Glen Reardon, head of industry, financial services advertising at Google, asked a simple question during a brief presentation at Celent’s Innovation & Insight Day in Boston on Thursday: How influential is the digital journey within the purchase process? Immensely.

Reardon helps fortune 1000 companies across the insurance vertical with their overall market strategy. He conducted industry research with Shopper Sciences seeking to deconstruct the decision-making process for insurance consumers in an increasingly digital world.

This process is particularly complex for insurers; Reardon cited a long period of consumer research before trying out an insurer, the majority taking several months to shop around before selecting. More importantly for marketing efforts: 11.7 sources are now being consulted, on average, before any purchasing decisions are being made, which is more than double the five sources people were using just a year ago.

As consumer access to information skyrocketed over the last year, Reardon’s research narrowed down its focus to mobility, which was cited by 34 percent of shoppers (more than any other factors listed) as a top influencer in buying insurance in 2011, up 16 percent from 2010.

The proliferation of smartphone use and broadband capabilities are main drivers, according to Reardon, who cited multiple statistics emphasizing mobile as the future hub of communication and information; there are more mobile devices in the United States than people; as of 2011, it is anticipated that 50 percent of Americans will have a smartphone; Apple sold 34 million iPhones last year; and Google activates about 600,000 Android devices globally every day. Tablets have grown in their first months faster than smartphones did.

More specific for the auto industry: 18 percent of all online searches last year were conducted using mobile devices. And if the banking segment — 24 percent of all searches and 33 million mobile banking users — is any indicator, the numbers are set to continue their ascent.

Reardon closed by urging attendees to challenge their companies by asking, “What is our mobile strategy? What is our tablet strategy? How do we get ahead of the fact that consumers are looking at our websites in so many different ways? How are we going to engage them where they are?”

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