January 28, 2013 – P&C insurers currently lead the industry in terms of mobile integration, while many health and life insurers have made investments in mobile capabilities as well, according to “The State of Mobile Insurance in 2013,” a new report from Forrester.

The overall pace of investment, however, prompted Forrester to warn insurers making only limited mobile efforts will soon give up certain competitive advantages to insurers more aggressively pursuing the channel.

“Customer expectations are rising fast, leaders are making substantial investments, and the time required to build infrastructure, skills, and expertise means that laggards won’t be able to catch up fast,” the report says, adding that insurers need to “obsess” over matching business objectives with customer needs. To do this, the report says insurers should look for problems that mobility can fix, watch how customers behave and seek direct feedback from them.

Several U.S. companies were cited as leading the way, such as GEICO, Nationwide and Progressive, whose app was singled out for its depth of functionality. Progressive customers, according to the report, can get quotes, file claims, pay bills and save documents by taking pictures with their smartphones.

In the health space, heavy reforms and rising costs are inciting mobile investments. Aetna recently made a splash by buying iTriage, a producer of self-doctoring apps that help customers diagnose their first symptoms and direct them to the nearest and most adequate medical support. The report also notes Humana has established a suite of mobile offerings.

Forrester calls the life insurance sector “hardly active,” in terms of mobile. It is assumed that more companies are waiting on the sidelines to see what others develop, as there aren’t as many touch points to work with when compared to P&C and health insurers.

While mobile insurance adoption is still relatively low—5 percent of U.S. online adults who own insurance say they have done at least one insurance activity on their mobile phone in the past three months—insurers waiting to dive in, especially in the P&C sector, are only falling behind as more and more functionalities are being added to mobile’s repertoire. Functions listed in the report include: support and track claims; simplify quotations; enable customer self-service; provide alerts and reminders; offer human assistance; encourage careful behavior; help customers understand long-term needs; support agents or brokers.

Despite technical hurdles — including device fragmentation, app and mobile web platforms to worry about, the emerging tablet market, integration with core systems and rising development and maintenance costs — insurers must drive adoption so they can move beyond experimentation, according to the report. Once this is done, consumers will see more value in using them and interest will increase beyond the 23 percent of online adults in the U.S. that this reports cites as wanting to use mobile insurance.

This story originally appeared at Insurance Networking News.

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