Google Compare shuts down today – ending experiment competing with Auto Insurance Agents

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After launching a year ago and projecting service across two dozen states, Google announced it’s shutdown of Google Compare in the US (and UK) today…reaching a threshold of selling auto insurance in just four states.  The reason?  It wasn’t as successful as planned.

Now while Google is known for experimenting across a wide range of services and products , but this opportunity seemed ripe for the picking… taking aim at a product many consider commoditized, to further commoditize it with easy online comparison and shopping services.

This reminds me of many conversations and industry experts from the late 1990’s predicting the end of retail channels as we know them.  With the internet, all things could be made new.  They called it “dis-intermediation”.  The opportunity that some brands saw to go direct to consumers and take back that dealer / distributor / agent margin was tantalizing and drove hours of planning and research to see how it could be accomplished.  In a few cases, it worked.  In many others, plans were abandoned due to channel pressure, underestimating elements of the value chain and lack of sales.

Yet, agents across the country are not urged to take a victory lap.  McKinsey and Company’s recent report Agents of the Future: The Evolution of Property and Casualty Insurance Distribution discusses trends in agent consolidation and continued technology pressures – specifically pointing to multi-channel consumer shopping behavior that will only grow over time.  Smart carriers recognize that many agents aren’t up to speed online, and are helping agents (and the carrier brand in the process) to compete online.  Localized microsites, online tools and great content are all helping local agents improve their SEO locally and get capture more attention from busy multi-channel consumers.

Just like durable goods brands have come alongside their dealer channel for a decade (see: John Deere Buy Online Service ), smart insurance carriers are coming alongside their agents to help them leverage technology to win – regardless of what Google is experimenting with.

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