Failure is not always a bad thing. There are many reasons why projects and initiatives
don’t succeed and those failures can’t always be blamed on a lousy product. I have to
believe Google’s decision to shut down Google Compare, its price comparison tool for
personal auto insurance, falls under that heading.
The big worry when Google made this initial foray into the insurance market was
that one day the search-engine giant—or similar-sized technology companies—would
use their technology skills and their capital to disrupt the most profitable lines of the
insurance industry—personal auto and homeowners.
It could still happen, of course, but there will be plenty of dissection of the Google
Compare carcass before another tech giant jumps into the fray.
Matt Josefowicz, CEO of Novarica, urges insurers to refrain from reading too much
into the Google decision.
“What Google seems to have proved is that the business Ins Web and others tried 15
years ago—converting comparison shoppers into immediate buyers directly through
the comparison site—is still a lackluster business,” he says.
Deb Smallwood, founder of of Strategy Meets Action, believes the industry should
have mixed feelings about what happened to Google Compare.
“Should insurers be happy or sad?” she asks. “I say both. Sad to know that this
attempt at innovation failed, but happy to know it is not the end, and the industry will
learn from this.”
Google Compare will barely mark its first anniversary by the time the site is shut
down, but despite that relatively small period of time, Smallwood doesn’t believe Goo-
gle acted rashly.
“The key to successful innovation is to know where to place your bets and know
when to fold them,” she says. “Failure is part of the process. Google is one of the
smartest and most innovative companies. It knows when to reopen, too. I will not be
surprised to see them reappear with a next-generation comparative tool, but rather
than focus on insurers needs to quote, it will be focused on the consumer needs for
Josefowicz agrees: “A bigger question is, what else did Google learn about insurance
shoppers from this experiment, and how will they use that information to create new
offerings that they can sell to the insurance industry?”
So insurers may not have seen the last of Google (or Amazon or a host of other tech
companies) just yet. These companies didn’t get where they are by pouring billions into
something only to expect millions in return.
Josefowicz points out Google already makes a ton of money off insurance through
its Ad Words.
“Google may have realized they can make more money with less investment selling
advertising to insurers than selling insurance itself,” he said. ITA
Robert Regis Hyle
Will Google Compare Be
Viewed as a Successful
Editor in Chief
Robert Regis Hyle
Michael P. Voelker
Jason T. Williams
ITA Advisory Board
Tricia S. Blair
Lincoln Financial Group
Security First Insurance Company
Millers Mutual Insurance
Craig S. Lowenthal
Berkley Technology Services
Gary H. Ouellette
Union Mutual of Vermont Companies
Glatfelter Insurance Group
Kenneth B. Zieden-Weber
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