Google’s acquisition of BeatThatQuote has not yet translated into market-changing moves in the aggregator space. Is it taking its time to mount a UK offence, or do its ambitions lie further afield?
Nerves were frayed across the insurance sector when Google splashed out £37.1m for BeatThatQuote in March last year.
Insurers feared it had the potential to gain real traction and ramp up commissions.
Rival price comparison sites feared Google might somehow game the system to dominate the aggregator space.
One year on, none of this has happened.
There’s little evidence that BeatThatQuote is dominant on search engine quotes and no sign that Google is about to splash out millions on an expensive advertising campaign.
Today’s accounts reveal that Google paid £37.1m for a company with a £1.7m shareholders’ deficit and post-tax losses of £262,000.
So the question is: what does Google intend to do with BeatThatQuote?
Let’s take a look at Google’s history. It remains a search powerhouse, with an 85% global market share according to ZenithOptimedia. It has also achieved success with many of its ventures into new markets, most notably with its Android smartphone operating system.
But it also has a catalogue of rash and failed investments, such as its much-vaunted Google TV. Partner Logitech pulled out after a year, having made a loss of more than $100m on the initiative after muted customer uptake.
Like the technology space, the UK insurance market is highly competitive. No matter how good your systems are, you need to know about insurance first and foremost.
The bottom line is that unless Google throws a lot of money and expertise at BeatThatQuote, then it will likely never match Confused, Comparethemarket, Moneysupermarket and Gocompare in scale.
Instead, Google may use BeatThatQuote as template to move into international markets, rather than a battering ram to compete in the UK.
Its strategy will be to create an aggregator with top customer service. BeatThatQuote’s decision with Argos to take the retailer’s aggregator offline while it improves service and accessibility shows that it is committed to the customer experience.
A customer-focused price comparison site will fit nicely with Google’s aims of being perceived as a user-friendly brand – and developing that as its USP may be how it steals a few customers from the big four aggregators.