This is an evolving article, it was last modified Sep 10, 2021

The P&C insurance digital experience landscape is shifting

The P&C insurance digital experience is increasingly critical for insurers to win as rising policyholder expectations, an explosion in sources of data and fundamental changes in products are reshaping the P&C insurance industry. The Apples and Netflixes of the world have raised the bar for what consumers expect from an online interface: straightforward journeys, attractive designs, intuitive navigation and personalized features. P&C insurers need to adjust accordingly or risk losing market share to competitors that have transformed their digital channels or to insuretech startups that boast superior user experiences. In this climate of innovation, it’s impossible to get away with a “set and forget” mindset. Only with a culture of constant evaluation and nonstop improvement will firms be able to stay ahead.

Corporate Insight continuously monitors the property and casualty digital experience and conducts consumer surveys that serve as a guidepost for changing policyholder preferences. These surveys also allow us to stay abreast of consumer sentiments and identify the tools and features they deem the most critical. Our 2019 P&C Insurance Survey polled over 1,100 policyholders. We conducted a similar survey in 2017, allowing us to identify P&C insurance industry trends and dissect consumer expectations. Contrasting survey results from 2017 and 2019, it is clear that more policyholders are choosing to interact with their insurers online and via a mobile app, with a correlated decrease in the number of users choosing to interact over the phone: we observed a four-percentage-point increase in both website and mobile app usage, while respondents reported an 11-percentage-point decrease in phone usage.


More P&C policyholders are interacting via firms’ digital platforms

In what way(s) have you interacted with your insurance firm in the past 12 months?

A 2018 study conducted by Bain & Company—Customers Know What They Want: Are Insurers Listening?—found a similar migration to online channels among insurance customers. The study notes that the number of digital active customers has increased by more than 60% in the past four years, with mobile channel adoption increasing by approximately 70% in 2018 alone.

As the importance of the P&C digital experience continues to climb, a company’s website increasingly IS their identity. Elevating the stakes, P&C insurers interact infrequently with their customers, granting them limited opportunities to meet consumers’ high expectations and deliver a quality experience. Further, these interactions often occur at a less than pleasurable moment for policyholders (paying a premium or filing a claim), negatively coloring their mindset before they even pick up the phone, log in to their account or open the insurer’s app. A misstep, especially during a claim, can be fatal to the relationship. Offering a best-in-class P&C online experience is simultaneously a challenge and an opportunity for insurers, as ideally a fantastic digital presence will encourage users to engage more often, positively impacting their perceptions of their insurance provider.

COVID-19 and P&C insurance: a heightened emphasis on digital offerings

The COVID-19 pandemic’s effects are evident worldwide, and the P&C insurance industry is no exception. Widespread sheltering in place put a spotlight on insurers’ digital offerings, as customers spending more time in their homes or apartments are turning online for policy management tools. In response, many insurers are accelerating the rollout of existing projects launching new initiatives. Resources like photo estimate tools—which streamline the claims process, or home inventory apps, which afford customers a deeper understanding of their insured items—are quickly becoming mainstream. Throughout the crisis, insurers are actively encouraging customers to take advantage of their digital resources. The below email sent by Allstate in mid-March 2020, which is indicative of other insurers’ responses, pushes policyholders to use the firm’s mobile app to manage their policy.

Allstate March 13 Policyholder Email

Separately, the coronavirus pandemic revealed the inherent copycat nature of the industry. Allstate and American Family were the first insurers to announce that they would return millions of dollars in premiums to customers. Within three days, six competitors had followed suit and the passing weeks saw dozens of insurers launch their own give-back programs. The explosion of refunds from coast to coast raises an important question: How can insurers differentiate themselves in an industry when even a previously incomprehensible maneuver (refunding policyholders millions of dollars) is mirrored and even improved upon in a matter of hours? On a micro level, insurers can stand out from the crowd by offering customers a suite of features, resources and perks that policyholders can manage themselves, increasing user engagement as well as the perceived value of an insurance policy. On a macro level, however, a carrier that focuses too intensely on differentiating itself from direct competitors risks losing sight of the larger challenge of providing a best in class digital experience: customers measure every digital journey they undergo against ALL other digital interactions.

Further, the emphasis on driving habits during the height of the pandemic brought usage based insurance (UBI) programs to the forefront of consumers’ minds. Insuretechs like Metromile are poised to exploit this shift and offer modern websites and mobile apps that leverage gamification, competition and education to engage users. Bain notes that with an estimated 3.8 billion smartphone users in 2021, the market for UBI is projected to reach $126 billion by 2025.

Universal competition sparks high expectations for the P&C user experience

As the insurance industry undergoes a fundamental shift from the traditional reactive “protect and repair” outlook to a more preemptive “predict and prevent” mindset, insurers need to offer a suite of resources that anticipate and meet an extensive range of policyholder needs. In this hyper-competitive environment, P&C insurers are not competing against just a local or even a national rival but against all vendors their policyholders interact with online. Insurers that can provide customers excellent, easy and personalized services stand to secure policyholder loyalty and grow exponentially; few insurers consistently deliver this high level of service. For example, while our May 2020 P&C user experience report on account information found that most (83%) coverage group insurers provide applied discount information, few (28%) actually list the premium amount associated with applied discounts in a demonstration of premium transparency.

P&C insurers are not competing against just a local or even a national rival to provide a great user experience but against all vendors their policyholders interact with online.

Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer study found that 64% of online consumers said their standard for good experiences is higher than ever and 53% said most companies fall short of their expectations for great experiences. Importantly, the study also found that 61% of online consumers stopped buying from a company due to a bad experience and that 61% say they share bad experiences with others. The encouraging news for insurers from the study was that 70% of consumers reported that they share good experiences with others and, most notably, 63% are willing to pay more for a great experience. Worryingly for insurers, 75% of customers say it is easier than ever to switch—a particularly relevant statistic for the P&C industry where the rise of aggregators and quote comparison sites have increased the ease with which policyholders can change providers.

63% of online consumers are willing to pay more for a great experience.

An Assurant study—which found that a whopping 88% of consumers believe that a best-in-class experience raises their expectations for similar companies while 83% say that a best-in-class experience raises their expectations for ALL companies—affirms this concept when applied to the P&C customer experience. Armed with this knowledge, insurers need to recalibrate their digital offerings to align with policyholders’ high standards.

P&C policyholder sentiments show that customers want more

Returning to Corporate Insight’s 2019 property and casualty user experience survey, the current news for P&C insurers is good but not great. When we asked respondents about their overall satisfaction with their insurer’s website, we found a top-two box satisfaction rating of 89%, meaning that almost nine out of 10 policyholders are satisfied or very satisfied. However, when we drill down deeper, only 36% of respondents said they are very satisfied, which leaves a sizeable 53% in the satisfied bucket, where they are only a short distance from feeling neutral about their insurer.


General policyholder satisfaction with P&C insurers’ websites is high

How satisfied are you with your insurer’s website overall?

Although insurers may balk at the prospect of competing with the top digital native brands on the web, the reality is that providing a best-in-class P&C digital customer experience is grounded in getting the basics right. Analyzing our survey data reveals that users are most concerned with value and ease of use. Insurers can tackle both policyholder priorities simultaneously by anticipating needs and offering the means to address them through intuitive digital journeys.

According to our survey, the top five reasons policyholders log in are to make a premium payment, access insurance ID cards, view policy documents, look up coverage details or look up policy information. Insurers should make each of these activities easily findable from the policyholder site homepage so that clients can accomplish them seamlessly. These characteristics are all present on the policyholder site homepages of medal-winners in our annual P&C Insurance Monitor Awards Report, in which we highlight the top features on websites and mobile apps among our 19-firm coverage group, demonstrating the leaders in P&C digital experience offerings.


Top five P&C policyholder website activities

What activities have you completed on your insurer’s website in the last 12 months?

Insurers should facilitate quick one-time premium payments and grant policyholders the option to enroll in or manage automatic payments online. Exactly half of survey respondents reported logging in to make a premium payment, and an additional 14% logged in to enroll in automatic payments—making billing content essential. Policyholders should be able to log in and immediately view their billing status, next payment date and amount, and last payment date and amount. Auto Owners presents a homepage that excels in displaying relevant billing information, listing the minimum due, due date and full account balance.

Auto-Owners Policyholder Site Homepage (Top)

How to anticipate and then meet P&C policyholder needs

Digital insurance consumers consistently complain about website ease of use, and our survey reaffirms this longstanding problem area. We asked respondents what their insurer can do to improve their level of satisfaction with its website, and top five responses largely centered around common issues with navigation and usability.


Findability and ease of use are leading customer suggestions for improving P&C insurance digital experience, ranked especially high by younger generations

What can your insurer do to improve your level of satisfaction with its website?

Since these interactions are evident pain points for policyholders, insurers need to make the necessary digital adjustments. Insurers can remedy respondents’ top suggestion—make it easier to find policy information—by adding a quick link menu. Viable location options include menus at the top of the page or on either sidebar. Quick links that promote common account management activities simultaneously highlight the fact that the specific service/feature exists and facilitate streamlined navigation to key information and transactions.

State Farm Policyholder Site Navigation and Quick Link Menus

P&C insurers face a paradox when it comes to designing policyholder site homepages because clients expect to see a wide range of content that they can digest quickly and easily. This challenge is particularly poignant when policyholders hold multiple accounts with one insurer—a common occurrence in the industry thanks to bundling. Insurers can overcome this difficulty by centralizing homepage content in dedicated tiles. This technique’s appeal is evident, as tiled homepages clearly organize content and allow clients to find relevant policy details simply by locating the relevant tile. Nearly every member (95%) of the P&C Insurance Monitor group organizes its homepage in tiled sections, up from 63% in 2018.

Crafting a best-in-class homepage requires more than just coherent organization, though, as web pages that grab and hold users’ attention feature the ideal combination of color, images, text, calls to action and help resources. P&C insurance policyholder site homepages in particular suffer from a lack of promotional imagery. Insurers need to seize the opportunity to build out their relationships with policyholders by highlighting any value-added services they offer. The homepage is also a great location to plant the seeds for upsell and cross-sell opportunities. Of course, there is a fine line between engaging clients and annoying them with advertisements. The best strategies employed by coverage group firms feature the use of images to promote supplementary products and services like eDelivery, automatic payments, roadside assistance or safety and maintenance advice. Chubb’s homepage successfully straddles this divide; the firm organizes key policy content in tiles at the top of the page and places promotions for alert enrollment, water damage protection and a home inventory app at the bottom of the page.

Chubb Policyholder Site Homepage

In our survey, a popular suggestion for improving insurer websites was to make information about plan coverage easier to read and understand. Insurers can address this concern through policy information pages that clearly display policyholders’ coverage settings and explain through hypothetical examples when different coverages come into effect. Supplementary educational resources can draw from content provided on public site product pages. Videos are especially effective in increasing client engagement and are easier to digest than large blocks of text. Liberty Mutual’s coverage pages offer crystalized breakdowns of policy coverages and hypothetical scenarios when customers would need different coverage types.

Liberty Mutual Underinsured Motorist Coverage Type Explanation

A significant subset of survey respondents indicated that the ability to change coverage details or amounts online would increase their website satisfaction. Importantly, empowering policyholders to self-manage their accounts online decreases the number of clients waiting in phone trees to speak to customer service representatives. Leading coverage group firms afford policyholders a suite of account management options that range from adding a vehicle to updating discounts. A smooth, transparent transaction interface plainly contrasts policyholders’ existing settings with their proposed changes. Further, the transaction needs to include educational resources that detail and explain the proposed changes.

Constant communication makes for a better claims experience

As we have already seen, consumers carry high expectations in all of their online interactions, including an integral aspect of the P&C insurance digital user experience: claims. Insurers can secure policyholder loyalty and goodwill for years to come or send a client running to a quote comparison website depending on how they handle a claim. CI regularly interviews policyholders at the conclusion of a claims experience to understand of their mindset. To policyholders, a claim is an exam for their insurer. They have paid their premiums for exactly this eventuality, and now they expect the insurer to deliver. Insurers need to really roll out the red carpet during the claims process, all the while remembering that claims are a highly charged emotional period for policyholders.

Excerpt from a Corporate Insight P&C Insurance Monitor Claims Update

The key component to a positive claims experience is consistent, effective communication. Frequently, frustrated claimants are left in the dark about their claim’s status or taken by surprise after new developments. Regular communication is especially critical for more complex claims that may involve multiple parties. Notably, among survey respondents who indicated they were considering changing their P&C insurance provider, 16% admitted that it was because of a poor claims experience—the third most popular reason to switch behind price and changing insurance needs.

What does all of this mean for P&C insurers?

Policyholders’ high expectations demand continuous improvement from providers who wish to remain relevant. P&C insurers must remember that a single great digital experience immediately raises consumer expectations for all subsequent interactions.

Insurers can improve the online customer experience they offer by anticipating and then meeting policyholder needs. That means providing digital interactions that are seamless, intuitive and informative. Five must-haves for a best-in-class experience include:

  1. A well-organized, visually appealing policyholder site homepage that successfully displays a range of policy information without overwhelming clients and includes obvious links to common site activities
  2. Prominent billing details and evident links to the payment interface that let clients internalize at a glance their previous and upcoming payment dates and amounts and pay a bill in a single click from the homepage
  3. Comprehensive coverage information that empowers policyholders not only to educate themselves about different coverage levels and options but also to adjust their coverages online
  4. A robust claims center that permits clients to file, manage and track all aspects of a claim from a central location and includes educational resources that virtually walk clients through various stages of the process
  5. An easy-to-use mobile app that features the core capabilities policyholders need—billing details, policy information and claims content
All Author Posts