Although the Internet is growing exponentially as a medium for insurance shopping and buying, the vast majority of consumers are still purchasing their policies offline. "When you look at the numbers for the industry, total insurance sold over the Internet is still less than 1%," says Chuck Johnston, vice president and director of Insurance Information Strategies at Stamford, Conn.-based Meta Group, a research and consulting firm.Even Progressive Insurance Corp., Mayfield Village, Ohio, which has seen its Internet sales grow from 6% of net premiums written in the first half of 1999 to 13% in the same period of 2000, still depends largely on its agents who sell nearly 80% of its personal lines business.

Therefore, while there may be fewer agents in the future, they will continue to be an important part of carriers' multichannel strategies-not only because more complex products require an agent's consultation, but because some customers won't use the Internet.

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