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Progressive Plunges Into Mobile

Insurance company has spent much of 2011 ramping up mobile services of all kinds. Mobile business leader Matt Lehman talks about some of the recent additions.
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Progressive, based in Mayfield Village, Ohio, unveiled several new and enhanced mobile services in late July, following an initial batch at the beginning of the year. The new items include upgrades to its mobile website, including the ability to buy policies through it; a VIN capture feature through its iPhone and soon Android app that allows customers to get quotes based on a picture of a VIN; and severe weather text alerts that include Live:Wire HailZone data and radar analytics from Madison, Wisc.-based Weather Central.

The insurer has also made mobile investments on the commercial lines side, releasing the Insure My Truck app: Interested parties can download the app, answer a couple questions, and upload a photo of a commercial driver's license to receive an estimate within one business day. Matt Lehman, Progressive's mobile business leader, spoke with Insurance & Technology about how all these efforts fit into the company's overall mobile strategy.

Insurance & Technology: Progressive has a lot of apps, not all of which are directly related to insurance. Why is this such an important channel for you?

Matt Lehman: Certainly we're trying to make the process of shopping for insurance easier. Someone in the market for a new vehicle, or just thinking about how other vehicles could impact their current insurance costs--they want information immediately. Hopefully this will lead people to consider Progressive as their primary auto insurance provider.

I&T: You're also making investments in your mobile website. Are you seeing a need there that apps can't fill?

Lehman: Our overall mobile strategy is about giving our customers and prospects choices on how they interact with us. The mobile world is quite fragmented, you have people who interact through different ways. Certainly we want to be responsive to that. We're trying to make mobile about intent, immediacy, and convenience. So much of the customer service stuff is available through the mobile Web, and most of that is also available through our mobile app. Some things like the VIN scan feature are app only--there are technical limitations for what you can do through the mobile Web versus through an app.

I&T: Do you envision bringing capabilities such as VIN capture to the mobile Web in the future?

Lehman: That's probably a better question for the OS and handset manufacturers. We look forward to more standardization around mobile technologies, but for now we expect it to be fragmented between different handsets and device types. For the time being, you will probably need apps to tap into some of that photo-driven functionality.

I&T: Why offer severe weather text alerts?

Lehman: It's unique in the insurance industry. What makes mobile different from other channels is the ability to deliver timely information with which people can interact and react to. The hail piece is really interesting: Hail is naturally unpredictable, but we think we have a good algorithm to help predict that. We want to help people take themselves and their vehicles and families out of harm's way.

Read the rest of this article on Insurance & Technology.

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