For today’s consumers, Auto insurance is a multi-channel experience.

Consumers shopping for Auto insurance increasingly prefer digital and online forms of engagements, such as online advertising and insurance websites in comparison to more traditional channels, such as personal recommendations and in-person meetings at insurance agencies.

According to a report by Rocket Fuel, one in four consumers now request a quote directly on the insurer’s website, up 9% from 2014. Research by ComScore validates these finding in a study that says that the majority of shoppers are doing so online and securing multiple quotes. According to the findings, “the number of consumers who shopped for auto insurance in 2015 held steady at 46%, consistent with 2014. Of those consumers who shopped in the past year, 71% of them did so online, up from 67% in 2013.”

Auto insurance shoppers considering a new insurance provider typically will research providers of which they are already aware. Implementing brand awareness strategies to reach consumers during this phase will ensure your company is considered as consumers begin their path to purchase.

The report by Rocket Fuel found that compared to last year, there was a 50% increase of consumers first becoming aware of Auto insurance providers through ads, either on TV or digital. There has also been an increase of consumers who use search engines during this initial phase of awareness. This points to a huge opportunity for Auto insurance marketers to influence consumers through digital channels.

Once consumers are aware of the Auto insurers they want to research, they continue to consult a variety of channels to reach a decision.

The most popular choice continues to be consulting with a friend, parent or colleague (27%). However, this habit is on the decline compared with 34% of respondents a year ago. Digital research channels have significantly risen in popularity, with one in four consumers (24%) researching new Auto insurance providers through digital sources. Use of search activity is also up from the previous year, and use of search (24%), insurer websites (20%) and online advertising (10%) all increased compared with one year ago.

Related: Insurers not quite reaching digital transformation, survey says

When requesting a quote, there have also been significant changes in the channels consumers uses. No surprise, this channel is also becoming digitized. According to Rocket Fuel, “one in four (26%) consumers now request a quote directly on the insurer’s website, up 9% from 2014. As a consequence, the percentage of consumers opting to meet with an agent in person to request a quote dropped by 12%, down 24% compared to 2014.”

Here are four ways to implement digital strategies to reach auto insurance shoppers throughout the purchase journey:

Auto insurance shopping

E-mail is a good way to target messages to Auto insurance prospects to keep your company on their minds. (Photo: iStock)

1. Get found online

With consumers heading to the Internet for research, insurance companies need to establish a strong online presence. This includes investing in a robust website with easy-to-use quote forms and tools, a good SEO strategy, and search advertising. In a recent survey by G/O Digital, 42% of respondents said that online ads will trigger a purchase.

2. Stay top of mind

As consumers begin interacting with brands through online sources, auto insurers must also implement strategies to continue to stay top of mind and engage them throughout the entire buying journey.

E-mail is a great way to engage prospects. Consumers expect to be known based on their likes, dislikes and lifestyles. Personalized targeted messages based on this information will go a long way to convert prospects into customers. This means insurance companies must implement real-time strategies to collect information across multiple touchpoints. By collecting these insights into consumer behavior, the right message can be targeted to consumers at the most opportune moment.

3. Take advantage of social

How exactly can insurers benefit from social media?

According to research by LeadSift, the number of social opportunities on social media is a huge goldmine of untapped potential.

In one month:

  • 3.7 million tweets about insurance.
  • 23,401 social tweets about purchase intent.
  • The dollar value of insurance opportunities on social media is $15 million.

4. Optimize online forms During the request for quote policy, more shoppers are using online forms.

Making these forms as user-friendly and easy-to-use as possible will provide a better experience for prospects, which will ultimately enhance brand their engagement. Consider using real-time service to reduce costly drain on data-processing resources, instantly access rich customer insights and verify and correct data as it is entered. 

For example, a verification process can correct information provided through web forms, customer relationship management software or order-entry systems. If the wrong email address or phone when a lead is received, real-time verification software will correct the information before it is entered into a database for follow-up.  Or with only a phone number, e-mail address or address, real-time services can be used on forms to identify if the contact is a current customer or a prospect.  These services can also shorten web forms to only require a phone or e-mail address and additional information can be instantly populated (i.e. address, alternate phones, emails, etc.).

Consumers are gradually shifting their paths to purchase from traditional channels to digital channels. As consumers increasingly prefer more self-directed approaches to buying insurance products, it will be up to insurance marketers to use more data-driven digital strategies to reach these prospective new customers at the right moments.

Jim Kaiser is vice president of data solutions for Wesley Chapel, Fla.-based data marketing company DataMentors.

Related: 5 e-mail marketing tips for insurance sellers

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