That's according to a joint study conducted by TNS Compete and Google. Most consumers apply online, and search is the second-most-used resource in the shopping process trailing only issuer Web sites, according to Michael Perlman, TNS Compete's managing director, financial services.
Monthly shopper volume online increased 17% between January/February 2008 and January/February 2009. Auto insurance applicants grew despite shrinking vehicle sales, indicating that consumers were shopping around for better rates on current vehicles. The survey shows that 65% ranked "low cost" as the most important factor in auto insurance choice, ahead of reputation of brand (which only 14% of consumers ranked as the most important factor.)
But marketers should not despair, as reputation of brand and services offered become more important further in the search process, says Masha Korsunsky, Google's senior industry marketing manager, financial services, Google.
"The majority of applicants search multiple times," Korsunsky tells Marketing Daily. "So marketers need to have a consistent message and reach these customers at multiple touchpoints. Being consistently there with a strong message about your features and benefits is really crucial for marketers in this category."
This research gives marketers information they did not have before regarding the query path before the last click to conversion, she says.
"Marketers need to have a longer attribution window when they are evaluating the effectiveness of their search campaigns," Korsunsky says. "There is an entire query path or process before conversion."
The study's methodology included a clickstream analysis on Compete's panel of 2 million U.S. online consumers between January 2009 and February 2009. Specifically, online behaviors of panelists who shopped for or applied for a quote online for a 30-day period prior to conversion were examined. Providers examined included Allstate, Esurance, Farmers, GEICO, Century 21, Insurance.com, Liberty Mutual, Nationwide, Progressive, State Farm and Unitrin.
One particularly noteworthy online marketing effort by an insurer cited by Korsunsky was State Farm's partnering with MommyCast.com, which is being distributed on Google's branded entertainment platform. While most insurers take more of a direct marketing approach, this is more of a branding approach, she says.
Shoppers use search frequently, with application rates increasing with the number of queries. Shoppers utilize both brand-specific and non-brand search terms, with non-branded terms converting at twice the rate of branded terms. Consumers use search throughout their shopping process, with 50% of search referrals occurring outside of the application session.
Most consumers apply for auto insurance online; 32% of auto insurance shoppers use search, and 57% of those shoppers perform multiple search queries.