There’s a new website aimed at changing the way millennials deal with buying insurance – but it’s focused on a widely under-served segment of the insurance market – renters’ insurance.
Launched by two young insurance agents Tom Austin and Zachary Stiefler, both graduates of Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania, bungalowinsurance.com is a new licensed independent insurance broker created to “simplify” the renters’ insurance buying experience for first-time insurance buyers.
Austin said they got the idea when they made their own foray into buying insurance.
“We were renting at the time and had to purchase renters insurance. We got called by a bunch of different agents and thought ‘we can do better than this,'” said Austin.
Austin said the concept they came up with was a “simple, easy-to-use, modern website” where millennials could enter their information and identify with the renters’ insurance product that would work best for them.
They wanted to create a “user-friendly” experience that would resonate with millennials, who he said prefer to do things online and quickly.
“We wanted it to have modern appeal to millennials – minimalist and simplicity,” Austin said. “On other agent and carriers’ websites there is a ton of information. But when [most] people are thinking about insurance they aren’t in the same mindset as insurance professionals.”
Austin said the first page of the bungalowinsurance.com website just asks for a zip code to create a “calming impression.” And, while there are educational resources and a customer service chat offered on the website if help is needed, Austin said the goal is for Bungalow to be a place where millennials can complete the majority of their transaction online.
“Sending them to an agent who wants them to fill out an app by hand – they won’t do that,” Austin said. “I think you have to have a solid online experience for millennials.”
Austin said there is a real opportunity in the renters’ insurance segment with millennials. A survey by Progressive earlier this year found that 68 percent of renters don’t have insurance to begin with, including 72 percent of millennials.
If the industry can tap into this segment now, Austin said, the relationship could be built upon and open up more doors down the road.
“So many more are [purchasing] the renters’ insurance product and it’s increasing in importance for the industry as a whole,” Austin said. “The value we see in the long run is so many people just coming into the market who have never purchased insurance before – this could be their first experience with insurance. Let’s give them a good insurance experience and they will come back when they need other insurance in future.”
He added that as a new agent, he has seen that the insurance industry isn’t selling products that millennials need or offering a practical way for them to be purchased – creating a major disconnect between the industry and the consumer.
Austin said while their initial research found that millennials don’t always want to do everything 100 percent online, which surprised him, they do want the option to do their initial research, start the process and eventually buy online.
“Let’s sell what they need – renter’s insurance – most millennials are renting and don’t own cars, and they want to do the majority of their purchase online,” he said. “Not all of it, but they certainly want to get a quote online and pay online and we want to have the resources for them to do that.”
With funding for the site backed by DreamIT Ventures and First Round Capital’s Dorm Room Fund, Bungalow started offering coverage just in Pennsylvania through Travelers and later partnered with Chubb. It has since expanded to offer coverage in 10 states total, including California, D.C., Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Virginia. It expects to expand into the remaining 40 states sometime in early 2017.
Through its just completed automatic programming interface (API), which allows Bungalow to “plug in” to existing carrier infrastructures and repackage them to target millennials, Bungalow is now also offering coverage through Stillwater and Homesite.
Bungalow is working on using its API technology with other companies that target and serve millennial consumers.
“We ended up having a lot of conversations with other businesses who work with renters but don’t offer insurance,” Austin said. “We have built an external API so other businesses can offer our experience on their website.”
For example, Austin said, if a consumer is using an online rental payment website each month to pay rent, that site can offer the option for them to add renters’ insurance to their payment.
“The data is already stored so you just enter your extra underwriting info, get a quote, and add it to your purchase,” he said.
Bungalow plans to expand its online insurance purchasing to other segments, such as jewelry insurance. Austin said they are also looking at developing a more structured program that agents can direct their customers to and get paid commission. It is also open to working with other carriers, though he said Bungalow is not necessarily looking at becoming a price comparison site.
Ultimately, he said, he thinks Bungalow will fill a need for the next generation of agents and consumers.
“We really think the real barrier to entry for millennial consumers is packaging — the legacy providers have simply never had the means to sell online or highlight millennial-friendly plans. This integration-heavy approach allows us to build partnerships, get off the ground, and start helping customers immediately,” Austin said.