Insurers have clearly woken up to the idea of what the customer means to their business. That interest was clearly evidenced in the number of inquiries that Forrester fielded last year from carriers that had to do with customer experience. Typical customer experience questions ranged from what makes for a good online checkout process, to generational preferences when it came to their shopping and buying channels and insurance products like long-term care targeted to life stage buyers.

But outside of the brand awareness that companies such as Progressive and GEICO have created through their marketing campaigns, few consumers would characterize their insurers as particularly innovative when it comes to creating and fulfilling demand for insurance products that resonate with different buyer segments. And like the stasis that most insurance marketing has suffered, the sales side of insurance also has been hampered by lack of tools to make the selling process more efficient. Carriers and producers end up with costs of sale that are higher than they need to be. At the same time, it’s become clear that even though insurance buyers might be members of the same family, what the son wants and needs for auto insurance is very different from his parents.

But this is all about to change. 

At the end of last year, Forrester asked 83 North American insurers about the kinds of packaged software applications they would be evaluating or piloting in 2009 (See Figure 1). Turns out that marketing automation software—what helps insurers better market to the customers they want—topped the list, with nearly half expecting to check out the technology this year.

What else is getting a look by carriers in 2009? Product life cycle management software, essential for the new product development process, and sales force automation technology to improve sales productivity by enabling insurers to handle more accounts with the same number of heads. And if insurers like what they see (read “measurable performance improvement”), Forrester expects to see the ’09 interest translated into implementation budget in 2010.

Ellen Carney is a senior analyst with Forrester Research. She focuses on how the financial services industry researches, procures and deploys business technology, and is responsible for developing the global forecasts for IT budget and spending forecasts for insurance and banking. She can be reached at

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