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Insurance market: Winners | Q4 2021

December 2, 2021 / Reading Time: 9 minutes /
David Berry
Client Performance Director

The online insurance market has been on a bit of a bumpy ride over the last year or so. As the Government’s Actuary Department has noted, it’s likely that “COVID-19 is likely to have an impact on all stages of an insurer providing cover.” 

The impact of Covid-19 on the insurance market.

We’ve had the travel insurance market trying to reassure consumers about the level of cover and protection they might have from Covid-induced interruptions to their holiday, and motor insurance brands offering reduced premiums for consumers travelling fewer miles – now that working from home appears to be more commonplace. 

It’s clear that the insurance sector has been highly impacted by Covid, and whilst some brands have responded well to this changing environment, many haven’t.

What we cover in this report.

In our Q4 report then, we turn our attention to how insurance brands have performed online, analysing which brands have captured market share during this turbulent time, and looking at some of the tactics they’ve used to gain ground.

We’ve looked at the broader insurance market, looking at some of the major players that offer insurance products spanning multiple industries, such as motor, home, travel, and pet. We treat these “broad insurers” as their own category, as it would be unfair to compare a brand such as Admiral – who offer almost every insurance product – to a brand such as Bought By Many, who specialise particularly in pet insurance.

We’ve also spoken to some key members of the Clicky team to get their expert opinions on what has contributed to the growth or decline of some of the UK’s most notable insurance brands. 

Major UK insurers that offer multiple products (“Broad Insurers”).

We took a look at the larger, “broad” insurance providers in the UK market. In the graph below, we look at online traffic share from 12 of the major brands.  

insurance market

(SimilarWeb, 2021)

It is worth noting that – at this level – we rarely see drastic fluctuations in market share, as we might do when we begin to look at more specialist brands later in this piece. Admiral has retained the largest traffic share during the last 14 months, fluctuating between a healthy 22%-24%. Interestingly, between November 2020 and April 2021, Aviva actually overtook Admiral for market share, at one point operating about 3-4% ahead of Admiral. 

As of September 2021, the brands are almost equal in online traffic share, which is interesting given that in the real world, it is estimated that Aviva only captures 10.8% of revenue share (4th), in comparison with Admiral’s 15.7% (1st). Notably however, this revenue figure includes Admiral’s subsidiary brands such as Veygo, Diamond, and Elephant). 

It is not uncommon to see this level of stability when looking at the major players within an industry – particularly for the insurance industry which is incredibly mature online now. 

Insurance market

(SimilarWeb, 2021)

What is perhaps more of an interesting learning from this exercise, is the high percentage of mobile visitors to each of these sites. Every single one of the top 10 major insurance providers in the UK gets more mobile traffic than desktop traffic, emphasising the need for mobile optimisation and testing.

“The traditional viewpoint is that many consumers utilise their mobile devices for research – and the early parts of their journey, before buying on desktop. In our work with some of the leading specialist brands in the insurance market though, we’re seeing consumers increasingly becoming more comfortable purchasing on their mobiles too. The majority of purchases are still desktop based, but we can no longer ignore the growing customer base that is happy renewing or purchasing a policy on their mobile.” 
  • Joe Marshall, Strategy & Insights Manager.

Of course, we can’t talk about insurance brands without talking about the elephant in the room – comparison sites. We’ve even seen large, behemoth brands such as Admiral and Aviva become increasingly reliant on comparison sites such as Compare The Market, Confused.com, and Go Compare. 

Looking at the leading brand in the space – Admiral – we can see their reliance on these key referrers is pronounced. 

(SimilarWeb, 2021)

We estimate that around 23% of all of Admiral’s referral traffic came from one site – confused.com. Compare the Market are just behind with 22%, with Go Compare in third, closely followed by Money Supermarket. 

What is perhaps most notable about this however – is that this referral traffic is decreasing. Notably too. In the graph below, we’ve highlighted referral traffic to Admiral from these four key comparison sites:

(SimilarWeb, 2021)

This might be a conscious tactic from Admiral – but the truth is that we don’t know what has caused the sudden decrease in referral traffic: only Admiral will know that. It does seem coincidental however, that it was around October 2020 when major news outlets began dedicating major coverage to the potential crackdown measures that could be introduced by the FCA.

In our opinion though, price comparison sites are still a necessary evil within the insurance market, and it’s all about finding the right balance between promoting your own products, and encouraging a good click-through-rate and attractive positioning on comparison listings.

“The traditional viewpoint is that many consumers utilise their mobile devices for research – and the early parts of their journey, before buying on desktop. In our work with some of the leading specialist brands in the insurance market though, we’re seeing consumers increasingly becoming more comfortable purchasing on their mobiles too. The majority of purchases are still desktop based, but we can no longer ignore the growing customer base that is happy renewing or purchasing a policy on their mobile.” 
  • Joe Marshall, Strategy & Insights Manager.

Winners.

The broad insurance market is a complex picture and so identifying overall winners can be tricky, but our team have reviewed the positioning and tactics of the brands within this sector and shortlisted a few examples or achievements we thought were particularly impressive.

Direct Line.

At first glance, it might be tricky to see why we’ve highlighted Direct Line’s performance as impressive. They remain solidly in 4th place in this category, and performance has been stable for the last 18 months. However, this achievement is particularly impressive when you consider that Direct Line – unlike many other brands – are not listed on price comparison websites. We looked through their top referrers over the past 12 months, and a price comparison website couldn’t be found. That’s particularly impressive when you consider a brand like Admiral has the big four comparison sites nestled comfortably in it’s top referrers list.

Whilst a bold and brave claim, Direct Line appears to be capturing a healthy percentage of online traffic share, without developing a reliance upon comparison websites.

esure.

Sometimes it’s not all about getting the most people on your website. esure are 7th for online traffic share, but from the data we can see, they’re leading the way when it comes to on-site experience. 

The graph below shows both average session duration and bounce rate for all brands within this category. Impressively, esure leads the way for both metrics – even surpassing much larger brands like Admiral and Aviva. 

(SimilarWeb, 2021)

We tested all of the websites during this exercise, and surprisingly we felt that esure was perhaps the most simple and uncomplicated UX of this sector. Whilst sites like Admiral, Churchill, and Aviva felt newer, and more modern, this had perhaps led to a slightly more confusing or cluttered website. Say what you want about esure, whilst it might not look the most fancy or modern, it is simple, and clearly users are not bouncing away from the website, and are willing to stick around longer. 

We can see this in the navigation approaches that esure takes, when compared to LV.com.

esure keep it simple, by placing most of the focus on their two core products – car insurance and home insurance. There are no dropdowns – users simply click the link and are taken to the product. Other products that are less commercially important to esure are relegated to the “other products” item, and key links for previous visitors are clearly visible on the right hand side. 

In comparison, LV has well over 30 links all equally displayed in a single parent item, titled “menu.” This means that users have to scan all of these links in order to find the one that’s relevant for them. Internal pages such as “corporate responsibility” and “awards and recognition” are given the same real estate as key product pages such as “car insurance” and “home insurance.” Surely these pages will not be of equal commercial value? What role does “insurance magazine” play in the journey for most users when compared with a key product page?

Whilst the navigation is just one specific example we have focused on here, it is emblematic of the wider consensus from our team. Other websites in this category often look better or more modern, but are guilty of trying to do too much, and over-complicating the user journey. Comparatively, esure keep it simple, and  they don’t clutter the journey. 

“Purchasing an insurance policy is a chore for most consumers, and their patience will be thin. Brands that can make the process as simple and streamlined as possible will undoubtedly benefit, and that’s likely what we’re seeing with esure. Keeping it simple always works well for services that users just want to “get sorted.” 
  • David Berry, Client Performance Director.

Aviva.

To give one of the big players some due credit, Aviva appears to do a very good job of capturing the user’s interest when they are on their website, and importantly – preventing them from going elsewhere and shopping around. 

(SimilarWeb, 2021)

As we can see, 70% of users who visit the Aviva website only visit this website, and do not go on to visit other websites. Beyond that, an additional 20% only check out one other competitor website.

That’s a strong audience retention rate, when compared to a brand like Direct Line. Audiences are far more likely to shop around having visited Direct Line, with only 51% visiting just their website. Just over 28% of their visitors are likely to visit another competitor website in their journey, with a further 12% visiting two competitors. 

Ultimately, this comes down to providing relevant, helpful content for the user when they are on your website. Aviva makes sure that any users who are researching their insurance products have clear, easy-to-understand answers, and don’t feel the need to visit other sites. 

Additionally, their quote engine does a fantastic job of keeping the user in their cycle. It very clearly signposts the next steps to users after completing a quote, so users know what to expect. It also makes it very easy for users to retrieve a previous quote. 

Functionality and tools like this make it more likely that the user is satisfied with their experience, and that their “task” (whether that be researching, purchasing, or renewing) is completed enough that they don’t need to go to a competitor’s website. 

“People don’t want to have to spend weeks researching which brand to go with – they want to easily find the information they need, and get a policy sorted. Aviva has clearly added tools and functionality that make this task easier for users, and the easier the journey, the less likely users are to get frustrated and go elsewhere.” 
  • Libby Caraher, CRO & UX Research Assistant

Admiral. 

Finally, our team also felt that Admiral in particular nailed their response to concerns and questions raised by the public in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown. This was a scary time for many consumers, and we felt that Admiral in particular led the way in providing clear, digestible information to consumers about how their insurance products were affected. 

Their “Coronavirus Advice” FAQ hub provides clear answers in simple terms for consumers’ biggest questions, and their pledge to pay back customers who were driving less during the pandemic went down incredibly well. Indeed, the brand credited the policy as being key in their recent growth – an incredible +12% during the lockdown period

Conclusion.

Whilst the insurance market itself experienced a tough time during the pandemic, the top-level traffic share picture did not change much at all. The leading players remained relatively consistent throughout, with Admiral and Aviva still fighting it out for top spot. Smaller brands within the space also remained steady too, with no brand gaining or losing significant online market share.

When exploring the sector in more detail, our team found that several brands performed in a way which caught the eye. Direct Line’s 4th place market share was deemed all the more impressive when we understand that they rely upon no inbound traffic from comparison websites, and eSure’s clean and simple website stood out as performing particularly well in a market that can often overcomplicate the user experience.

Aviva’s user retention was also noteworthy, as the brand utilises functionality and tools in an effort to prevent users ever visiting competitor websites. And finally, our team also highlighted Admiral’s impressive response to the Coronavirus pandemic, with a helpful FAQ hub, and a successful campaign focused on refunding car insurance customers who had not been driving as much during the lockdown.

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