What Google data tells us about how demand for insurance is changing

Sam Gilbert By Sam Gilbert

Analysing internet search data can yield fascinating insights into people’s needs and desires. So what trends emerge when this data is mined to see how consumer demand for insurance has changed during 2014?

Trend #1: The unexpected renaissance of Life Insurance

There has been a staggering 43% increase in searches for life insurance in the last 12 months. Data on brand-specific searches for insurance contains a clue as to what is driving this: there has been a surge in searches for “Sorted Insurance”, a new mass-market life insurance brand.

Along with Smart Insurance, Beagle Street and others, Sorted have advertised heavily on daytime TV in slots that were previously the mainstay of payday lenders, secured loan brokers, and debt consolidation companies.

In Beagle Street’s case this strategy has proved quite controversial, with the ASA ruling against them for airing their ad - which features a monster urinating in a man’s face – during children’s programmes. But there is no doubt that it is succeeding in its objective of engaging a new audience who weren’t considering life insurance previously.

Trend #2: New opportunities from the changing nature of work

Health insurance searches increased by 68% and professional indemnity insurance searches by 79%. One potential explanation of this is the changing nature of work in the UK. More people are working for themselves as homepreneurs or contracting, meaning the addressable market for all types of professional insurance is growing.

At the same time, more people are also joining small businesses - the mainstay of job creation in a post-recessionary economic environment. Like self-employed people, employees of small businesses typically don’t have access to corporate health insurance schemes. This has coincided with some much-needed innovation in the health insurance market from Vitality (previously “Pruprotect with Vitality”). Like life insurance, this has been the subject of a high-profile above-the-line marketing campaign.

Martin Lewis of Moneysavingexpert might not care for Vitality’s proposition, but greater awareness of these types of insurance can only be a good thing.

Trend #3: The rise and rise of Temporary Car Insurance

Experian Hitwise first reported on this trend in 2013, showing that it is especially popular in London, and that demand spikes at bank holidays. (Sadly their blog is no longer on the Experian website, so I have included it at as an appendix to this article).

While Googling “temporary car insurance” results in a predictable list of motor insurers and car insurance comparison brands (Confused, Moneysupermarket, Aviva et al), it is interesting to note that it is still niche specialists like Tempcover who are providing the products, via affiliate or white label relationships.

The use-cases for temporary car insurance (for example: sharing a long drive, or borrowing someone else’s car) are unlikely to go away, so it’s puzzling that better-known insurance brands haven’t done more to respond to this demonstrable consumer need.

Trend #4: The disintermediation of car insurance comparison

Incumbent price comparison websites should be very afraid. Awareness of Google’s car insurance comparison service is growing rapidly, with searches for “google car insurance” up 233% year on year.

Having acquired the price comparison platform Beat That Quote for £37m in 2011, Google has increasingly integrated its comparison offering into Google search results for car insurance related terms, enabling users to start a quote from the search results page. In effect, this disintermediates the established price comparison sites, which have dominated car insurance search demand for years.

The situation seems especially grave for GoCompare. Awareness of the Cardiff-based comparison site as a source of car insurance quotes appears to have fallen markedly since the "gagging" of Gio Compario.

This development also poses some interesting strategic question for Google however. How will Adwords advertisers – Google’s paying customers – react to Google intervening in search results with its own services? Will revenue from Google Compare be enough to offset the lost revenue from clicks on Adwords’ most premium keywords? Is the end-to-end customer experience of Google Compare good enough that it represents a genuine enhancement to Google’s search value proposition?

Trend #5: The enduring value of common-sense prediction

Insurance search data contains a lot of surprises, but it also reveals things which are entirely logical and intuitive. The iPhone 6 was released in September 2014; and sure enough, “iPhone 6 insurance” is the No.1 new entry in 2014’s top insurance searches. Similarly, demand for travel insurance has increased in line with overseas visits by UK residents.

Appendix

Here’s an infographic summarizing the insurance categories and brands that have won and lost market share of searches during 2014:

And here’s the Experian Hitwise blog on Temporary Car Insurance:

When do people search for temporary car insurance?

One of the growing trends within car insurance over the last 12 months has been the rise of temporary car insurance. As consumers become more demanding and expect more from service providers, niche products have been developed to satisfy user demand. Temporary car insurance to cover customers for 1 to 28 days is a good example of this, and searches for temporary car insurance increased by 70% during 2012.

Looking at the seasonality of searches for this niche type of insurance there are some very clear spikes throughout the year when online demand peaks. The five most popular weeks for temporary car insurance all corresponded with UK bank holiday weekends.

The peak of 2012 searches came in the week ending 2 June which not only corresponded with the spring bank holiday but was also immediately before the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee which boosted consumer demand. What this shows, is a clear correlation between bank holidays and a consumer need for temporary car insurance, which is useful for forecasting future demand. In 2013 key bank holiday dates fall on 29 March, 1 April, 6 & 27 May and 26 August. Further analysis of the key search days showed that the Friday before the bank holiday was the day when consumers were most likely to search for insurance.

Taking the analysis one step further, it’s possible to see the specialist websites receiving traffic from searches for temporary car insurance and then look at where in the UK demand is coming from for this insurance.

What emerges here is that temporary car insurance is very London centric. 1 in every 5 visits to specialist temporary car insurance provider comes from a London Internet user, and Londoners are 50% more likely than the average consumer to visit these specialist websites. This makes sense as the cost of keeping a car in London is extremely high, and so borrowing a car and insuring it for a short time appeals to the London audience. This information allows insurers to be more precise in their targeting for new customers who demand these niche insurances.

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