Having a mobile app for your insurance company has the same kind of societal pressure these days as having a website did at the turn of the century. Remember the late nineties? It was back when Y2K and the Spice Girls were still major priorities on our news channels, and we spent our nights wondering if Ross and Rachel would ever get back together.

Good times.

So now you’ve got the mobile-responsive website, you’re tweeting, updating and posting up a storm on social media, running Google Adwords, and you’ve even listed your insurance brand with a couple of quote-comparing aggregator sites for the extra leads. And that’s all just in the digital space.... But now you’re told you need a mobile app as well? Oy vey.

There is an enormous amount anxiety that comes from trying to create something that people actually want to download to their phones. In 2013, Distimo, a research firm, reported that only 2% of the Top 250 publishers for iPhone apps in the U.S. App Store are newcomers. The numbers haven’t improved in the last two years, and across every OS app market, the death rattles of a thousand start-ups can still be heard haunting the Internet.

So why bother?

Because it can be done, and it can be done well. You can deliver great value to your current clients and let their busy little fingers act as champions and ambassadors for your company when they delightedly tweet about your awesome app.

Here are a few steps to take when your board next brings up the contentious ‘app’ conversation:

Step 1: Start with the problem

If your app idea requires filling a need that people ‘don’t know they have yet’, chances are it’s terrible. Sorry, but really, it’s better you find that out now.

Start with a genuine problem that your target audience (i.e. people who have stuff and want to insure that stuff) have, and then think of how you can solve that with a mobile app. If you genuinely can’t even think of one single thing that irks people about insurance, then perhaps it’s time to do some market research.

Step 2: Do some market research


Depending on the size or engagement of your social audience, this is an excellent place to start. Ask your existing clients where they think you could improve, what issues they have with your service, and what they would like to see in an app. Then, brace yourself for some harsh criticism and, quite possibly, some wildly inappropriate racial remarks (this is the Internet you’ve just asked an opinion from, after all).

If you haven’t got the stomach for that, try having a look through the Top Apps Chart and Apple’s cheat sheet, which displays the top-paid, top-free and top-grossing apps. Get an idea of what works in the insurance industry, and what flops.

Step 3: Don’t water down your features

Before you set aside two days and a case of Red Bull to brainstorm a snappy name and mascot for your new app, you need to decide how it’s actually going to work.

Focus on one or two really useful uses for your app, as CEO of Y Media Labs, Ashish Toshniwal recommends, rather than cramming a pile of ‘okay-ish’ features into your app. After all, this isn’t a website from the late 1990’s we’re talking about.

Think about the really successful apps of the last two years- they have all been focused on delivering one function, absolutely perfectly. Uber has allowed urban travelers to quickly and affordably book a private cab and WhatsApp allows them to communicate cheaply with data.

Your app wireframe, whether you build it in Balsamiq or Microsoft Paint, should really just have one or two primary system streams. More than that will just bore your market.

Step 4: Assemble a crack app team


In an ideal world, you’ll be able to find a reliable, affordable, friendly developer with a knack for front-end design, who will take your Paint-created wireframe and transform it into a beautiful, working app.

But this isn’t an ideal world. Most days, it’s not even a ‘meh’ world. So you might have to find a designer who can create a beautiful interface and a developer who writes equally beautiful code- and then make sure that the two of them can work together.

Or you can just locate a brilliant mobile app development company with a great track record for custom design, and all of the niche skills you need under one, quite literal, roof.

They’ll probably even have free cappuccinos for client meetings.

Step 5: Get legit

As an insurance company, you have a major advantage when it comes to accessing legal experts within your team. You can enlist industry experts who are au fait with the latest marketing regulations, and who can draft a watertight NDA for when you do need to hand over the source code, designs, or that infamous Paint-plan to get take the next step in development.

Now is also the time to create a developer account on iTunes- or, you can just ask your iOS development agency to do this for you while sipping on that sweet, sweet, free cappuccino.

You’ll also need to secure any payment gateways that you want to use in your app- which neatly brings us to point six…

Step 6: Keep it free  

There is NO need for you to charge for an app that targets existing clients. Be generous with your tech, app features and the information you provide. We’re living in an age of digital reciprocation, and, conversely, near-obsessive frugality. As Diego Meller, co-founder of Livra (the leading online survey company in Latin America) says about the casual app-shopper, “There is a GIGANTIC difference between $0.00 and $0.99.”

The core business objective of your app, as an insurance company, should be to improve the user experience of your existing clients, hopefully save them some money on their insurance premiums, and –potentially- drum up some new leads.

What you should do, in amongst this virtual love fest, is make sure that analytics are integrated into your app from the get-go. These stats and graphs will help you decide what features to add (or axe) later down the line.

Step 7: Embrace small scale  



You don’t need a million downloads to create a great mobile insurance app. The chances are your retentions department probably couldn’t handle that many clients anyway. So, chill.

What you can focus on, in lieu of in-app purchases, is killer service and streamlined processes that improve your clients’ lives, make them feel valuable, and give them reason to stay with you. You want to have the easy-to-use app they’re all showing their friends at the next family barbeque. As Ashish Toshniwal points out, “Engagement is a function of a good product.” You want people to use your app regularly, not download it and then spring clean it along with the names of distant acquaintances six months later.

What are you waiting for? If you build it, they will come…. And ask for an insurance quote, hopefully.