Insurance Company Demonstrates Amazon Alexa Skills Are for Everyone

liberty-mutual-insurance-alexa-skillLiberty Mutual released a skill for Amazon Alexa last week for its Safeco brand called Insurance Advisor. It also announced the flagship Liberty Mutual brand would have its own skill soon. Skills are to Alexa what apps are to smartphones. They create tailored user experiences for Amazon’s Echo devices that use the Alexa voice service and make the system smarter.

Users are known for asking Alexa to set a timer, turn on the lights, play music, or call up a trivia game. So why insurance? Insurers need to be on Alexa for the same reasons they need to have a website and why so many have created mobile apps.

  • Consumers are on Alexa and competitors are too!
  • Convenience drives consumer behavior and brand loyalty
  • It’s a family thing

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Go Where the People Are Today and Where They Are Headed

alexa-audience-reach-2016Everyone knows that businesses need to congregate where consumers spend their time. That is why brands have established ubiquitous online presence. Few companies would consider it wise to ignore the online user and have no website. XAPPmedia analysis suggest there are over four million Amazon Echos in use today. Because these devices typically serve a household and not individuals, we estimate that over 10 million people have access to a device. This means there is already a sizeable user base.

However, the trend line is even more compelling. Amazon forecasts sales of 10 million units next year and that may be an underestimate given that the entry-level device, Echo Dot, is now selling for under $50. Google also has a product launch scheduled for this fall that will likely drive further user growth for devices to access the voice web.

Liberty Mutual is taking the advice of Wayne Gretzky’s father and heading to where the puck is going. Consumers are there and more are arriving each day. The absence of Liberty Mutual’s competitors on Alexa means the company has an entire market segment to itself. Indeed, just a couple of minutes using the skill reveals its primary function is to suggest a Safeco agent serving your zip code. There are some Alexa skill best practices that could help these insurers establish a presence in a just a few weeks. However, these companies must still decide to act.

Convenience Drives Consumer Behavior

Dr. Eugene Kelley wrote in a 1958 issue of the Journal of Marketing about his consumer research and concluded, “One key to understand shopping behavior is the increased importance consumers are attaching to convenience considerations.” We can all agree that Dr. Kelley was ahead of his time. More recent research by comScore and Adobe documents that the trend is alive and well and we don’t need to search long for a list of examples. AirBnB, Uber and Amazon have all built enormous businesses based primarily on convenience. And, just in case you are thinking this is a trend only for technology companies, consider that those three companies use technology to provide convenience but are actually in three businesses as old as human history: lodging, transportation and retailing.

Convenience attracts customers because it provides them value. They save time and effort. However, it also enhances customer loyalty. For example, a 2013 Harris Interactive poll found that convenience was the number one factor in customer loyalty for banks. Amazon Prime, Apple and others have built convenience into their business models because customers value it. Alexa is available in your kitchen and living room. If you have a question related to insurance or any other product or service, asking an expert standing right next to you is much easier than searching the web and sorting through dozens of links vying for your attention. Alexa and other voice assistants can become that expert right next to you. Building a skill enables your brand to have a voice in the conversation.

It’s a Family Thing and Shared Experience Opportunity

insurance-brand-alexa-skillInsurance is what politicians call a “kitchen table” topic. It may not be exciting, but it impacts the entire family. And, the topic may not come up frequently, but insurers want to be top of mind when it does because the decisions typically lock in customers for years. What if someone brings up the topic of renter’s insurance during a conversation. Will you interrupt the conversation, pull out your smartphone and start researching options? Probably not. Will you ask Insurance Advisor on Alexa a question or two right then and share the experience with everyone in the conversation. Sometimes you will.

Websites and mobile apps are designed for a single person to gather information. Alexa can provide answers to an entire group of people at once. If the question pertains to insurance, Liberty Mutual has an advantage right now when the topic surfaces.

It’s About More Than Insurance

Amazon’s Alexa represents a new way to access and interact with information. Many people originally thought the devices were just for controlling home automation and listening to music. However, Liberty Mutual recognizes that Alexa and other voice assistants in the home represent a new way for consumers to gather information the instant questions arise. It doesn’t matter if the questions arise often or infrequently. When the consumer wants an answer, are you in a position to answer it? Is your competitor the only one ready to enter the conversation?

I have seen a commercial by GEICO dozens of times promoting its mobile app. When viewed alongside Facebook, Spotify and Candy Crush, I’m sure its frequency of use looks anemic. However, the GEICO app is available when an insurance question or issue comes up. Apps don’t have to be fun to be useful. The logic applies to insurance, healthcare, auto repair, home improvement and an endless list of consumer products and services. Do you need to be on the voice web with an Alexa skill? Can you afford not to be present?

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