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Pandemic has driven online insurance policy comparison traffic higher, CEO says

➤ Online price comparison traffic was growing quickly before the COVID-19 pandemic; that pace has since accelerated

➤ Carriers could help sales with better optimization of mobile platforms and automation

Insurify Inc. began after a bad shopping experience that founder and CEO Snejina Zacharia had after a minor car accident in 2013 caused a spike in her premium. When she searched for policies, Zacharia became frustrated with how often she had to give the same personal information to people in the same companies.

Her company attempts to simplify the online comparison experience by leveraging data analytics and artificial intelligence to match customers' risk profiles with carriers and to predict the likelihood of converting inquiries into policies, Zacharia said in an interview. She spoke with S&P Global Market Intelligence recently about trends in online shopping and how the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the behavior of people looking for coverage.

The following is an edited transcript of the conversation.

S&P Global Market Intelligence: There are quite a few online price comparison sites out there. Are you concerned that the space is becoming crowded or the business model might be too easily replicated?

SNL Image

Snejina Zacharia, founder and CEO of Insurify Inc.

Courtesy of Insurify

Snejina Zacharia: The space is crowded with companies that do not provide actual comparison quoting. When you look at a Google search, you will find tons of companies with a lot of different domain names. A lot of the companies might be one company using five different domains, and they're trying to capture information as much as possible from that huge volume of users searching online for comparison quoting.

They claim the same things we claim — ease of use, real time quotes, online experience — but 99% of the time, these companies [force] the user has to re-enter all their information again on the carrier site. They make money through clicks and reselling user data. In contrast, our focus has always been application programming interface integration with every one of the carrier partners we work with.

What were the most notable trends in online shopping up until the pandemic, and what has changed since?

Since 2008, our numbers were showing that online insurance shopping had grown over 300%. So the numbers have been in our favor over the last decade. Since the pandemic, people are more worried about going to a face-to-face event, so they're opting more for options to get their policies online or to find a partner or an agent that might be able to provide that service with only a phone call or video call.

So we definitely have seen a spike in insurance shopping across all verticals, car insurance, home insurance and life insurance. Life has become not just a function of people having it because it's nice to have; it has become part of their awareness that this public health crisis is significantly more serious than anything that has happened before, and they have to really provide for their family if something might happen to them. There has been more than 50% growth in life insurance inquiries.

One criticism I have come across about online comparison sites is that they commoditize insurance by reducing products to a price where some tailoring might be in order. How would you respond to that?

Our data shows that price is more than 60% of weight in terms of decision making for any type of insurance. Car and home insurance have been commoditized. So what we are doing is to be able to educate the consumer on the differences between all of the different carriers. We actually have more than 100,000 reviews of customers who have been insured by these carriers so people can get the qualitative aspect of choosing the right carrier. So it's not just about the price, although that is a big factor in decision making.

Is there anything carriers could do to help sites like yours better turn inquiries into purchases?

We had a carrier with a brand new product that had an app whose online flow was broken for iOS for iPhones for two years. We worked with them to alert them that we definitely saw a discrepancy in the conversion rate from these types of devices. Through that we helped educate [them] on what the problem was, locate it and fix it.

There are other issues, such as payments. Unfortunately, the mobile experience of a lot of carriers is not that highly automated or optimized, so you can see in some cases a difference between mobile conversions and desktop conversions.

In your last round of funding, you received backing from technology and insurance companies. Do you see yourself as permanently standalone or potentially part of a larger technology or insurance business?

We have been fortunate to double and triple our business year over year. We're excited to continue to grow. That said, if there are any synergies for us to work with a bigger partner in the future, if it aligns with our growth trajectory and the way we see the business, we'd be happy to consider it.