Google will shut down operations on Google Compare, its U.S. Auto insurance comparison-shopping site, after one year in business, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Search Engine Land obtained an e-mail delievered to Google Compare's partners Monday night, in which the tech giant said Google Compare will no longer operate as of March 23. Google has since verified the e-mail's authenticity.
In the e-mail, Google said the Auto insurance service didn't meet expectations for the company:
"Despite people turning to Google for financial services information, the Google Compare service itself hasn’t driven the success we hoped for. We greatly appreciate your partnership and understand that this decision will be disappointing to some. But after a lot of careful consideration, we’ve decided that focusing more intently on AdWords and future innovations will enable us to provide fresh, comprehensive answers to Google users, and to provide our financial services partners with the best return on investment."
Many suggest that Google Compare wasn't prepared to respond to the value that independent insurance agents provide to policyholders.
Mike Becker, executive vice president and CEO of the Alexandria, Va.-based National Association of Professional Insurance Agents, told PC360: "Google has apparently discovered what independent insurance agents have always known: When it comes to insurance, customers appreciate that it is a complex transaction that requires professional advice. PIA’s research has consistently shown a strong preference among both personal lines and commercial lines customers for doing business with a local agent.
"However, independent agents should not interpret this decision to wind down Google Compare as an indication that they need not compete in the digital arena," he stresses. "Customers also want local agents as experts who are capable of online interaction concerning their accounts and are backed by the efficiency of the Internet."
“The closing of Google Compare doesn’t lessen the consumer appetite for online shopping,” said Robert Rusbuldt, president and CEO of the Alexandria, Va.-based Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, in a statement. Agents and brokers can provide additional value by conducting policy transactions in the way consumers prefer, he added, and may need to increase their digital presence to do so.
Speaking to PC360 just before the launch of Google Compare last year, insurance technology consultant Steve Anderson said, "An independent agent can't out-Google Google, but they can out-local Google. "Most agents have a local presence, which is where Google will have a much harder time."
At its launch last year, Google Compare had access to about 30 insurers in its network, including Dairyland, MetLife, Mercury, Permanent General Assurance, Viking Insurance of Wisconsin and Workmen’s.
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