Mobiquity Inc.

Oct 21, 2019

5 min read

Could adding voice to policy holder’s cars create a competitive advantage for Nationwide?

By: Jackie Brusch, Senior Marketing Manager, Mobiquity

Nationwide Insurance has that it will give away one million Amazon Echo Auto devices to qualifying new and existing auto insurance customers. Launched somewhat exclusively earlier this year, Amazon Echo Auto connects to the Alexa app, enabling users to play music, stream audible, check the news, make calls, manage schedules — basically anything Alexa can do. This move by Nationwide was likely a savvy two-fold strategy to: 1) increase safety (thus decreasing costs to insure) and 2) increase brand loyalty in the increasingly competitive property and casualty space.

What does this mean for the insurance industry? To get an expert’s opinion, I reached out to Mobiquity’s own VP of Strategy and Analytics, Brian Levine.

Q: What does this announcement indicate about the future of voice?

Brian: This is really a phenomenal experiment Nationwide is undertaking. Texting and driving is responsible for roughly 25% of auto accidents in the US . If Nationwide sees significantly reduced texting among those with Echo Auto devices, they can dramatically improve their ratio far beyond the cost of these devices. If the car accident rate among these million users drops measurably, it really proves that voice assistants should become standard in vehicles for everyone and that the cost of these should be covered by your insurer. This would lead to a rapid closing of the gap toward in-car voice assistant ubiquity. If we can reach that in-car ubiquity, companies can invest heavily in voice apps that cater to drivers.

That said, your phone can currently connect to your vehicle through the same mechanisms as the Echo Auto. In fact, the Echo Auto requires you to (a) have your phone with you and able to connect over bluetooth and (b) have the Alexa app on your phone. The customer has to feel that Alexa is easier and more tied into their current ecosystem. But, having tried Google Assistant, Siri and Alexa in car, I believe the Echo wins for anything media related — a primary use case in car. And the hardware device means a much better microphone that can work better for the driver while also letting the whole family use the Echo. And for insurers, this is better than those voice assistants and Car Play or Android Auto because it is voice only — no looking at phones and screens.

Q: How does adding this type of digital transformation create better experiences for Nationwide customers?

Brian: Historically, the P&C insurance experience for customers has been one of minimizing exposure — if you have an accident, you can be made whole again. This Nationwide program is one of many experiments the insurers are undertaking to proactively keep customers safe. This indicates a shift from the insurance company being a bail out for their customers to instead being a trusted advisor and resource to protect their customers. Interestingly, you don’t often converse with your insurance advisors, Nationwide is putting a device in your vehicles that will let you talk to them more and more.

Q: What part of the Nationwide/Amazon partnership is most interesting to you? Why?

Brian: If Nationwide and Amazon share data, it could mean more developments in technology to minimize distracted driving in a million vehicles on the road now. I’d like to bring more partners into this program with more data sharing opportunities. Let’s figure out the best way to do quick service mobile voice ordering while minimizing distractions during driving, office work while driving, use the Echo to keep you awake and alert, and others. Yes, it is a step to voice ubiquity in the future, but right now it’s a good idea and a great test population.

In addition, it furthers a trend Amazon has had in partnering with insurers on the Echo line of devices — there was a smaller scale partnership with Travelers last year. Beyond that, it gives the Echo a quick boost as a car platform while they are still trying to sign more auto manufacturers to get Alexa built-in.

Q: Is there anything else you want to mention or comment on regarding this recent news?

Brian: Sirius XM created a great revenue stream when they started focusing on the used car market. The average lifespan of a vehicle is over 10 years, so the vast majority of vehicles out there don’t support Apple Car Play and Android Auto, and won’t for a while. People in those cars are fiddling at their phones when they drive. I think it is great that Nationwide is supporting these customers & this gives us a great opportunity to see if a voice-only car interface can be effective, engaging and safe. This program could influence the future of voice design in the car while saving lives.

Moreover, this is the type of experimentation and customer focus the insurance industry needs to undertake. The insurance industry is primed for disruption, but a focus on the customer, not the policy, is how insurers will transform and grow through that disruption. With the launch of Spire and this Echo Auto program, it certainly seems like Nationwide is aware of the need to change and it is taking action. We should be seeing more and more programs like this starting across the board.

Most of the big insurers have programs to monitor your driving in order to give you discounts for good driving. That said, one of the most important features is also the feature customers dislike the most — the driving monitoring apps check to see if you are using your phone while driving. The problem with this is that any use of the phone, such as navigation or even playing music using a voice assistant, negatively impacts the driver due to limitations in the monitoring technology. Something like using Alexa in the vehicle could circumvent this issue as the phone can stay in the driver’s pocket.

Brian presents a compelling case for the multiple ways introducing voice skills can reduce points of friction for customers. For Nationwide, potential benefits include increasing engagement, safety and loyalty — all key objectives for today’s property and casualty insurers. We’re still at the beginning stages of voice integration and the use cases where voice can add unique value abound. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can implement this technology, let us help. We’d love to set up time to learn more about your business and how voice can further your goals.

Originally published at