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July 26, 2016

Brexit votes, U.S. presidential campaigns, and Rio de Janeiro Olympics notwithstanding, the summer of 2016 may end up being known as the Summer of PokmonGo. Within a week of the augmented reality games July 6 launch, it was the most downloaded mobile app. There were estimates of about 9.5 million daily active users in the U.S. as of July 13.

As has been widely reported, augmented reality technology uses a smartphones GPS capabilities to allow players to move around the actual world while interacting with virtual characters in the case of PokmonGo, it involves monsters such as Jigglypuff, Zubat or Drowzee.

Well, I havent played PokmonGo (yet). But I have been thinking about it, and the broader augmented reality (AR) space and what it might mean for insurance companies. You should be thinking about this too, as there are a number of possible rewards and risks that could come from embracing this high-profile but still-evolving technology.

Engage your customers

Augmented reality offers tremendous potential for customer engagement. For instance, health insurers can use it to encourage policyholder fitness and wellness, remind people to take prescriptions or follow other routine procedures such as checking blood pressure or blood sugar, or monitor their weight. AR can be used to help policyholders find an agent, an auto repair shop, or medical facility.

Its not just about consumers. One can imagine several ways it can be used in underwriting or claims processes for example, to help claims adjusters find damaged property following a weather event. Augmented reality can also help insurers engage better with their business customers, partners and overall ecosystems. In New York City, a number of local pizzerias paid small fees to have some of the Pokemon characters show up at their shops. One proprietor said he attracted so many people this way that his business had increased by 75%.

Community building

There have been many reports on how PokmonGo has brought together strangers hunting for Pokemon characters in public places. Extending this concept, insurers can deploy AR to help motivate their own employees via team-building exercises as well as create an effective way to engage agents and distributors.

And just think of the affinity marketing potential. Evidently, PokmonGo appeals most to people who grew up in the 90s and are nostalgic for their childhoods, even if they didnt play the original games. It is a classic case of how you can use social media and gamification to target a defined community, segment or demographic and offer a shared experience, with the company making these connections possible. You can also use AR to bring together any other segment — say, customers affected by a catastrophe or even a new regulation.

Even your branding strategies stand to benefit. Niantic, PokmonGos developer, reportedly plans to add to the game sponsored locations, where companies will pay to become locations in the virtual world. This means your logo could appear in some of the Pokmonlocations where the monsters are found even better if those locations align in some way with your offerings (gyms, medical facilities, auto service shops, universities, even corporate headquarters).

Of course, it isnt all fun and games. The PokmonGo craze also has raised concerns about security and privacy. Within a few days of the games launch came reports that players signing up and logging into the game using their Google accounts were granting full account access communication that Niantic subsequently said was a bug that would be fixed. Still, it was further illustration of the potential risks of using social and digital channels for transactions and information sharing. How do you make sure the information is not misused, or that the capabilities dont become a channel for fraud?

But these are familiar issues for insurers. They should not dissuade you from exploring the ways PokmonGo and augmented reality literally can help you step up your game in terms of customer engagement.


Katherine Burger is a Practice Lead with the Insurance and Healthcare unit at Tata Consultancy Services. She is a thought leader and communicator in the area of business technology, with a particular focus on analyzing the ways technology enables financial services organizations to be more productive, competitive and profitable. She served as Editorial Director of Insurance & Technology from 1991-2015 and Bank Systems & Technology from 2003-2015. At I&T and BS&T, in addition to directing the editorial strategy of both brands, Kathy handled both digital- and print-medium publications, spanning from new products and editorial supplements to live and online events, including summits, forums, webinars and roundtables. Kathy has been a frequent speaker and/or moderator at financial services industry conferences, and also has presented at a number of technology company user group and sales force events. She is a graduate of Carleton College.


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