Given expectations that insurance consumers are trending toward the Web to research and purchase policies, new research from AIS Media Inc. validates many insurers’ hard work enhancing their online offerings.

According to AIS' "2010 Insurance Customer Interactive Media Usage Survey," 59% of respondents prefer to inquire about direct mail offers by visiting the insurer's website as opposed to calling customer service. Instead, insurers should refer prospects to a custom-designed, offer-specific landing page via a personalized URL, which AIS says could significantly increase marketing response rates, measurability and ROI. However, AIS warns insurers against simply referring prospects to their home pages, as this may cause confusion, divert the prospect off-path, and adversely affect ROI.  

The survey found that about one-third of respondents research insurance offers via search engines, and showed strong preference to receiving offers digitally, such as e-brochures, e-mail and live online chat. 

Additionally, the survey determined that 33% of respondents prefer to purchase their insurance policies online, as opposed to 3% who use the Yellow Pages. AIS asserts that not optimizing the online purchase experience or not giving insurance customers the ability to purchase insurance online is a missed revenue-generating opportunity. And with a 31% respondent dissatisfaction rating of insurance Web site usability, online insurance purchases could significantly increase as usability is improved. That said, 49.5% were somewhat satisfied with insurers' websites, and 19.5 % were very satisfied or extremely satisfied.

Ultimately, AIS says that respondents purchase decisions are influenced by interactive mediums such as: online consumer ratings and reviews (57%), company website information (54%), social media interaction (22%) and online advertisement (25%).

Strategic Vision LLC, a public relations firm, asked people via phone about where they obtain information about insurance services, and how receptive they are to interactive promotions for insurance.

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