Plymouth Rock Assurance, a personal lines carrier in New England, has always been committed to the independent agent channel, says CMO Keith Jensen. But at the same time, the company knows that in order to compete with the biggest insurance companies, it has to make it possible to shop online.

The company has recently launched an initiative called PRIME that aims for the best of both worlds. Consumers can apply for Plymouth Rock insurance directly through its website, and generate a quote. Then, if they are satisfied, they can bind it right there.

But if not, rather than holding the lead itself for followup, Plymouth Rock releases it into its “agent quote marketplace,” if they so choose, and an independent agent will contact them with options from multiple companies.

Prime is an extension of the company’s ESales pilot from 2012, Jensen says.

“We needed to test a number of things: Could we economically attract customers to our website, and do customers like both the online experience and independent agent experience,” he says. “Certainly, over the course of time that has proven to be true.”

The technology to quote on Plymouth Rock’s site, as well as the integration with local agents through the marketplace, was all developed internally, according to Jensen.

 “It’s been a multiyear project across product, claims, marketing and service, and  it’s exclusive and unique to us,” he says. “We are trying to find the best consumer answer.”

That’s because buying insurance is currently set up as a dichotomy, Jensen explains. Most broad marketing is geared toward going to one site for an online quote and sale. But consumers appreciate the options and the counsel of an agent – when they can find one on their own terms, he says.

“There’s a reason why relationships and choice matter: The local agent is critical in the insurance buying process for lots of consumers,” Jensen says. But getting consumers to realize where that choice is available is different in an industry geared toward direct.

“What’s great about our process here is that we can engage in any sort of marketing that makes sense for us, our agents and consumers,” Jensen says.

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