Personal Lines: Young More Likely to Shop, But Most Buyers Don’t Switch

NU Online News Service, March 22, 2:58 p.m. EDT

A survey of personal-lines-insurance customers indicates that insurers and agents need to focus on the younger generation of buyers to grow market share, or else they risk losing this generation to online writers.

The consulting firm Deloitte today released a 23 page report on the results of an online survey of 1,080 auto policyholders and the same number of homeowners policyholders exploring their relationship with the personal-lines-insurance markets.

The findings of the survey give some comfort to carriers, but can also cause angst as carriers and producers seek ways to expand their market.

Deloitte says a key lesson from the survey, titled “The Voice of the Personal Lines Consumer; Buyers in the driver’s seat,” is that insurers need to “get consumers while they’re young.”

The younger generation, age 34 and younger, is more willing to shop personal-lines insurance frequently and buy from direct carriers.

The survey found 20 percent of those 18-25 and 26-34 had changed auto carriers in the prior 12 months, while 10 percent of those 51 and older had done so.

Over the previous two years, 15 percent of the two younger-generation groups went for a new insurer while only 9 percent of the 51 and over group had done so.

On the homeowners side, 12 percent of the two younger groups changed insurers within the previous two years compared to 5 percent for 51 and older.

The survey also found that a greater number of the older generation, 51 and older, planned to remain loyal to their carrier, with close to 70 percent saying they planned to renew. The figure was lower for the younger groups, with 47 percent of those age 18-25 saying they would renew and 56 percent of the 26-34 group saying they were very likely to renew their policy.

Younger buyers are also more likely to buy direct rather than through an agent.

On auto, around 58 percent under 35 years old bought coverage direct compared to 45 percent for those over the age of 50.

There was a wider gap on the homeowners side, the report states, with 65 percent of those between the age of 18 and 25 years and 55 percent of those under 35 saying they brought direct. Forty-two percent between 36 and 50 years old, and 37 percent of those over 51, bought homeowners insurance direct.

The survey revealed more bad news for agents when it comes to younger buyers.

While a greater percentage of buyers over the age of 50 said they would not buy insurance without an agent (34 percent for auto and 29 percent homeowners), the figures dropped to well under 20 percent among younger buyers.

The number got down as low as 5 percent for those below the age of 26 who purchased homeowners insurance.

For a carrier planning to grow organically by getting buyers to shop around for a different carrier, the road ahead is tough.

“High satisfaction levels and renewal inertia pose stiff challenges to auto and home insurers looking to grow organically,” the report says.

The survey says 45 percent of homeowners-insurance buyers and 30 percent of auto-insurance buyers never switched insures. Thirty-four percent of auto-insurance buyers and 29 percent of homeowners-insurance buyers had not switched carriers in more than three years.

The report does note that while “the vast majority of respondents appear to be satisfied with the price charged and service provided by their current carriers and agents (if they use one), there are demographic factors at work that make some prospects more viable than others in terms of taking them away from the competition.

Among issues that influence buying, trust is a big one “and it is an attribute in short supply in the view of many respondents.” A strong brand can help draw consumers away from the competition, the report says.

However, the biggest consideration remains price, says the report. But there are other factors that insurers “might leverage to convince a prospect to switch companies and/or channels [buying through an agent or direct writer].”

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