December 12, 2012 – CIOs and IT managers designing, developing and implementing consumer portals and electronic services—everything from product marketing and sales to after-sales service delivery—need to assess a “nexus of forces,” mutually reinforcing social, cultural and technological factors, including social, mobile, cloud and information, that are “driving new and radically different business scenarios,” according to a new white paper from Gartner Group entitled “The Nexus of Forces Will Drive Insurers to Pursue E-Service Innovation.”

According to Gartner, social, mobile, cloud and information are now intertwined, creating a “user-driven ecosystem of modern computing,” resulting in changes to business practices, economic frameworks and cultural behaviors, leading to dramatic changes in, first notice of loss, claims status checks, policy look-ups, investment allocation changes, policy changes, address changes and bill payments.

 “The growing importance of the social commons will force insurers to improve their e-service functionality,” Gartner stated, adding that social media enables intermediaries to communicate with consumers, creating opportunities for sharing information about products and services, as well as shaping those products and services through customer rating, for example, or creating design platforms for designing a roadside assistance app, as did a U.K.-based insurer. Other opportunities for functions such as funds transfer are already being made available by financial services companies. Location-based intelligence, quick response (QR) codes offer other opportunities for facilitating personalized responses and product comparisons.

“Mobile-enhanced processes will also simplify the sales and onboarding processes for new clients. The fact that the number of mobile devices is already twice that for PCs (see Forecast reports in the Recommended Reading section) means that insurers need to carefully review the e-services they currently make available to their clients via mobile devices, and extend their capabilities to derive greater benefit from the opportunities they present. Insurers also need to break down existing "silos" between portal and mobile e-services, because their clients are increasingly likely to use these channels interchangeably,” according to Gartner.

Gartner pointed to the rapidly growing number of mobile devices, the fact that they already outnumber PCs by more than two-to-one, and that contextual information, such as geo location, prompts real-time business transactions and accelerates business transactions.

“Ubiquitous mobile IT consumption will force life and P&C insurers to support new technologies such as HTML5 that allow them to render business application logic on virtually any device. IT organizations should also be prepared to support composite e-services, which may be initiated on mobile devices and concluded on a desktop or notebook computer, or vice versa,” according to Gartner.

Insurers simply cannot afford to ignore smartphones and mobile devices as they plan for e-services delivery, Gartner analysts said. “For example, we continue to see poor integration of mobile e-services with back-office applications. It is still common for a first notice of loss from a mobile phone to result in an email being sent, rather than a work item being triggered for a customer service representative. Moreover, many insurers fail to address brokers' and agents' functional needs for better embedding of mobile devices in daily business operations, such as point-of-sale underwriting and policy issuance,” Gartner stated.

New data sources, such as the mobile devices, agents and demographic data also will add to richer interactions and decision support, Gartner stated, and will extend beyond prefilling forms and simplifying processes to help consumers make better decisions, by reducing property risks through disaster preparedness, for example, offering analytical tools to clients to better manage their health, or market conditions and asset allocations, for example.

This story originally appeared at Insurance Networking News.

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