June 8, 2017
Key findings from State of the Internet report
by Paul Carroll
Last week, Mary Meeker released her annual opus on the state of the digital world, and I wanted to be sure you saw it. Her massive, 355-slide deck is now the bible about the state of the internet for the next year, so you’ll be seeing some of the data a lot. You should also spend some time with the presentation because some of the trends will matter a lot for insurance.
Beyond what you’d expect about the continued growth of the internet and about our obsessions with our mobile phones, three things stood out for me.
First is the continued improvement of voice recognition. Slide 48 says the technology is now roughly as accurate as we humans are. That still leaves room on the back end for figuring out how to turn those words into a query that can hit a data base and get a useful response—try asking your Amazon Echo what the leading cause of car accidents is—but the progress means we all have to keep working to incorporate voice recognition into interactions with customers. Just when you thought that moving to chatbots and texting put you on the cutting edge, you’re getting another technology thrown at you.
Second is that apps are fading as the organizing principle for mobile devices. As slick as apps seemed to almost all of us at one point, it seems they’re now just too cumbersome. Now, the trend is to make things happen “in-app”—inside whatever app someone is using. Slide 70, for instance, shows capability built by Google inside the Lowe’s app that leads people in a Lowe’s store to an item they’re trying to find. I first asked a friend, the CIO of a regional grocery store chain, for that sort of capability more than a decade ago, and I’m reminded of that request every Mother’s Day when I try to find where a store has hidden the tiny yellow cans of Hollandaise sauce that I need for Eggs Benedict. I’m delighted that my wait is ending. More importantly, from an insurance standpoint, the move toward in-app capabilities creates both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is that you have to move beyond the boundaries of your own app and establish a presence in whatever app your customer is using. The opportunity is for what might be called a do-you-want-fries-with-that strategy: “I see that you’re heading toward the chainsaws at Lowe’s; do you want some additional insurance to cover yourself and your house, for whatever happens when you take that tree down?”
Third is that the trends that Meeker identifies create liabilities that insurers need to consider and risks that they can cover. Some of the issues that she discusses at length will be familiar, such as the growing cyber risks that come with our increasingly connected world and the increasing, but still quite limited, health information from wearables. I’m more intrigued by some of the smaller examples she provides. For instance, Slide 66 says that apartment lobbies are becoming warehouses because of all the package deliveries and that the landlord/super is becoming the foreman of those warehouses. Sounds like a risk that the insurer should be aware of and possibly sell additional insurance to cover.