Retail Chains – An Alternative Source for Buying Insurance

Woman checking out customer at Walmart
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Buying insurance is an ever changing game especially in a world increasingly influenced by the worldwide web and the ease of shopping online. In fact, several retail giants are wielding their persuasion tactics attempting to cross-sell to customers and claim their stake in the world of insurance sales.  A report from London-based risk and consulting firm, Finaccord, notes that approximately 281 retail brands are offering insurance products to consumers.

This is up from 232 retail insurance providers in 2010.

You may have heard of some of these names who have offered customers another outlet for their insurance needs including Overstock.com, Costco, Walmart and Google (Google Compare’s U.S. Insurance Comparison website closed its operations in 2016).  Another growing trend is the ability to purchase an insurance policy through an insurance kiosk. For insurance consumers looking for alternative shopping tools other than the conventional insurance agent, this could be a welcome resource. Let’s take a closer look at some of these alternative insurance shopping resources and see how each one operates.

Overstock.com

You may recognize Overstock.com as a leading name in online shopping for bedding, furniture and electronics. However, in April 2014, Overstock.com began offering its customers insurance for autos, residential and small business insurance through its online retail shopping website.

  The insurance offerings for Overstock.com are powered through Insuritas, a leading provider of insurance agency outsourcing services for financial institutions.  Insuritas has worked with many financial institutions over the past to provide insurance agency functions but Overstock.com is the first retailer it has helped in providing the necessary technology to offer insurance quotes to the public.

Overstock.com’s retail operations are based out of Salt Lake City.  Some of the company’s policies are underwritten through leading insurers such as 21st Century, Progressive, Safeco and American Strategic  Insurance(ASI).

Senior Vice President of Overstock.com, Dave Nielson, says the company’s mission is “to offer high-quality products at low prices in order to save people money.”  The company slogan as stated on its website is “We Do the Work, You Do the Saving.” If you decide to purchase an insurance policy through Overstock.com, you can contact Overstock first for any policy servicing needs.  Here are some of the types of insurance customers can receive a quote for and purchase through Overstock.com:

Personal Insurance

  • Vehicle Insurance
  • Boat Insurance
  • Motorcycle Insurance
  • ATV Insurance
  • RV Insurance
  • Snowmobile Insurance
  • Trailer Insurance
  • Renter’s Insurance
  • Homeowner’s Insurance
  • Condo Insurance
  • Mobile Home Insurance

Business Insurance

  • Liability Insurance
  • Commercial Auto Insurance
  • Property Insurance
  • Workers Compensation Insurance

Walmart

Walmart offers an auto insurance exchange in 19 U.S. states through its partnership with AutoInsurance.com. National carriers include Progressive, Esurance, Safeco, Travelers and 21st Century.

  Walmart receives marketing fees for providing the service through its stores and also online. Customers can access the auto insurance comparison service from Walmart.com.  Part of the reason for this retailer as well as others venturing into insurance is global survey results by companies such as Accenture which show 67% of insurance consumers would consider making a purchase from non-traditional insurers rather than an insurance agent. Walmart also began offering its auto insurance comparison service in April 2014. Auto Insurance quotes are processed in partnership with AutoInsurance.com through the Walmart MoneyCenter.

Walmart also ventured into the life insurance marketplace with an insurance card from MetLife available for purchase at approximately 200 Wal-Mart locations in South Carolina and Georgia made available to customers in 2013.

The policies were only good for one-year and were sold in color-coded boxes for different age groups:

  • Blue: 18-44
  • Yellow: 45-54
  • Green: 55-59
  • Red: 60-65

The death benefits available through the MetLife cards sold at Walmart are $10,000 or $25,000. The cost of the insurance is dependent on the person’s age. Even though the insurance was only good for one year, many people were somewhat surprisingly willing to purchase due to the convenience of the purchase and a “no pressure” to buy atmosphere.  However, coverage was not immediate. It had to be approved by a company representative after the customer called a toll-free number and answers health questions. The first month of coverage only cost the customer $5.  This pilot program offered through MetLife through Walmart ended in 2015.

Costco

Costco Wholesale Company offers insurance through its partnership with Ameriprise Auto & Home Insurance.  At Costco, you can shop for auto, home, health, group vision, group dental and life insurance.  The health insurance is available through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Auto and home insurance is not available in AK, FL, LA, ME, ND, RI, WV, WY or Puerto Rico.  Group Vision Insurance is provided through MES Vision and Group Dental Plans for Individuals are made available through Delta Dental. Group dental is only for Costco members in CA, FL, PA and Texas.  Life insurance is offered through Protective Life Insurance Company.

What Happened to Google Compare?

Google’s U.S. insurance comparison website, Google Compare, ceased operation in 2016, surprising many that the Internet search giant exited the insurance market in America so quickly, just after launching the site in May of 2014. Google’s U.K. insurance comparison website is still operational. So, with Google having success in other major online shopping/purchasing ventures such as Google Wallet, what went wrong with Google Compare? According to an Insurance Journal report, sales were slower than expected and the venture did not survive the underperforming initial sales results. Of course, Google may not be gone for good. It could recoup, regroup and develop a new strategy. It is possible we may once again see the Internet giant venture into the insurance comparison market.

Insurance Kiosk—Wave of the Future?

Personal auto insurer, Direct Auto Insurance, began offering insurance to customers through kiosks called “Direct on the Spot” or (DOTS). The company describes the kiosks as insurance in a box. For today’s “instant everything” society, it could have a direct appeal to the general public. From the kiosk, a customer can get a quote, bind and print out an insurance policy in less than five minutes. Currently, you can purchase auto insurance, low-limit life insurance, roadside assistance and emergency protection plans. Direct Auto Insurance offers insurance in 13 states throughout the Southeast United States.

What does it All Mean to You?

Retailers have picked up on the fact that insurance consumers are open to buying insurance from non-traditional sources and are trying to cash in on the trend.  Insurance consumers are looking for a shopping experience that is quick, simple and convenient. More competition means more options and perhaps greater savings for you when buying an insurance policy. The name of the game seems to be all about convenience to the consumer of being able to purchase retail goods, home and office furnishings as well insurance all through the same source. If you already use one of these online retailers, being able to check out insurance prices while you are there is definitely a huge plus and another option to consider when searching for the best value on an insurance policy.

Does all of this willingness on the part of the consumer to purchase insurance through unconventional means such as “superstores” mean the death of the insurance agent as we know him? The short answer is no—insurance is complex and there will always be a place for qualified and licensed insurance professionals to provide guidance and instruction to insurance consumers when making a purchasing decision. Insurance provided by retail outlets may not have taken the industry by storm. However, these non-traditional insurance providers have definitely had an impact on the way the public thinks about buying insurance. I have a feeling retail insurance outlets will be around in one form or another for some time to come.

If you are uncomfortable buying insurance from a retail chain, you can always buy insurance by talking directly to an insurance agent or buy using insurance comparison websites such as NetQuote, Insure.com and Compare.com.