Insurers have been forced to embrace mobile technologies both for internal use and their e-business strategies. Along the way, they have developed user interfaces based on assumptions about screen size, browser versions, input and processing capability. Yet mobility is more than smartphones, and the emergence of new connected devices, such as tablet computers like Apple's iPad or Samsung’s Galaxy tablet, will create additional options for media consumption any time and anywhere.
In a new report, “E-Business Strategies for a New Mobile World,” Boston-based financial research and consulting firm Celent examines mobility and associated considerations when updating and developing future versions of an insurer e-business strategy.
"Insurer staff will increasingly adopt or even buy their own devices-tablets, smart phones-and expect them to work seamlessly with internal core systems. This is similarly true for customers," says Catherine Stagg-Macey, senior analyst with Celent's insurance group and author of the report. "This raises the question of the readiness of core systems to be viewed through varied devices."
According to Stagg-Macey, mobility is an emerging area, and as such brings tremendous uncertainty. This mobility trend is important to insurers because it will impact external e-business strategy as well as internal device procurement decisions. An e-business strategy targeting PCs with resolutions of 1024 by 786 and using standard browsers and an iPhone variant is woefully inadequate, or will be by the end of 2011.
“Insurer staff will increasingly adopt or even buy their own devices- tablets, smart phones-and expect them to be able to work seamlessly with internal core systems,” notes Stagg-Macey. “This raises the question of whether core systems are ready to be viewed through these various devices. There will be more pressure on IT operations staff, who are used to standardized and centralized procurement and management of desktops, to support a range of devices.”
On the consumer side, the pressure may be even greater, as customers are increasingly using mobile devices to consume content.
"We won't all shop for insurance via iPhone, or file a claim from the scene of an accident via BlackBerry, but some of us already have," says Craig Weber, SVP of Celent's insurance group.
In addition, the interplay between computing power, screen resolution, other usability factors, and consumer behaviors is not new, but some long-held assumptions about what insurance consumers want to do, and when and where they want to do it, are being challenged, says Craig Beattie, analyst with Celent's insurance group and coauthor of a second report, “North American SnAppshot: A Look at Mobile Apps Aimed at Insurance Consumers.”
Notwithstanding the fact that the mobile Web is evolving at an extraordinary rate, this evolution is bringing new possibilities to insurers that are trying to engage their customer bases. For example, smartphones are receiving significant focus in 2010, with many leading insurers publishing feature-rich apps. In this report, Celent assesses this evolution with a review of publicly available information on 10 prominent property/casualty insurers’ mobile apps.
The report found that insurers already have invested in a broad array of functionality available via mobile apps, with the surprise “category killer” function being the ability to process payments on a smartphone. The functionality across all insurer apps seems to cover many aspects of a typical lifecycle of a customer from prospect through insured to claimant, notes the report.
“Given the maturity of the investment, perhaps the most interesting observation across the apps lies in the lack of similarity,” notes Beattie in the report. “The diversity of approaches and functionality points to a market that is still evolving and an industry that is moving to adapt.”
In light of the increased use of mobile technologies by both insurers and their customers, Celent recommends that insurers review and refresh the user experience, focusing on consistency. This requires engagement of internal marketing to ensure brand and user experience consistency, and possibly external design agencies. The development and the hosting of interfaces, such as apps and portals, can be delivered through a mix of traditional or cloud hosting to suit the appetite of the business.
“All interfaces such as customer and broker portals, and call centre screens, should be implemented as thin layers containing only presentation information,” notes Celent. “These interfaces should be able to call Web services, and as such be independent of core systems.”
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Corrected November 29, 2010 at 10:39AM: yes