The combination of mobile devices and online services is making it possible for SMB owners to operate their entire business from their cell phone or tablet. A Forbes study of more than 500 business leaders found that 10% of those surveyed were already using their cell phone as their primary business device, a trend that will likely gain steam. By 2020, more than 60% of businesses will be owned by Generation X or Millennials, digital natives that are already spending 6 hours per day on their cell.
While many industries have shown the agility necessary to create exceptional digital and mobile experiences, insurers have generally struggled to keep pace. The typical business model in insurance relies on a number of participants. Customers work through an agent, who may request quotes from multiple insurers. Each insurer then analyzes the request and assigns some sort of risk profile, this can be automated or rely on underwriters, but is generally accomplished using data that actuaries have assembled. The agent then receives quotes, and passes them to his or her customer. The entire system lacks efficiency, but because so much business is generated through agents, many insurers are loathe to build out simpler customer-facing websites and apps, fearing that doing so will cannibalize their biggest sales funnel. Because of the process, many insurers view their customers as the agents, rather than policyholders.
The market is shifting, however, and some insurers are now offering a combination of educational materials and buying options that empower SMB owners to meet their legal insurance obligations and adequately protect the financial health of their businesses through online purchasing. For instance, workers' compensation carriers like biBerk.com, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, have enabled small business owners to get a quote and buy a policy online, and Pie has just launched its online sales and will be expanding quickly across the United States.
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