Mystery shopping by the research services company Celent reveals that UK insurers offer the best experience of buying motor cover online compared with other European countries.

Celent, which focuses on the use of information technology in global financial services, based its judgment on quoting, usability and channel management (advising customers on when and why they need to buy online or need to contact an agent).

Its report, published early last month and released exclusively to Insurance Times, also considers security and trust, cross-selling and customer service. The UK was up against Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.

“Celent believes [UK insurers] offer the best experience, particularly in terms of channel management, security and usability,” Nicolas Michellod, the report’s author, says. “The only surprise comes from the fact that the quoting capability of UK insurers is not a clear differentiator in comparison with European peers. They do not propose systematic quick quote options.”

UK insurers took the top five spots for best online car insurance platforms. Aviva and RSA scored the highest with 4.5 out of 5, followed by RBS Insurance with 4.33, Allianz with 4.16 and Zurich with 4.

The rankings were calculated using a scale that ranged from 1 (very bad) to 5 (very good). The research did not compare the types of insurance offered.

Michellod says all UK websites tested are customer-friendly and easy to use but there are still areas where they need to improve.

The report says: “There is a range of functionality, with some only offering quotes online and others providing options such as asking for a proposal from a freephone number, live chat and email.”

Commenting on Aviva, the report says: “Its quote system is very simple to complete and it provides a straightforward process to save the details at specific intervals (user name and password required). After saving the quote, an email is sent with a link to a site from where the user can retrieve the quote.

“Unfortunately, there is no way to retrieve the quote if you forget your password, and there is no quick quote available.”

Aviva was also scored highly for its “modern interface and soft yellow colour”. It also gained favour for its customer service, including its live chat option that provides “more dynamism for younger users”.

Meanwhile, RSA received kudos for its More Th>n website. Unlike Aviva, customers can log back in even if they forget their password. It adds: “Like all the UK sites, there is no quick quote available. But the speed of the process renders a quick quote less useful.”

More Tha>n’s bright green interface is regarded as modern and easy to use. “This is a major positive of all the top UK general insurance websites, but is specifically true here,” the report says.

But while its flashy nature might make it the most friendly for the newer generation of users, it could be daunting for less tech-savvy customers.

Online checklist

• Ensure the site offers both quick quotes and full quotes

• Allow users to extract the data from a quick quote if they decide to move to a full quote

• Enable users to save quotes and easily retrieve them when they return

• Present multiple coverage types side by side for comparison

• Allow users to get a quote for any cover with the click of a button

• Send a confirmation email with a reference number and a link to return to the quote

• Clearly present the portals available to consumers, brokers and others

• Outline the quoting process (for example, list the number of steps)

• Provide a progress bar

• Make it clear when consumers can buy online and when they need to contact an agent

• If an agent is needed, allay any concerns by explaining why.


UK consumers are “fickle” when it comes to buying motor insurance, according to actuarial and business consultancy EMB.

In a poll of 1,018 consumers, the firm found that 61% always seek a different quote on renewal, regardless of the price quoted by their existing insurer. This rises to 87% depending on the level of any price increase – surprising, considering that more than 80% of respondents say they are treated fairly by their current insurer.

The survey, analysing consumer attitudes to buying motor insurance, and particularly the role of price comparison sites, shows 78% of people are likely or very likely to visit aggregators for motor cover. Survey participants had visited two sites on average in the past year.

Consumers name Churchill, Direct Line, Norwich Union and the AA as the four most recognised motor insurance brands. EMB says brand strength is still an important factor in choice of insurer, as Direct Line’s appearance in the top four – despite its absence from aggregator sites – proves.

Some 70% of respondents claim they don’t always go for the cheapest offer. Other factors are service (64%), additional product features (60%) and financial stability (44%).

EMB plans to repeat the survey regularly to track how consumer attitudes and buying criteria change over time.

Distribution models

The UK is one of the leading direct markets, but bancassurance is an emerging channel, particularly in the Netherlands and Germany.

In the most mature markets, direct channels will handle the highest proportion of insurance distribution.

In terms of new motor business acquired from a direct channel, there are still big gaps between European markets. The UK and the Netherlands have well developed direct markets, accounting for more than 20% of the share of new motor insurance business.

In comparison, major markets in continental Europe such as Germany and Italy have less than 5% of business going direct. There is a 10 to 15-year lag time between the UK and Netherlands and the rest of Europe.

Motor insurance is increasingly considered a commodity and customers are focused on price and convenience.

There is also more widespread use of technology and better knowledge of insurance products.

Celent argues that all these factors will force insurers to use low-cost distribution methods and access a wider market than traditional agencies have allowed.

The consultancy describes Italy as being in the “emerging” development stage in terms of European market distribution. Italy still relies mainly on tied agents and employed sellers and the emphasis is on face-to-face selling.

Germany is classified as “developing”, where customers are more open to new methods of buying.

It still has a high reliance on tied agents and employed sellers but also uses affinity/ workplace partnerships, banks and brokers.

The UK and Netherlands are considered “mature”, with the UK classed as “mature II” and the Netherlands as “mature I”. Both have strongly developed low-cost channels.

Celent comments: “In these markets, Celent sees the penetration of low-cost channels deepening and diversifying as new channels such as aggregators and affinity are explored.

It adds: “This will be encouraged by insurers trying to adopt lean business models to compete, but also by increasing customer demand for flexibility.”