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Google & online insurance shopping:  down but not out
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Google & online insurance shopping: down but not out

In the wake of Google’s surprise announcement that they are shutting down Google Compare just about one year after the online insurance shopping venture initially launched, there’s a lot of celebrating going on. We hate to be the fly in the ointment, but put those party hats down. To paraphrase the late, great Mark Twain’s famous line: the reports of its death may be greatly exaggerated.

While agents may view this exit with some relief, there’s no room or time for complacency.

Nathan Golia explains why in his article “Why You Shouldn’t Expect Google to Give up On Insurance” in Insurance Networking.

A sigh of relief that Google is gone might not be the right reaction, however, says Ellen Carney of Forrester, who has been studying the Google-insurance interaction for the past couple years. Google’s ability to start and stop initiatives on a dime, returning with improvements after reflecting on what it’s learned, are why the Silicon Valley company has grown into a legend.

Google is licensed to sell insurance in 49 states — all except Rhode Island, Carney notes. She believes the company would only take on the effort to do so if it still saw insurance in its long-term plans. She noted that Keith Moore, CEO of online agency and Google partner Coverhound, told the Wall Street Journal that his understanding is that Google will retool and relaunch the site at some time in the future.”

At Insurance Thought Leadership, Deb Smallwood frames the Google Compare experience in terms of the cycles of innovation: “Part of the [innovation] journey is learning through failure and then coming back better than ever.”

At Insurance Journal, Don Jergler rounds up a variety of industry reactions to the Google news. One noteworthy reaction came from Jeff Chesky. He is CEO of Insuritas, which provides online insurance agency functions to banks and credit unions nationwide, including

Chesky warns agents against celebrating the departure of the search engine giant. He said with the changes happening in technology, the traditional insurance agent voice isn’t relevant anymore. The new insurance distribution models require a new generation of agents who can access and control customer data, and who can connect a customer’s risk appetite to carriers digitally.

“I understand why [agents are celebrating], but the situation begs the question of what model will survive and bring digital engagement from the one product that every customer in America buys every single year,” he said.

Guy Weismantel, vice president of marketing for insurance software provider Vertafore, is in the “don’t count Google out yet” camp:

He said that when disruptors come in to a market, it can take time for a new way of doing things to take hold, offering Uber as an example. “They didn’t come in and just take over the taxi industry,” he said, adding that it took years for Uber to overcome laws and regulations and catch on.

He said he believes it’s just a matter of time before Google returns. “They’ll still be involved in this industry in one form or another,” Weismantel said.

As Google retools, the consumer hunger for online shopping is not lessening and there are many contenders still making progress. See: With Google Gone, What’s the Future for Online Insurance Shopping?

Our own Bruce Cochrane talked about industry disruption in his article The Challenge of Change: Disruptive Success (PDF) in The Standard:

Fear of change can paralyze us. Never has the old proverb “he who hesitates is lost” been truer: The agent graveyard is littered with agencies that didn’t see and act on market changes, preferring “tried and true” methodologies of yesteryear. The “safe” path is actually the riskiest path. The wise would take a lesson from Albert Einstein, who said the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.

We can’t control change but we can control the way we face and engage those changes. Rather than waiting for disruptive market forces to engulf us and then reacting, we must become the disrupters ourselves in order to ensure our success. That comes with redefining our role with our customers, changing the way we approach marketing, selling and service, and giving customers what they want.
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