Having launched in the flush of the dot-com boom, aggregator Insurance.com (Newton, MA) was happy to be perceived by investors by its simple, new-economy moniker; it launched in March 2000 as "Insurance.com, an affiliate of Fidelity." Now, all coyness about the relationship has dropped with the onset of a rebranding campaign for "Insurance.com From Fidelity Investments."
While Insurance.com's president, Lou Geremia, won't go as far as to acknowledge that the initial strategy was to avoid mention of Fidelity (Boston)which formed the aggregator in June 1999he says it's become increasingly clear that open association with the investment firm makes sense from a marketing perspective. "We've done research recently going out to people who have visited and purchased through the site, and the Fidelity name seems to be something that gives them a lot of comfort in deciding," he says.
The fact that a big financial firm is showing confidence in the aggregator doesn't hurt either. "Fidelity providing its support for what we're all about is something we see as a big differentiator going forward, " Geremia says. But before that support could be expressed openly, a number of things had to fall into place, he adds. "This year we've switched a number of our product providers and platforms to more of a long-term partnership basis than when we launched," he says. "Before we were satisfied that they were giving the appropriate customer experience in terms of service and sales fulfillment, we didn't want to put as much of a Fidelity stamp on the site."
The first major step in wedding the Insurance.com and Fidelity names in the public mind came last fall with the integration of the aggregator into a co-branded "Insurance Center" offering auto, home and health insurance, according to a spokesman for Insurance.com. The click-through connection gave the aggregator direct access to Fidelity's 17 million-strong customer base.
Among the significant partner migration moves is Insurance.com's adoption of eHealthinsurance (Sunnyvale, CA) as its health insurance aggregator partner. A more significant move on the life insurance side, Geremia says, was dropping Quotesmith.com (Darien, IL) in favor of ReliaQuote (McLean, VA). "The reason for the switch was that we wanted a private-label solution, and one we could customize for our needsfor example, supporting our brand," he says. "Reliaquote was very willing to do that and had a great track record and management team."
Supplementing Insurance.com's existing automobile insurance relationships is the adoption of the Comparison Market platform, supplied through a partnership with a consortium consisting of The Hartford (Hartford), Travelers (Hartford), Progressive (Mayfield Village, OH), Liberty Mutual (Boston) and Allmerica (Worcester, MA). A key feature of the platform is a proprietary quoting engine with the ability to provide consumers with binding quotes, as opposed to estimates. "It provides real-time, accurate quotes, but it also utilizes the carriers' sales arms or call centers to finalize the business," Geremia says. "So it's much more efficient, it's very scalable and the service levels are very high, consistent with what a Fidelity customer would experience on the brokerage or mutual fund side."
Insurance.com launched the platform for Florida and Georgia last Friday, and plans to reach 90 percent of the states by year end, Geremia says. Customers identifying themselves with ZIP codes belonging to states with access to the platform will receive quotes only from the Comparison Market consortium companies, meaning the eventual exclusion of quote estimates from the approximately 30 carriers now served up to Insurance.com through ChannelPoint (Westminster, CO) technology.
Insurance.com also has entered into strategic online marketing agreements with AOL-Time Warner, Bloomberg, Bankrate, Multex and Learning Network/Family Education to feature Insurance.com on the partners' affiliated sites. "Over the past few months we've been working with a number of potential partners on a test basis, looking at different creatives and different positionings on the site to figure out which properties and which locations work economically so we can bring a visitor to the site and not lose money on them," Geremia says.
Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio