5 Netherlands 44% 14% 71% 69% Great Britain 40% 43% 66% 52% Austria 40% 29% 78% 59% Germany 39% 28% 65% 61% Belgium 36% 20% 61% 56% Slow Lane Ireland 29% 18% 61% 38% France 22% 18% 56% 40% Italy 20% 12% 71% 37% Spain 20% 17% 64% 36% Europe 32% 26% 66% 49% Europe s Technology Scoreboard; Ireland: IT Industry Leader, Consumer Laggard, Forrester Research (Jackson 2001)

6 Overseas - Trends in insurance and the Internet Although actual online sales of insurance products are still quite small, a growing volume of B2C transactions are taking place online. While there is little definitive view of the format B2C online insurance will take in the future, we look here at some of the trends emerging worldwide. Buying insurance online is in its infancy with no more than 1%-2% of sales being made online Of the 28 million households in the US that made online purchases in 2000, fewer than 700,000 (2.5%), purchased insurance online (Forrester 2000). In the UK it is estimated that only 2% of insurance sales are being made online. In the German market, HUK Coburg claims that over 7% of its motor policies were generated over the Internet in the first half of Reinsurance to be a researched product high premiums drive technophiles to the Net for research, particularly motor insurance However low volumes of online sales does not tell the whole picture as 9% of the insurance owning population in the US researched their insurance purchases online in By 2004, according to the Forrester study, 10 percent of households will research $42billion and purchase $14billion online. To date motor insurance sales have dominated the online insurance market, accounting for more than 70 percent of online insurance revenue in 2000 (Forrester 2000). Age is a major indicator of consumer willingness to use the Internet to purchse online In a survey commissioned by QuickenInsurance (www.quickeninsurance.com) in the US, they found that age was a major indicator of those willing to buy online with the young most likely to purchase. Of respondents aged 18-34, 36% of them said they would consider purchasing insurance online. In the 35+ category, 15% said they would consider purchasing online. Gender was also a factor in responses, with men twice as likely to go online as women to purchase insurance. Brand is important but customers want value products that are easily understood

7 Associated with the age profile of those purchasing online, Forrester research found that while brand was important in this age group, customer were purchasing products that were most easily understood and price sensitive. Clicks and Mortar emerging as a key strategy for the success of online As more customers use the Internet to research their insurance purchases, it is those companies that can integrate the online business into other parts of the business, such as coordinated call centres or referencing of online quotes that will maximise the value of their online strategy. Consumers perceptions of security seen as one of the barriers to B2C growth Security issues remain to the forefront for prospective shoppers on the internet. Of those surveyed in Forrester research only 46% stated they were comfortable submitting personal information online. In research carried out by Amarach consultants in Ireland, they found that concerns about giving credit card details over the internet and concerns about personal details becoming known were 2 of the top four reasons internet users were not purchasing online. Given the amount of information that has to be submitted for any online insurance purchase, security concerns must remain high up on any online strategy being developed by insurers in Ireland. Speed is crucial Customers will not learn complex sequences of keystrokes to execute a transaction. They will wait approximately eight seconds after a mouse click for a desired result before abandoning a website. Web page loading times directly impact the ability to conduct business over the Internet. A third of Web users simply give up trying to buy an item over the Internet when frustrated with an online shopping experience (Zona Research 1999)

8 Ireland What is currently available? Insurer s ahead After a slow start by Irish insurers, all the big players in the personal insurances market now have websites providing quotes for personal insurances with the lines of motor, household and travel being offered most often. The following table outlines a selection of what is available in the Irish market. Table - Transacting Personal Insurances Online Motor Home Travel Bike Renewals Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Transacting Online a selection of what is available from the main players in the Irish personal insurances market. Note, some websites will quote for other lines not included as Y, but it is not possible to complete the transaction online. Of the websites surveyed, there were varying degrees in difficulty and length of time associated in obtaining a quote. This is particularly relevant given that at the moment, the main use of the sites is to research the product and make price comparisons. The fastest quote is obtained with just one input screen to give a quick quote while some sites have up to 5 screens or more of information to input before seeing any numbers at the end. For motor insurance, the most researched on the web to date, all sites contain a fairly standard list of restrictions on those applying online relating to age, driving record, no claims discount, residence and type of car. Along with being able to purchase insurance online, some sites provide for onlines renewal. Again there is a variation in what is on offer, with some sites allowing the transaction to happen online while other sites require a form to be filled and submitted so that the transaction can be completed later with a call from the insurance company. Brokers behind Some brokers have also moved online but generally the offerings here lag behind those of the insurance companies. Even the leading e-broker does not facilitate transacting online nor receiving direct online quotes. On this site, it requires a form to be submitted with the relevant details and quotes are then ed to the customer at a later time. The IBA has recently developed a standard form that a number of brokers are now using across their websites.

9 Conclusions B2C Insurance, the Outlook Internet here to stay as part of insurance companies strategy After the dot-com boom and bust the insurance industry has been justifiably wary of over-reliance on the internet and the benefits it can bring. Having experimented with direct sales websites for insurances, when those direct sales did not materialise, there was a temptation to abandon a web presence or question having an e-strategy within the company. However, the lesson to be learned from the dot-com fallout is not that the Internet doesn t matter but that e-strategy must be integrated into the general sales and marketing strategy of an insurance company, and the success or value of a website cannot be measured solely in terms of online sales. Insurance websites will never reach the levels of sales transacted via a low cost airline s or discount share trader s site, but insurance companies can and will still gain cost efficiencies and advantages from using the medium of the Internet. E-strategy to be measured in terms of Internet influenced sales in Ireland. Although Irish consumers are reluctant online shoppers, there are growing numbers online increasing the potential markets for insurance companies. These consumers will take to the internet to research their insurance purchases before transacting. The rise in these Internet influenced sales will be the major growth area for measuring the success or failure of an e-strategy for an insurance company. The successful companies will be those that can maximise the sales from this online time that is carried out to research products. B2C websites will evolve to meet these research needs as well as transactional needs. The content of websites need to change to take account that the site is less a place to transact a sale but more a place to generate sales and leads. Fast or easy quotes, simple form filling, simplified products, are all trends that are starting to emerge across insurers websites. Encouraging contact with the customer via the website is also starting to happen with renewals and claims beginning to be allowed online. How long before instead of being sent a policy document, we are encouraged to access it online? How long before we see a discount in the renewal terms if it is paid online? Ultimately websites should be developed so that they can be the primary means of contact between the customer and the insurance company.

10 References: Amarach Consulting (2000) : Eir-Commerce 2000, The Business of e-commerce in Ireland Amarach Consulting (2001): Eir-Commerce 2001, Ireland s Consumer Internet Economy: Gloom or Boom? Forrester Research (2001, Jackson): Ireland: IT Industry Leader, Consumer Laggard Forrester Research (2000, Clemmer): Insurance s Researched Future Insurance Day: Various Articles, Zona Research (1999): The Need for Speed

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