Commercial website attracts 10,000 inquiries in three-month trial

Norwich Union (NU) Direct has received more than 10,000 inquiries since the launch of its online SME pilot in June.

NU director of commercial products Jim Noakes said the level of response had been surprising considering the low marketing spend for the pilot.

Noakes declined to reveal the conversion rates for the two commercial products, residential property owners and self-employed .

But he said that the rate was three times as high as for personal lines products sold over the internet.

Sources said that the insurer had converted around 300 quotes through the system to date, giving it a conversion rate of 3%.

The insurer is planning to add office and professional indemnity products to the pilot in the next two months.

Quotes had been issued for a range of different business, Noakes said, but the average firm buying commercial insurance over the internet had only four employees.

The pilot also revealed that, in line with NU's initial expectations, a high number of the inquiries were made outside of normal office hours.

"This demand for commercial insurance over the internet is strange because no one is advertising for customers over the internet," Noakes said.

"This is the consumer saying 'I want to buy insurance in this way', and we have to respond in order to keep our customers."

In response to broker concerns, Noakes denied the move was taking business away from the broker channel. He added that brokers would be able to write new business generated by the NU brand.

He said that the direct avenue for commercial products would be suitable only in a small number of cases.

"Some of the leads generated from the website are outside the product range for NU Direct. These are then referred to local NU brokers," he said.

He added that the insurer would "come to a commercial arrangement with the broker" for leads that were not underwritten by NU.