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Is There an App in You? (Part 1 of 2)


The term "app" has become so popular that in 2010 it was listed as the "Word of the Year" by the American Dialect Society. Many insurance organizations have jumped on the trend, creating apps to connect with various markets and, in some cases, to generate significant revenue.

Gartner estimates worldwide sales of smartphones during the fourth quarter of 2011 at 149 million, and Nielsen says that 46 percent of U.S. mobile phone owners have a smartphone. It appears that apps are here to stay.

Some insurance companies have developed apps that resonate with their audiences to achieve measurable results. Should you? And what does it take to "bring an app to market"?

Insurance-Related Apps
The insurance industry is no stranger to the app craze. Apps allow consumers to get quotes, find agents or report claims—and allow agents to track prospects, conduct business development activities and file paperwork.

The market includes apps from companies like Progressive Insurance, Liberty Mutual, State Farm and more. There are narrow, niche-related apps; Chubb Group of Insurance, based in New Jersey, has an app especially for car collectors, and an app from USAA allows consumers to pay their premiums.

Travelers Direct marketing, based in Connecticut, has created a free app that provides practical appeal to customers and non-customers. “Auto Accident Help” is designed to help people who have just been in an accident navigate through processing their insurance claim; it also offers guidance to ensure their safety and security immediately following an accident.

Travelers Direct 2nd Vice President Eulah Sheffield says the app can be prefilled with pertinent information, such as vehicle data, agent information for Travelers customers, or AAA information. If you’re in an accident, the app can be launched by pressing a “big blue button”. The app geolocates where you are, offers an option to call 911 or moves you through recommended steps like “move off to the side of the road,” or “put your flashers on”.

The simplicity and practicality of the app is what really drives its success, suggests Sheffield. “We find that with mobile apps if you have an app that does one thing really well it’s much more successful than an app that does several things not so well.” 

The key, of course, is thinking about functionality from the user’s standpoint. Travelers tracks usage of the app and has seen the use of claims filed via mobile devices more than triple from 2010 to 2011; 70 percent of the claims are related to personal auto insurance and 28 percent personal insurance property claims.

Next week ... learn more about do-it-yourself Apps and practical uses for them.