There’s no shortage of technology companies focused on delivering on the Web 2.0 promise. And there’s no shortage of effort from both the carrier and agent communities in embracing the technology.

This month, both Farmers Insurance and the HDH Group introduced new technologies designed to enable their agents to streamline business development areas, reports Barry Rabkin, principal analyst with Ovum, a Datamonitor company. These initiatives demonstrate that the two insurers believe the agency force is willing to be early adopters of new technology, notes Rabkin.

Farmers Insurance launched an e-reader portal for its agents to access sales and training resources regardless of the type of e-reader being used. Privately held brokerage HDH Group, implemented the ProspX enterprise search, a SaaS-driven social networking, and sales collaboration platform.

FirstBest is currently promoting demos of its UMS solution, which combines a next-generation underwriting workstation and business analyst workstation with FirstBest Agent, a Web 2.0 agent portal.

Further downstream, Allstate Insurance is hoping to generate new auto sales with a new driving-while-distracted message microsite designed to draw in sales prospects. Its Web 2.0 site allows users to create their own virtual pile-up in four easy steps, “without having to file a claim!”

As reported in Insurance Networking News’ May issue, Chad Mitchell, a senior analyst with Forrester Research Inc., says he's seen a strong investment among carriers in Web 2.0 for branded microsites, specifically motorcycles, personal watercraft and RVs. For these products, he says, the next stage of online quoting is immanent.

One of the first carriers to make such an online push is Allstate. Having enhanced and revamped its motorcycle product line a few years back, the insurer wanted to market its new product. So, in addition to an advertising and public relations campaign, it rolled out the Allstate Garage microsite about a year ago with the intention of utilizing the Web as a means of engaging motorcyclists about their passion. The microsite is predicated on offering information centered on motorcyclists' passions, including the ability to plot rides, find mechanics and build and customize a virtual bike. Also included is insurer-specific information about finding an Allstate agent, a tutorial about motorcycle insurance and the ability to purchase a policy, among other options, the site is intended to be a one-stop-shop for enthusiasts.

Agents are also getting in the act. The Independent Agents & Brokers of America lists top-ranked educational materials for its members, such as the eBook "Web 2.0: Practical Marketing for Independent Insurance Agents ... The Right Way to Find New Insurance Prospects & Sales on the Internet,” and the Irwin Siegel Agency primer, “Introduction to Web 2.0 as a Practical Agency Marketing Tool.”

It’s noted widely in the press that Web 2.0’s strengths are a force to be reckoned with. And the notion that this new, agile technology can streamline sales efforts across the distribution network is causing many carriers, brokers and agents to rethink the technology platforms associated with organic growth.

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