Small Business Insurance & The Internet

The Voice of the Commercial Lines Customer

Research from The PIA Partnership


PIA Partnership

Research Findings

Focus Group Panels

With Small Business Owners

Focus group research with business owners and insurance decision makers was conducted in multiple cities by research consulting firm The Pert Group

What business owners have to say ...

PIA National and The PIA Partnership have conducted  new consumer research to hear what your customers are not only thinking but also saying with regard to small commercial insurance and the Internet.


Participating small business owners and decision makers ran the gamut from contractors and architects to manufacturers and zip line tour installation consultants.









As you review the following selected comments from group’s participants, you may find yourself asking, “How can people in the same situation as small business owners needing insurance have such diverse opinions about purchasing Online.” As Yogi Berra famously said, “you don't know what you don't know.” All too often agents take small business owners for granted and just expect them to fully understand everything you provide as their agent. The lesson to be learned: Don’t take it for granted they know what you have to offer!


Internet enthusiasts

When our small business panelists were asked about buying insurance online, we first heard from a few Internet enthusiasts, who focused on the transformational and disruptive aspects of change the Internet has brought.

Here are a some examples:


  • Liz          > more

    “I was able to do it Online when I was shopping for insurance. What I wish I didn’t have to do again is speak to an agent or multiple agents. It just feels like sometimes they’re not getting back to me fast enough or I’m getting the runaround or I’m not getting accurate information.

  • Frank    > more

    “If Amazon sold insurance we might buy it. Why? Because they research what they're doing. They make sure the vendors are reputable and honest. They don’t want a bad reputation. They don’t want negative feedback.”

  • Joe        > more

    “I think today middlemen are on their way out. I think agencies or agents are becoming middlemen and I think middlemen are getting squeezed. Eventually it’ll be the one-stop-shop anyway. The Amazons will take over.


Positive impressions of Online capabilities

While the preceding comments from Internet enthusiasts represent a viewpoint held by those with strong opinions, many of the more moderate comments about using the Internet were centered on positive impressions of Online capabilities.

Here's what some had to say:


  • Pamela       > more

    “Everything that we do in our daily life, we’re always using the Internet, whether it be banking, looking for a car, looking for a product or service, a toy for a child. You can find the information. It is available on the Internet.”

  • Laura          > more

    I think it’s the wave of the future. I think my own generation is very used to that one-on-one but I think with my children, I think they have a different view. They’ll be shopping more Online, I think it’s just the future. I don’t have a problem with the internet.”

  • Adam         > more

    “It’s a pretty simple self-explanatory form. You punch in the numbers, adjust all the different categories — how much you want to be covered for. Then it gives you a summation of how much it will cost you for the entire year. A couple other things are optional. You see it all before you commit yourself. And if the price is right, then you hit ‘go.’”

So what’s not to like? Just use The Internet.

Business insurance made simple...  Right?



But, as we all know, things are not always as simple as they seem. There are many reasons small businesses turn to professional independent agents for their protection and peace of mind.


I need to know I have the right coverage

Whatever the price, insurance is worthless if you're not protected. Perhaps the most important challenge in purchasing insurance Online is getting the right coverage.

Here are how some small business owners express this:

  • Naomi          > more

    “If I just go from place to place on the Internet comparing, maybe I would be comparing apples to apples to apples. But I wouldn’t know for sure on some things.”

  • Len               > more

    “If I’m going Online and trying to fill out just an application, all they're going to do is say do you have this? Do you have that? What about all the intricacies of your business that you’re not going to be able to fill out on an application? That's why you need someone that understands what you’re doing, what your risk may or may not be, and have someone with an independent opinion of what you should or should not do.”

  • Howard       > more

    “I don’t feel like the Internet can provide me with all the options. I’m not an insurance expert. These people are. They’re doing that and telling me what I need.”

  • Victor          > more

    “One reason I chose my broker is that they’re reading the exclusions … to let you know, there’s an exclusion here and an exclusion there. Can I live with it or we can get a separate policy? Now that’s my choice. On the Internet, it’s not even going to be fine print, it’s just going to be scroll down and click here.”



Buying Online – too much time

There is also a perception that buying small business insurance Online can save time.

But many of the panelists saw it differently:


True personalization

The Internet also has a reputation for personalization. But we know from our own personal experience that the true personalization involves people.

Most customers agree:

As a result of this research, PIA National and The PIA Partnership