More consumers are turning to the Internet to shop around for motor and home insurance as they perceive the channel to be more competitive, according to research from eBenchmarkers.
Statistics compiled by the online evaluation agency suggests that 25% of consumers who changed their motor insurance in 2002 used the Internet to find a new company. eBenchmarkers forecasts that this figure will approach 40% by the end of 2004.
According to the study, by the end of 2002, the number of motor insurance quotes started online reached two million and over the year 18 million quotes were generated, up 76% on 2001. In the same year 178,000 people bought home insurance online in 2002. Although this market is smaller, online sales of home insurance are growing faster than any other type of insurance - up 81% on 2001.
With home and motor insurance together, over one million policies were sold online in 2002, an increase of 77% on 2001.
eBenchmarkers attributes the boom to consumer comfort in buying financial products online, an increase in the number of Websites and the provision of exclusive online discounts for insurance products.
Streamlining application processes was also found to have a significant impact on sales. Conversion rates - as measured by the proportion of people starting a quote that received a full quote - were as high as 80% for insurers with the shortest processes, while firms with longer processes had conversion rates as low as 20%.
In addition, insurers with short processes also enjoy a lower cost of sale - the proportion of customers completing applications wholly online was over 75% for those with the shortest processes while insurers with the longest processes had only 40% complete online.
Stephen Adler, co-founder, eBenchmarkers, says: "Our findings show that simple process issues often account for a large proportion of the variation in performance between insurers, particularly drop-out rates in the application process, the ability to compare prices for policies and how easy it is to complete the sale online and using other channels."