Viewpoint: The Use of Augmented Reality in Society and Insurance

By Andreas Kleiner | May 17, 2021

While augmented reality (AR) has been around for a few decades, the technology to power its widespread use is still fairly recent. What once required a huge mechanical system that had to be mounted to a ceiling because it weighed so much can now be delivered via the billions of smartphones and tablets owned worldwide. The ways in which we are utilizing AR to improve and enhance our lives are still emerging, and its use within the insurance space is most certainly still being largely defined and explored.

Perhaps the first widespread use of augmented reality was the advent of the Nintendo gaming phenomenon Pokemon GO. Utilized by a staggering 147 million monthly active users by May 2018, Pokemon GO took the world by storm and fueled the excitement that can only come from searching for, finding and capturing fantastic creatures in a fantasy realm overlayed with the real world.

We likely cannot replicate that type of fanfare for insurance, but we can use augmented reality to change the way we engage with our policyholders, employees and our agents to make the overall experience more pleasurable, interactive and, dare I say it, even fun.

Outside of gaming, augmented reality has proven not only useful but also beneficial in people’s personal and professional lives. Those of us who use facial recognition to “unlock” our mobile device actually use a version of AR. When we buy furniture, we can now use an app to superimpose the couch we’re considering in our very own living room, having the ability to actually see, not just imagine, whether it fits and if the color works well. There are now virtual changing rooms that allow us to “try on” clothes before we buy them online. These are just a few examples of how AR is making lives easier.

Specifically for the insurance industry, AR has the potential to revolutionize the services we deliver to policyholders and agents. Using mobile devices for remote claims resolution is already seeing fairly widespread use. In fact, the COVID pandemic helped fuel quite a bit of policyholder adoption for using the technology. Another positive outcome of this utilization of AR is that adjusters can often resolve a policyholder’s claim more quickly.

Education

Using AR for educational purposes is also rising in popularity, with some apps educating policyholders regarding potential risks in their own home. By placing an area of the home within the view of the mobile device or tablet’s camera, the policyholder can find out whether there is fire, water or other hazard potential and also receive information about the changes they can make to mitigate the risk.

In addition, some companies are beginning to use AR for training and onboarding purposes, especially given the longevity of the COVID-19 pandemic and the inability to provide an in-person experience.

The use of augmented reality with the agent audience is also on the rise, especially in the areas of marketing and education. But before you get started, there are many questions to consider. Do you build your own technology or select an existing third-party platform? How do you make it easy for your intended audience to find and engage with you? Are you willing to make mistakes, up to and including the project ultimately not being successful?

The marketing team at American Modern Insurance Group, a Munich Re company, recently used AR to deliver education about the company’s residential suite of products to our agents in a completely new way. While the decision to do so was largely based on the team’s desire to be one of the first specialty lines insurers to use augmented reality for education, it also aligns with American Modern’s long-term strategy to improve the customer experience and boost engagement with our audiences in new and different ways.

The team knew, based on data from past campaigns, that our distribution partners are very active on Facebook. That made their decision to select the new Spark AR Platform an easy one — but it didn’t mean implementing the technology itself was necessarily easy. This by no means is meant to be a critical remark about Facebook but rather commentary related to working with emerging technologies.

Residental Use

American Modern has quite a few residential product solutions we offer to our agents. Marketing’s goal for the AR experience, which is called 3DYes!, was to support the agent in their education of that product suite, in order to help them select the most appropriate coverage to meet the needs of the policyholder. When agents open 3DYes!, they can use their smartphone camera to look around their surroundings in order to find a flat surface on which to place one of three home visuals. Once they have done that, they can “walk around” that home visual to see different areas of interest that they can click on to learn product facts. The agent then takes a brief quiz that tests their knowledge on which product solution is best suited for the specific home type. They can then move on and complete the same process for the other two types of 3D home visuals.

The AR technology employed by 3DYes! adds a new interactive and exciting element to learning for our agents. It also leverages something they are already doing all day, every day: looking into and interacting with their phone. AR helps create resonance by creating physical engagement because agents aren’t simply reading an email or watching a video. Rather they’re using their fingers to uncover our messages. It’s that sense of surprise and discovery that helps keep them progressing from start to finish.

While it is still too early to measure the ROI of this innovative approach to agent education, our agents have given the marketing team something they consider just as validating: extremely positive feedback that strongly suggests we were successful in making the learning process interesting, engaging and fun. And whenever you can do that within the insurance space, that’s a definite win.

This article was first published in Carrier Management.

About Andreas Kleiner

Kleiner is President and CEO of American Modern Insurance Group.

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Insurance Journal West May 17, 2021
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