Plymouth Rock Assurance — a Boston-based auto insurer serving Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire — this month launched a new online tool called “Prime.”
The insurer says the new tool will give consumers the ability to buy and manage auto insurance policies online while also allowing them to stay in touch with local independent agents.
Plymouth Rock says consumers nowadays are faced with a choice between buying and managing policies online, or visiting local insurance agents. The insurer says it aims to bridges that gap by offering an alternative through its new tool, giving consumers the combined power of the Internet with the advice of an independent agent.
Prime is currently live in Massachusetts for new policies with effective dates on or after Oct. 1, 2015, and will be going live in New Hampshire and Connecticut later this year.
How Prime Works
Plymouth Rock Assurance President and CEO Chris Olie told Insurance Journal that Massachusetts consumers can now visit Plymouthrock.com to get a quote and buy a policy in the new Prime system.
Olie explained that when a consumer buys a policy online at Plymouthrock.com in the new Prime system, his or her policy is transferred to a local independent agent who can provide additional consultation and advice. “All sold policies are sent to local independent agents,” he said.
Agents pay a one-time marketing fee once the policy is transferred. After the transfer occurs, the agent owns the business for life and receives full commission on it. “They are free to modify coverage, cross-sell or up-sell and even transfer the consumer to another carrier,” said Olie. “We intentionally designed Prime to keep the ‘independent’ in the independent agency channel. There’s tremendous value the independent agency provides and we don’t want to limit that in any way.”
If a consumer completes a quote but chooses not to buy, their quoting information is deposited into Plymouth Rock’s Agent Quote Marketplace. Agents who participate in the Agent Quote Marketplace are notified by email or text if a consumer is shopping for insurance in their area.
Agents can then purchase that lead from the Marketplace and contact the consumer to offer quotes from other carriers using the previously entered quoting information, making it “a one-stop shopping experience” for consumers, the CEO said.
Olie explained that Plymouth Rock had introduced the ability to buy online several years ago and that functionality has existed in pilot mode, always with referrals to a handful of agents that were helping the company with that pilot.
“We learned a good deal about the process from the pilot and through the introduction of the AARP Massachusetts Auto Insurance Program, which we rolled out in late 2013,” said Olie. “Prime represents an enhanced version of our online buying capability along with the inclusion of the Agent Quote Marketplace, an improved quoting engine, and several other system upgrades to help both consumer and agent experiences.”
Plymouth Rock Assurance says consumer trends show that there is a desire to have both an online and in-person experience when it comes to buying insurance — and while many consumers start their researching process online, the majority prefer to buy from a local agent.
“Each experience offers unique value — online functionality provides ease of use while an independent agent offers personalized counsel and many carrier options,” said Olie. “We believe that through Prime, we’ve introduced a process that will bridge that gap and give consumers the ability to have both a great online experience and the advice and counsel of an independent agent.”
Olie said agents will benefit from this new approach because Plymouth Rock is giving them the tools and systems to bring their unique value into the online world.
“Traditionally, independent agents have struggled to compete with direct providers who sell primarily online, but we believe Prime will help level the playing field,” said Olie. “Independent agents’ unique value is in their ability to deliver local expertise, advocacy and choice. With Prime, agents can bring that unique value to consumers using Plymouth Rock’s online offerings, which will benefit both agents and consumers.”
In addition, Olie said Prime would give agents the ability to target employer and affinity groups in a new way. He commented that while independent agents control roughly 80 percent of the commercial lines business, they have traditionally struggled to penetrate those same groups on the personal lines side.
“Through Prime, agents will have the ability to design co-branded marketing campaigns, online sales engines and landing pages to target employer and affinity group customers and sell personal auto and home insurance,” he said. “It introduces a huge opportunity for our agents to reach a new audience using online functionality that Plymouth Rock will build and manage for them.”
Olie said the reaction Plymouth Rock has gotten to Prime so far has been tremendous. “We introduced the full scope of Prime in a series of meetings with our agents over the past several weeks and the feedback has been very positive across the board,” he said. “We’re excited to see how the combination of online and agent experiences can improve insurance buying for everyone.”