The sharing economy is growing exponentially, driven by companies like Uber, which as of July 2015 was valued at over $51 billion. Not only has Uber’s valuation grown, but consumers have whole-heartedly jumped on board. In fact, the company reported over 1 million rides per day globally in 2014, and Mintel’s Car Rentals US 2015 report found that 46% of US consumers who have rented a car in the past two years are likely to use alternatives to car rentals.

Further research from cloud-based travel and expense management software company Certify shows that ridesharing has steadily increased as a percent of overall ground transportation expenses, with 100% growth from Q3 2014-Q3 2015, while expenses decreased 29% for taxis and 15% for rental cars. As consumers continue to embrace flexible lifestyles supported by car-sharing, renting, and ridesharing programs, there will be an increased focus on how services such as insurance will adapt to these economies. Drivers looking for more protection or who are in need of health insurance coverage as an independent employee will turn their attention to the companies who quickly adapt to the new normal.

Ridesharing companies are already actively promoting partnerships with insurers to contracted drivers. Lyft has partnerships in place for some of their drivers with MetLife (CA, CO, IL, TX and WA) and Progressive (PA), while Uber has partnered with Metromile (CA, IL and WA) and Intact (Canada).

Partnerships reach beyond auto coverage as companies like Uber become increasingly aware of the benefits they must offer to remain competitive. In the post-ACA world, health exchanges like Stride Health offer easy ways to learn about health insurance, purchase plans, and apply for government tax credits. Stride Health, a San Francisco-based startup, is capitalizing on these new disruptors: partnering with companies such as Uber, Postmates, and TaskRabbit to offer health insurance to the freelancers who work for them.

Companies who have embraced this partnership mentality have already seen engagement in the digital space from this new market of consumers. According to Mintel ePerformance, 51% of consumers who received an email from Lyft about insurance regulations as they pertain to ridesharing, opened the email. Uber emailed about both its partnership with Intact (read rate of 28%) and Stride availability nationwide (read rate of 43%). And most recently, Lyft made California drivers aware of a new partnership with MetLife.

Exclusive partnerships such as those with MetLife and Lyft or Uber and Metromile can reach a targeted, engaged audience, that may be more likely to buy and interact with the brand, but also limits the possible customer base to only one ridesharing program. In contrast, Erie approached the space in a more universal sense, introducing its rideshare insurance program in the fall of 2014 with its “first-of-its-kind” innovative coverage. The coverage, which has since been outlined in its Eriesense newsletter to customers, is available in Illinois and Indiana. Allstate announced in June a “Ride for Hire” endorsement on personal auto policies in four states (CO, IL, TX and VA) and plans to launch the program nationwide in 2016. Geico, USAA, and Farmers also introduced rideshare insurance in a handful of states.

Consumers have embraced ridesharing programs over the past five years for reasons ranging from affordability to ease of use. While consumers may not understand or be concerned about the inherent risks associated with gaps in insurance coverage, as more individuals become drivers, they will be forced to understand how insurance plays an integral role in the new sharing economy. The sooner insurers can provide innovative and understandable product solutions, the more positive the reaction will likely be from consumers toward those leading edge insurance brands.

Stephanie Roy is the Director of Insights, Insurance at Mintel, focusing on all insurance sectors for Mintel Comperemedia. She is responsible for providing internal and external stakeholders with insights and analysis on trends in the Life, Health and P&C insurance industries.

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