As thousands of journalists and tech enthusiasts descend on the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, most eyes will be on the continuing developments in the smart home.
Between phone-powered locks and refrigerators that order your groceries for you, every tech trend seems to be under the microscope at CES. Chances are, however, that you won’t find much, if anything, about the consumer-friendly trends in homeowners insurance.
Nevertheless, those trends are becoming increasingly popular for both insurance companies and their customers.
How Can Insurance Be “Tech Friendly”?
The insurance industry has admittedly dragged its feet quite a bit when it comes to adopting and properly implementing consumer technology. Part of this is just a matter of how the insurance industry functions. After all, we may call them insurance “products,” but insurance is not exactly a tangible object. Even still, the car insurance industry was among the first to find interesting ways to combine tech and insurance in a functional way. Progressive, for example, now allows customers to save money using their Snapshot device or app, which records data on driving habits and rewards customers with safe driving discounts.
For homeowners insurance, tech integration has been a bit more difficult. Calculating rates is far more complex for a homeowners insurance policy, while monitoring devices in the home could be seen as less worthwhile or even intrusive.
Even still, homeowners insurance companies are finding unique ways to either make use of and even create new consumer tech trends. While much of what homeowners insurance companies have done so far is a bit muted in comparison to the wider tech industry, mobile technologies in particular are making it easier for this industry to adapt to what some might call “Web 3.0.”
Tech Trends in Homeowners Insurance
Information is one of the newest trends in technology across the board. From smart homes to smart cars, consumers increasingly want not just more information as a whole, but transparency in that information. For homeowners insurance providers, this is one of the easiest consumer-first tech trends to incorporate. Indeed, many are already doing so.
Already a leader in insurance technology itself, Progressive plans to move into the homeowners insurance market with a key focus on using big data to help consumers find the right price. In an interview with Fortune Magazine, Progressive CEO Tricia Griffith explained that, when it comes to homeowners insurance, “quotes are a nightmare.” A year into her new role as CEO, Griffith helped launch the company’s HomeQuote Explorer, a consumer-friendly service intended to use big data to help homeowners find quotes easier, faster, and for less.
The service is designed to not simply funnel buyers into Progressive’s products. The service combines data available on pricing from other insurance companies, such as Allstate, State Farm, and Geico, and provide a price comparison for the user. This means that, if Progressive doesn’t have the cheapest product for a user, their system will lead that consumer in the right direction.
Artificial Intelligence Makes Its Way To Insurance
Progressive is going even further on the consumer-first tech angle. The company is among many others across various industries attempting to formalize artificial intelligence systems through what’s known as “chatbots.” Progressive has now digitized its Flo character into Facebook Messenger chatbot. Consumers can ask the Flo chatbot (Flobot?) about insurance, or have fun with the bot and ask personal questions.
Not to be outdone, other insurance companies have chatbots of their own as well. GEICO, for example, offers its “Kate” virtual assistant, a learning chatbot that can be downloaded as an independent app. GEICO also provides access to a chatbot through an Amazon Alexa skill, although that bot only works with the company’s car insurance accounts for now.
Streamlining and Simplifying the Claims Process
Other homeowners insurance companies are innovating within different stages of the consumer lifecycle. Several companies now allow homeowners to digitally store inventories of their home’s possessions, streamlining the claims process and helping to eliminate ambiguity and confusion. Allstate now offers its Digital Locker service for its customers. Using Digital Locker, Allstate customers can take stock of all of their possessions using images. These are stored to the cloud through the Digital Locker. In case of an incident, such as a burglary or a fire, policyholders can record what’s missing or damaged quickly and send that information electronically to their claims agent.
Both State Farm and Liberty Mutual offer similar services, among other insurance companies. There are plenty of third-party apps consumers can turn to that offer similar services as well.
The process of making homeowners insurance a more consumer-friendly place through technology is still a new trend. However, it’s clear that the race is on to innovate homeowners insurance in ways that make the industry more friendly and transparent, a move that many will see as long overdue.
Maxime Rieman is Product Manager at ValuePenguin. Educating and assisting shoppers about financial products has been Rieman's focus, which led her to joining ValuePenguin, a consumer research and advice company based in New York. Previously, she was product marketing director at CoverWallet and launched the personal insurance team at NerdWallet.
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