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 / Summer 2013 / Issue 71(originally published by Booz & Company)


Don’t Reengineer. Reimagine.

Esurance Inc., an online insurance company backed by the Allstate Corporation, has taken the idea of customer empathy to heart. It uses digital technology to enhance the car insurance experience from quote to claim, reducing the customer’s stress while saving time and money. No one likes to buy insurance. It’s expensive and often seems unnecessary, and the process of obtaining it can be thoroughly confusing. Worse still, the moment of truth when it becomes valuable—when customers actually have to make a claim—may be fraught with pain, uncertainty, and the frustration of not knowing how long the repair process will take. The design of Esurance’s business and the technology that enables it are aimed at mitigating these pain points.

Esurance accomplishes this by increasing transparency and removing confusion and ambiguity. The experience begins with getting a quote online in minutes; the company displays its best offer as well as quotes from leading competitors. Esurance also makes its claims process user-friendly, with mobile apps that simplify the process and keep customers updated in real time. If an insurance holder is in a car accident, he or she can file a claim from the scene with a smartphone, capturing the necessary details and uploading photographs of the collision. The app also provides recommendations for vehicle repair shops. Once the car is in the shop, the app sends customers daily photos of the repair process.

Thanks to its end-to-end focus on the customer experience through digital technology, Esurance is enjoying rapid growth, large gains in customer satisfaction, and improved financial results. It is also providing a learning lab for Allstate, which will apply the insights from Esurance’s experiments as it develops strategy for its core business.

Expand the Brand

The second basic principle of digitization involves expansion of the brand. Companies that are expert at branding don’t simply incorporate a logo and visual identity into their physical products. They consciously run their business with their brand in mind. They know that every detail, from the design of their headquarters to their products’ placement on a store shelf, helps define the way customers see them. That’s equally true of digital capabilities. The brand must guide not just the message, but also the ambiance, features, and emotional impact of your online and mobile touch points.

So put the meaning and value of your brand at the center of your digital design. In doing this, look across your entire value chain—from R&D to product design to manufacturing to marketing and sales—for digitally augmented opportunities to relate the brand and its value proposition to every level of operations. Don’t think narrowly about traditional ways to market and sell products. You no longer merely advertise. You immerse people in the experiences you create.

Consider Nike, long considered among the world’s greatest brands. Several years ago, the sportswear company created a special unit, Digital Sport, using the company’s brand and innovation talent to reimagine what it could do for its customers. Out of this came a strong investment in Nike-branded media, including sports-oriented videos, websites, and “zines.” Another key component was the Nike+ group of products and services—a digital ecosystem of apps, sensors, and related devices that track athletic performance. The Fuelband, for example, is a wristband that gathers data from motion detection, enabling people to maintain records of their “NikeFuel points,” tracking the benefits they gain from workouts, sports, and other physical activity. Millions of consumers have signed up with Nike+, giving the company a huge new source of data to mine, reinforcing its core footwear and apparel businesses, and creating a substantial new revenue stream through a variety of new digital products.

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