Online auto insurance comparison site compare.com is now working with Google on its auto insurance compare and buy platform, Google Compare, in California.
Andrew Rose, CEO of Virginia-based compare.com, said the search engine giant approached the company because it was having trouble attracting carrier partners to its search panel and wanted to offer more carrier options to users.
The partnership will work by giving Google Compare users access to some of Compare.com’s 41 carrier partners through the Google Compare site.
“They ultimately made the decision that we were a short cut to building a panel themselves,” said Rose.
Google is offering compare.com’s providers in addition to forming their own carrier panel, said Rose. However, all of compare.com’s carrier partners are not available through the Google Compare site.
“Google Compare will collect user info and forward that information to us and we will forward it on to any of our participating carriers that want to have their rates shown on Google [Compare],” he said.
Rose said not all of compare.com’s carrier partners wanted to participate in the new Google Compare venture as some had concerns. He wouldn’t name or give an exact number of compare.com’s carriers that agreed to participate, but did say it is “somewhere in between” its 41 partners.
“In some ways, this is quite scary for insurance companies. There is concern among them about what happens if Google controls one of the avenues where they get their business,” he said.
The relationship is also non-reciprocal, meaning Google Compare opted not to share its carrier partners with compare.com. Rose said that was Google’s decision.
The partnership will work by showing Google Compare users multiple insurance quotes after they input their information – some quotes will come from compare.com’s carrier partners, and some from Google.com’s partners. Quotes may also be provided by Google’s other partner, CoverHound.com. When a user chooses to purchase an auto policy on Google’s site from a compare.com carrier they leave the Google site and go to that carrier’s webpage to finish the transaction, just as it works on compare.com’s site. Customers can also choose to call and purchase their policy over the phone.
Compare.com is compensated by the carrier just as they would be if they went straight to compare.com.
“From the carrier’s standpoint, the policy still came from compare.com and they will compensate us. Then we pay Google a share of what we were compensated by the carrier,” said Rose.
Compare.com doesn’t charge customers to use its site and the same is true on the Google Compare platform. Compare.com charges carriers a flat fee per sale that is based on the segment of business. Carriers are only charged if a customer actually buys the policy from the company. Compare.com then uses that money to advertise on behalf of the carriers.
Also just like the compare.com site, the rate doesn’t change when the customer leaves the Google Compare site or calls the listed phone number to purchase. Rose says this has been a critical part of his company’s success so far because the consumer can finish their transaction without any other costs.
Compare.com was established in 2013 and is the U.S. version of confused.com that started back in 2002 in the UK and is also owned by parent company, Admiral, the former owners of esurance.com. Compare.com began writing business in the U.S. market in 2014 with auto insurance and just recently changed its name from comparenow.com, which Rose said was unrelated to the partnership.
Rose said compare.com partnered to power the back-end of Google Compare because they thought it was a good opportunity for compare.com’s insurance company partners and would help elevate comparison sites like compare.com.
“This creates a big win for the insurance company. They can integrate with us once and then can also get Google’s traffic as well,” he said. “It was a very big decision for us to say yes we want to partner with them, but we think that the more consumers that use comparison shopping for insurance the better it will make it for us all.”
Rose says it will also help compare.com enhance and build its brand, as compare.com will be mentioned with each rate that is returned by them.
“We are going to be the brand name that consumers actively choose,” he said. “It’s a different strategy and we would rather be a part of it than not.”
Rose said it is possible that compare.com’s carriers could eventually choose to work directly with Google Compare rather than go through compare.com, but he doesn’t see that happening because, “Our current panel members value their relationship with compare.com and we value them.”
His message to agents is also one of optimism – he encourages them to work with compare.com because the company accommodates agents through its process, saying, “We know how important and powerful they are.” He says agents shouldn’t consider comparison sites a death to their business and rather find ways to work with them.
“This is a reality you are not going to be able to stop, so work with a partner that knows the insurance business and values the agency proposition,” he said.
Currently, the partnership between compare.com and Google Compare is just for auto insurance in California, but Rose says they are open to working with Google in other states when it expands, though nothing has been decided on now. Compare.com currently offers auto insurance comparison quotes in 48 states and plans to expand into homeowners and renters insurance later this year.
Rose said some of his carrier partners are taking a wait-and-see approach to the Google Compare platform and the companies that have opted to participate can change their minds at any time or just not return a rate – they are not locked in to participating. But he thinks as time goes on more carriers will become comfortable and want to take part in comparison model platforms.
“Just as with our business, it took some time to get the first five carriers and now we are on our way to four dozen. Once you start gaining momentum the insurance carriers don’t want to be left out,” he said.
Compare.com isn’t locked in to the Google Compare deal either – while they have a contract, which details cannot be disclosed, Rose said they can get out of the deal “in a reasonable period of time, like with any contract.”
He doesn’t expect that will be the case, however.
“We all have spent a lot of time and effort to make it work and are invested in it and want to see it succeed. And we did it because we want to see comparison models succeed,” he said.