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


In part 1, Lin Grensing-Pophal discussed how insurance businesses are beginning to embrace apps and have found new ways to use them within the industry. In part two, learn practical ways to use apps within your business and how to use do-it-yourself apps.

Practical Considerations
Frank Defino, Jr. is Vice President and Managing Director at Tukaiz, a marketing services production company that deals with mobile applications for the insurance industry. He has identified four standout expectations from app users that should be considered when developing an app:

  • An app should make it easy to do things on the go, not just allow users to interact with your brand
  • An app should enable users to do something that they can’t do just by going online
  • An app should be intuitive and simple to use
  • An app should have “recurrent” value – giving users a reason to use it again and again

Raj Dandage is co-founder of Appguppy Mobile, an online “app creator” site. He says the service is free as long as users have a social media presence, and notes that they have had insurance agents create apps through their tool that offer the following kinds of functionality:

  • Contact information and directions
  • Available product information
  • Instructions on what to do in a loss situation
  • News and tips

James Hasan is Director of Data Applications at Tukaiz. He says two types of apps—internally used apps and customer facing apps - are becoming prevalent in insurance organizations. In either case, a couple of key considerations come into play.

With internal app development, there may be challenges related to the exposure of back-end systems to some of the processes required to create the app. Data security can be an issue. With customer-facing apps, Hasan says development should be focused on areas where usage is expected to be regular as opposed to just creating an app to “jump on the band wagon.”

He recommends insurers focus on app uses that are designed for those who will engage with the app regularly – “app savvy” – vs. those who simply download the app – “app happy.”

Do-It-Yourself Apps
Apple and Android represent the two major players in the app market, and their prevalence means that developers can’t afford to ignore either one.

For those who want to go the DIY route there are online tools that can simply the process. Two popular tools are GameSalad for the Apple market, and App Inventory Edu, originally created by Google and now maintained by MIT, for the Android market.

The typical app creation process can be long and expensive, says Dandage. It generally involves joining a developer program like those offered by Apple or Google, getting digital certificates, submitting corporate information for verification and having the app reviewed and approved. These steps are required for app developers who want to have distribution through the major platforms.

Services like Appguppy circumvent this process by handling app distribution through social media, which is a viable solution depending on the target audience. For example, an insurance agent who wants to create an app that appeals to existing clients and already possesses their contact information. On the other hand, an app designed to generate new prospects on a much broader basis would be better served by the widespread reach of distribution powerhouses like the Android and Apple markets.

Whichever route they take, insurance professionals thinking about developing or promoting an app to their target audience will be most successful by taking a practical, user-focused approach.

Lin Grensing-Pophal has written on topics ranging from health and wellness, to careers and HR-related topics, to marketing and social media. Her most recent book, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Strategic Planning" (Penguin), was released in spring 2011. Lin is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Association of Health Care Journalists, and the Society of Professional Journalists.