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Technology

Stepping Forward: How Foot Traffic Data Helps Insurers More Accurately Underwrite Commercial Risks

Aerial. People crowd on a city square  with flower bed. Top view.

How new advancements in analytics are allowing insurers to use foot traffic data to build a more accurate, real-time picture of commercial risks.

Slips, trips and falls are a common cause of insurance claims for businesses. Insurers have historically relied on proxies, such as a business’s claims history, overall revenue or square footage, to estimate its foot traffic — and slip, trip and fall exposure.

New data sources and evolving technology are allowing insurers to see foot traffic to business operations, and learn about patterns that may vary by time, day or even season, according to a recent webinar, “Points of Interest Just Got More Interesting.”

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To view the webinar replay, visit: https://www.insiderengage.com/article/28l2sxvdyva34vj81mwow/multimedia/webinars/points-of-interest-just-got-more-interesting

One of the most eye-opening opportunities of this type of data right now is that I can look at the changing mixes of revenue at a location like take-out food versus dine-in, and see that revenues are going up and footfalls are going down.
Marty Ellingsworth, senior analyst, Celent
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“One of the most eye-opening opportunities of this type of data right now is that I can look at the changing mixes of revenue at a location like take-out food versus dine-in, and see that revenues are going up and footfalls are going down,” said Marty Ellingsworth, senior analyst, Celent. “So the dwell time at the activity, the aggregate in-store footfall activity divided by revenues is a metric that I can actually make now and see that some of the businesses that I would like to insure have revenues going up and footfalls going down. That would be a recipe for much lower slip/fall activity — because you can't slip and fall if you're not there. “

Jay Mullen, insurance team leader, Esri, referred to the patterns of people moving as “human weather.”

Analyzing how many people visit a business, what time of day they come and how long they stay, can give an insurer a competitive edge, Mullen said.

“For me, it comes down to what kind of decisions can you make in the business. If you're wanting to grow a portfolio, you can use that insightful information, especially when we have drastic changes in the human weather,” Mullen said. “You can get out there and be more competitive when you have a more granular understanding of risk. We're looking proactively at what's happening in the world, where people are going or not going.”

If you're wanting to grow a portfolio, you can use that insightful information, especially when we have drastic changes in the human weather
Jay Mullen, insurance team leader, Esri
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Jay Gentry, head of insurance for SafeGraph, said the COVID-19 pandemic illustrated how this foot traffic information and points of interest can be used.

When the pandemic was at its peak, SafeGraph was helping organizations understand “where people are going, and how their movement behavior and habits are changing,” Gentry said.

Commercial general liability is all about assessing risk that can happen at a business location: bodily injury, personal injury, property damage — all directly related to the number of people that are exposed to those kinds of perils, Gentry said.

For instance, if there’s a patch of ice, the more people who walk over it, the higher the risk of someone falling, Gentry said. But typically insurers underwriting policies haven’t looked at the specific foot traffic for the businesses, he said.

“We think there's a gap to fill there and we want to bridge that gap. What's interesting is that even though there's a direct connection between general liability risk and potential mobile information, the vast majority of insurers have not incorporated that type of data into a predictive analytics underwriting process, utilizing foot traffic as you will,” he said.

Even though there's a direct connection between general liability risk and potential mobile information, the vast majority of insurers have not incorporated that type of data into a predictive analytics underwriting process, utilizing foot traffic as you will.
Jay Gentry, head of insurance for SafeGraph
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While there’s likely to be a strong relationship to a business’s revenue and foot traffic, there’s more to the story, he said.

Leveraging mobility data enables smarter risk analytics, Gentry said. “While revenue is not optimal for general liability analysis, actually geo-spatial data is, particularly anonymized mobility data where there's a true source of how many people are interacting in a physical space. So foot traffic counts, anonymized and aggregated at a POI level, that point of interest, can accurately help the insurer understand what's going on at the business and deliver some newer metrics around some key areas that are probably a little bit better levers than revenue or square footage.”

Gentry said the foot traffic data comes from mobile devices but is anonymous without any personal identifiable information.

Other uses for this information can help insurers' view of season homes and associated risks; and can also help evacuate people if a catastrophe such as a hurricane or wildfire, is approaching.

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