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November 3, 2020

The Evolution of Telematics Programs

Summary:

Interest in pay-as-you-drive or pay-per-mile policies has increased in 2020 as more Americans are working from home.

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

Thirteen years after Progressive launched Snapshot, its usage-based insurance (UBI) rewards program, telematics-based policies represent a modest part of personal and commercial lines insurance. Bullish estimates of double-digit adoption by 2020 haven’t materialized, but it’s clear that telematics-based products appeal to a need within the market. Adoption will likely continue to grow. Insurers should consider telematics strategically, whether they expect to enter the space or not.

Adoption: Modest but Real

Insurer telematics activity in recent years has split into rough thirds: About a third of property/casualty insurers are actively engaged, a third are monitoring the space but not yet acting and a third feel telematics don’t apply to them.

Overall, Novarica estimates the penetration of telematics programs at around 6% to 8% of insurers’ overall books, based on industry research and conversations with insurers. These numbers vary substantially from carrier to carrier. At some, telematics-backed policies can be more than 30% of their books, while, at others, it can be as little as 1%. 

Applications: Increasing in Variety

Insurers predominantly use telematics for underwriting and actuarial or product design. This approach aligns with the stereotypical UBI offering, where insurers rate drivers based on telematics data and offer retention discounts to those who prove to be safe risks. More insurers are also providing pay-per-mile offerings (such as Liberty Mutual’s ByMile and Nationwide’s SmartMiles), which charge customers based on the actual amount they drive.

Applications in other insurance functions are less common, but this is changing as both insurers and vendors innovate to offer new types of coverages and programs, like rewards programs to generate regular customer engagement or teen driving programs that can leverage telematics to create speed alerts. These offerings align with broader industry trends toward creating richer digital experiences, particularly in personal lines.

Insurers should also understand that getting the most out of these advanced features requires technological and business support beyond the telematics offering itself. For example, to support a feature like automatic first notice of loss (FNOL), insurers will need quality data, and they’ll need to be able to move it between systems across the enterprise. A comprehensive rewards program may require focused effort from marketing and customer service to stay on-message and deliver a seamless experience.

See also: Driving Into the Future of Telematics

Program Design: Essential for Success

The variety of telematics capabilities and offerings in the market means that insurers should design or expand their telematics programs with care and forethought. As with any technology initiative, the point of telematics-based insurance offerings is to better manage risk, reduce costs or create a superior customer experience.

For telematics, that means that insurers need to consider a number of factors to guide the features of their offerings. These include the target market segment, the channel through which the offering will be distributed, the services offered and how all of these elements align with existing technological capabilities and processes. There’s no one answer, and anything from a basic UBI product to an engaging rewards program could be the right fit, depending on what an insurer wants to accomplish.

Fortunately for insurers that have taken a wait-and-see approach, there are a number of products available in the marketplace, from turnkey telematics solutions to book-of-business analysis from a variety of telematics service providers and data brokers. Although early adopters like Progressive procured and managed their own telematics devices, insurers don’t have to do this anymore. Carriers that are new to the space shouldn’t spend time replicating technology that already exists.

Telematics Beyond 2020

Telematics adoption will likely continue to increase slowly but steadily over the next several years. Depending on the rate of growth, telematics-based policies could make up between $22 billion and $32 billion of the personal lines auto market by 2025.

COVID-19 will be a major factor in that growth. Anecdotally, Novarica has heard from both insurers and vendors that interest in pay-as-you-drive or pay-per-mile policies has increased in 2020 as more Americans are working from home. How long the pandemic lasts and whether widespread remote work becomes normalized could speed adoption for both insurers and policyholders.

Auto manufacturers have also been active in the space, with a number of recently announced partnerships to share driving data from connected vehicles with insurance companies. This, too, could speed telematics expansion by lowering the initial barrier to entry. 

Telematics-based insurance offerings are a small but real portion of the personal and commercial auto markets that will continue to grow. Telematics isn’t going away, but it also won’t dominate the auto insurance industry in the next five to 10 years.

At the same time, telematics doesn’t have to become dominant to affect consumer expectations around price, convenience and service. Insurers should consider potential impact now so that no matter what decision they make, it’s a strategic one.

To learn more about how insurers are using telematics, read Novarica’s full report Telematics in Insurance: Overview and Key Issues.

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About the Author

Harry Huberty is chief of staff at Novarica, with experience supporting a range of insurance technology strategy projects and research. His personal research interests include the evolution of telematics and IoT in insurance.

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