U.S. consumers are turning to digital sources for insurance quotes and other information, but still prefer personal contact with agents when purchasing insurance products, according to an Accenture survey of more than 4,000 U.S. automobile and home insurance customers.

Major findings of the study include:

  • More than three-quarters (76 percent) of consumers express a preference for setting up and paying for their auto and home insurance policies in person with an agent, and more than half (58 percent) indicate a preference for doing so via the web.
  • When asked where they prefer to obtain quotes, 43 percent of respondents choose websites, while 26 percent choose over the phone and 26 percent in person. A much smaller percentage (four percent) chooses mobile applications.
  • Almost three-quarters (72 percent) of respondents also express a preference for getting information about products and prices from an insurer's website. Exclusive insurance agents rank third with 56 percent of respondents, behind friends and family, cited by 61 percent of respondents. Search engines and aggregators rank fourth and fifth at 55 and 54 percent with respondents, respectively.

"In defining their distribution strategies, insurers must recognize that consumers are becoming more diversified in their channel preferences at different stages of the buying process," says Erik J. Sandquist, a managing director in Accenture Property and Casualty Insurance Services. "Direct insurers continue to gain share as consumers grow increasingly comfortable buying policies online. This means that insurers with an agency distribution model must adapt to customers' changing preferences and integrate their agent networks with digital, mobile, and social media capabilities."

Opportunity to Build Loyalty: Among the survey's other findings,

  • One-quarter (26 percent) of respondents either do not plan to renew their auto or home insurance policy with their current insurers or plan to look at other insurers' offerings.
  • Nearly half (46 percent) of insurance customers think that the products and services offered by different insurers are essentially "all the same."
  • More than one-third (38 percent) of consumers are willing to pay for personalized advice about the insurance that is best for them and, of that group, more than half (56 percent) are willing to pay at least 10 percent more.

"Our survey research reveals a significant opportunity for insurers to grow market share as many customers plan to shop around when renewing their policies," says Sandquist. "Price remains the most important buying factor, which will continue to put pressure on insurers to improve their cost structures. At the same time, our research reveals that a carrier's distribution model can be a strong differentiator, given the relative importance of factors such as interaction channel, advice and speed."

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