It is a real marketing challenge: in today’s hyperkinetic
consumer marketplace, how does the insurer stay relevant on new
technology channels? The risk of appearing to embrace technology
for technology’s sake is quite real, yet staying still is not an
LII talked with Susan McManus, associate vice-president of
interactive marketing at Nationwide Mutual, about the insurer’s
embrace of new technologies, including a new iPhone application,
and how a holistic approach to marketing the Nationwide brand means
that an application designed for motor insurance can help business
Nationwide is among the first insurers to harness mobile marketing,
and while its early initiative has more to do with its motor
business, it’s only a matter of time before its potential is felt
on the life insurance side as well, McManus said.
“We approach marketing from the perspective of upholding the
mission of ‘On Your Side,’ our motto, and one of the advantages of
that is that everything we do helps the whole business,” McManus
said. “So when we deliver a mobile application on the auto side, we
see it as providing a lift on the life side.”
Nationwide embraced the internet from its earliest days, launching
its first website in 1995 and selling insurance online by 2000, and
now the insurer views mobile devices and the internet as two
separate but closely related channels.
In 2008, Nationwide unveiled its mobile web site at nationwide.com.
The mobile site detects whether an incoming request is coming from
a mobile phone, and automatically diverts them to the mobile site,
which is optimised for smartphone usage, McManus said.
With the launch of Nationwide Mobile for iPhone, designed to help
customers after they get into a car accident, the insurer is
joining a host of corporate icons building iPhone apps. Nationwide
worked with independent interactive marketing agency Rosetta to
develop the mobile application.
Nationwide’s tagline is “After a car accident, it can be difficult
to think clearly and remember all of the details that need to be
taken care of next.”
The free iPhone application, available in Apple’s App Store, helps
Nationwide customers find local resources, document the accident
and submit claims information via their handset.
Nationwide’s customers involved in an accident can use the
application to quickly find local resources, such as Nationwide
Blue Ribbon Repair Service facilities or local agents. They can
also submit claim information on the spot.
Users can store accident photos taken with the iPhone’s camera and
automatically record the exact location of the accident using the
built-in GPS. A flashlight function and a tool to help
non-customers locate a Nationwide agent for a free auto quote are
also available, McManus said.
“Part of the personalised experience we want to deliver to our
customers is allowing them to interact with us in whatever way they
choose, and for a growing group of people we know this means via
their mobile device for certain things,” said McManus.
“We want our customers to know that we ‘get it’ when it comes to
the importance of mobile in their day-to-day lives. As we were
doing consumer research a year and half ago, we saw that
smartphones were outselling computers four to one, and so we
thought about how we could get on the mobile phone in a meaningful
Since August 2008, traffic to the mobile site has more than
tripled, she said.
“It’s an indication that more people are surfing the internet and
accessing it from mobile devices than ever before,” McManus said.
“We’re developing other apps as well, and we see the mobile channel
as incredibly important going forward.”
It’s not difficult to see why mobile marketing is taking off.
Today, mobile users total more than 4 billion worldwide, according
to the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), a consortium of wireless
carriers, ad agencies, technology companies and advertisers. And
that number is expected to climb to 5.6 billion by 2013, the MMA
In 2008, mobile marketing was a $169 million industry in the US.
It’s expected to grow 36 percent this year, to $229 million, thanks
to the rapid growth of mobile-based subscriptions and ad-supported
mobile applications, according to media economy forecaster
McManus said that Nationwide’s internal research showed high levels
of smartphone penetration among its customer base, leading the
company to conclude that mobile was a channel unto itself, one that
must be treated differently than the web in order to work.
“The mobile channel is ideal for pushing information to the
consumer, and for on-demand needs like the auto app,” she said.
“The web is still the comparison shopping medium of choice for
insurance consumers, and we don’t see that changing, so you have to
strategically design your interfaces with the needs of the consumer
From a marketing perspective, McManus said that the mobile
application sends a powerful signal about the insurer to
“We always want to be out in the forefront in technology, and
looking for new and modern ways to build something around the
claims experience made sense to us,” McManus said. “It says that
Nationwide is innovative and on trend, and that we will meet the
customer where they are technologically. There is no doubt that has
meaning for our life insurance business as well.”
So far, the insurer has processed 132 claims that have come in
through the iPhone application – two the day after its launch last
“It’s the only time you’ll see insurers cheering about a claim
coming in,” she said.