Geico needed to develop its GloveBox app for Windows Phone 7 quickly to debut at the then-imminent launch of the Microsoft phone—yet it wanted full feature parity with its version for the iPhone. Geico met these goals and more through its use of the familiar Microsoft .NET development environment, the distinctive “Metro” interface of Windows Phone 7, and a close and supportive relationship with Microsoft. Geico produced its app for Windows Phone 7—using prerelease code—40 percent faster than it had developed the iPhone version and believes development would have been significantly faster had mature code been available. GloveBox for Windows Phone 7 reinforces the Geico brand with stronger graphics and design than is possible on other phones. Geico now has about 90 percent coverage in the phone market and can attract more of the coveted “millennials” demographic to its business.
The Gecko, the ubiquitous spokes-lizard of the Geico car insurance company, has become a familiar presence on U.S. television, in newspapers and magazines, and on the Internet. If Geico has anything to say about it, its iconic mascot will conquer yet another medium: the smartphone.
Beating the competition in its highly competitive industry means Geico has to be everywhere its customers and potential customers are to give them maximum access to company resources and products. It means being first to reach those customers in new environments. And it means rising above the competition by offering a more sophisticated, easy-to-use, feature-rich, and fun experience than people can get elsewhere.
||The millennials are a market segment that we want to attract, and Windows Phone 7 is helping us to do so.
Manager of Mobile Applications, Geico
“Part of being a leader is just making ourselves useful to customers,” says David Weaver, Manager of Mobile Applications at Geico. “We are constantly looking for ways to increase the value of Geico to customers, to create goodwill and bond more closely with them.”
These principles have guided the company’s expansion onto the web. Now they are mandating that Geico develop a commanding presence on mobile phones. The stakes for supremacy in the mobile phone environment may be even higher than they are for the Internet. Research from both Geico and third parties shows that consumers with a preference for mobile-based transactions and service tend to be younger than those who prefer a more-traditional web browser.
That makes the phone the marketplace of choice for the so-called “millennials,” those born between roughly 1980 and 1990, and now in their twenties. While older consumers generally have brand preferences that are relatively hard to change, millennials are making many of their major purchases—such as car insurance—for the first time. The company that wins those first purchases has the opportunity to win customers for life.
Success in the smartphone market promises another beneficial change for both Geico and its customers: the movement of many of those customers from call-based customer service to online self-service. For customers, that move means greater convenience, faster service, and the ability to access Geico services at any hour. For Geico, the move means providing better customer service at lower cost.
Geico began its move to create a presence in the mobile phone market about a year ago, with an app—dubbed “GloveBox”—for iPhone devices. With the success of that app, Geico formed a team, which Weaver heads, with the specific mission of making Geico the market leader in insurance apps on mobile devices. When Microsoft announced plans for Windows Phone 7, Geico knew it had to be on the platform.
“Our marketing approach required us to be on every major phone platform—and that included Windows Phone 7,” says Weaver. “We saw Windows Phone 7 as a key platform that would command significant share in the market. Moreover, Windows Phone 7 gave us an opportunity that we didn’t have with the iPhone: the chance to be on the phone from day one, to take advantage of the added publicity around the phone’s launch, and to reinforce the message to our customers that we’re real leaders.”
Weaver’s team began its work on a Windows Phone 7 version of GloveBox in August 2010—just eight weeks before the scheduled launch of the Microsoft phone platform. Development of its iPhone app had taken Geico far longer. But Geico didn’t have the luxury of taking “longer” now.
Six Geico developers worked on GloveBox for Windows Phone 7. One of the team’s first tasks was to design the app’s architecture. Geico held an architecture design session with Microsoft in which the two companies discussed the technologies behind Windows Phone 7 and how to apply them to GloveBox. Plans were made to use technologies with which Geico was already familiar—such as Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0, Microsoft Office 2010, and Bing Maps. Each of the 40 functions of the existing GloveBox app were identified and mapped to the Microsoft technologies that would support them on Windows Phone 7.
A Panoramic View
|Figure 1: GloveBox makes optimal use of the panoramic view of |
Windows Phone 7 to combine strong graphics and design with
easily discoverable and accessible features.
Perhaps the most significant discussions concerned the Windows Phone design system, still best known by its prerelease code name, “Metro.” One of the most notable aspects of the Metro user interface is its panoramic layout. The interface extends the width of an app’s screen to several times the width of the phone’s physical screen. To move across the full page, a user casually flicks a finger across the phone’s screen. Geico took advantage of the Metro panoramic view to create a landing page with strong graphic and design elements—and with more discoverable and accessible features than would otherwise have been possible (see Figure 1).
Geico completed GloveBox for Windows Phone 7 in eight weeks, in time for the phone’s launch. The app was featured in the solution showcase that Microsoft highlighted as part of the launch publicity.
Useful and Entertaining Features
Geico designed GloveBox for Windows Phone 7 to be useful and entertaining to both customers and non-customers. Some features were developed quickly using out-of-the-box technologies of Windows Phone 7; others were the result of custom development with guidance from Microsoft. Key features of the Geico app include the following:
- Bill pay and insurance ID cards—Geico customers can pay their insurance bills wherever they are, and access their current insurance ID cards. (See Figure 2.)
- Transact business—Users can get a quote for new insurance policies and make an endorsement to a policy.
- Accident Helper—When users are in an accident, they can use a Geico feature to immediately call local emergency services, organize accident photos for a subsequent claim, and more.
- Roadside service—Bing Maps interoperability and GPS capability help users to find nearby tow services and gas stations, anywhere, anytime, without even having to specify their location.
- Taxi/rental car—Another locator service puts users in touch with nearby taxi and car rental services.
- Auto how-to guidance—Geico provides step-by-step instructions to help users jumpstart a car, change a flat tire, or check their tire pressure.
- Videos—Many of the highly entertaining Geico television commercials—featuring the company’s Gecko, its urbane cavemen, and an animated stack of money with eyes—are available for repeated viewing and sharing with friends.
- Social media—Users can access, and participate on, the Facebook and Twitter pages of the Gecko, the Caveman, and more services.
|Figure 2: Geico customers can pay|
their bills from anywhere, while on
the go, with a couple of finger taps.
Geico plans to expand GloveBox for Windows Phone 7 with features that are available exclusively on the Microsoft platform. For example, Anthony James, Lead Developer for the GloveBox project, envisions using Live Tiles to give customers up-to-date, at-a-glance information on the status of their accounts and any balances due.
Corporate Phone Possibilities
Reaching out to customers isn’t the only way that Geico plans to use Windows Phone 7. The company intends to support it as a phone for corporate use. In addition to its potential use for email and messaging, Windows Phone 7 would be an ideal choice for running Geico-internal apps, according to Weaver. “I love the idea of using Windows Phone 7 as our corporate phone, because we’re already a .NET shop,” he says. “That means we can get a higher return on our investment in .NET expertise by creating internal apps for Windows Phone 7 without having to staff for, learn, and maintain another environment.”
Weaver sees another key reason to adopt Windows Phone 7 within Geico. “Windows Phone 7 comes with Microsoft Office right on the phone,” he says. “That’s huge for productivity. That alone makes it a winner over other phones.”
Geico met all of its key goals for the development of a GloveBox version for Windows Phone 7: It brought the app to market quickly, yet produced a result that is both more appealing and more useful than its apps for other phones. With the Windows Phone 7 app, Geico has virtually complete market coverage and is seeing an increase in its share of the coveted millennials demographic.
60 Percent Faster Time-to-Market
Weaver was pleasantly surprised by the speed with which his team delivered the app for Windows Phone 7—because it took about half as long as Geico needed to develop its app for the iPhone. Development for the iPhone required a team of six people working a total of 2,500 hours. Development for Windows Phone 7 took another six-person team just 1,500 hours, saving 40 percent of the development time and budget. James, the lead developer, says Windows Phone 7 development only took as long as it did because the developers had to work with beta code that was still evolving.
||Our marketing approach required us to be on every major phone platform—and that included Windows Phone 7.
Manager of Mobile Applications, Geico
“We worked with mature code when we developed for the iPhone,” he says. “If we had been working with similarly mature code on Windows Phone 7—that is, if we were developing our app now—that time requirement would have dropped to about 1,000 hours. So, if you’re comparing mature code to mature code, Windows Phone 7 development would save 60 percent of the time and budget required for the iPhone.”
James attributes that difference to several factors. First, he and his colleagues already knew the .NET Framework on which Windows Phone 7 is based, eliminating the need to learn a competing framework or language. “It can take a month, even two months, to learn what you need to know about a new development environment,” he says. “That was time we saved on this project.”
Second, James and Weaver both credit the guidance and support that their company received from Microsoft. “Our strategic relationship with Microsoft was huge, huge in getting us to release GloveBox on day one of the Windows Phone 7 launch,” says Weaver. “That alone probably cut our development time by a third.”
Weaver contrasts that with the support that his team has received from Apple and Google. “There’s very little direct support from the others—just the developer networks that are open to everyone,” he says. “We had one or two calls with Google, and that was it. But Microsoft acted like our partner—it provided more information, provided it earlier, and kept us up-to-date about its plans. There’s nothing comparable with the other phone providers.”
90 Percent Market Coverage
With the release of GloveBox for Windows Phone 7, Geico met its goal of being in the first wave of apps for the platform.
“We couldn’t be first on the iPhone, but we were first on Windows Phone 7,” says Weaver. “That gave us marketing visibility that we would never have seen otherwise. It also gave us mindshare with consumers who received the phones the following month as gifts for the holidays.”
Geico also succeeded in its goal to cover every significant segment of the smartphone market. “It was very important to us to be on Windows Phone 7, says Weaver. “Together with the other phones we support, this gives us about 90 percent coverage in the market. It tells customers and potential customers that we want to be everywhere they are, and that we’re an innovative company committed to continually improving customer service.”
Distinctive, Appealing, and More Functional App
Geico took advantage of Windows Phone 7 and its Metro user interface to create a visually distinctive and appealing app—something that’s not easy or even possible on some other platforms, according to Weaver. Compared to the GloveBox versions for other phone platforms, GloveBox for Windows Phone 7 makes bolder use of graphics and design that reinforce the Geico brand, and that instantly communicate the spirit of fun that the company was seeking. (See Figure 3.)
|Figure 3: The start screen for the Geico Windows Phone 7 app is easy|
to spot among the GloveBox start screens for other phones.
“With Windows Phone 7, we have a sophisticated environment that we don’t get with other phones,” he says. “It’s not just more attractive, it’s more functional—it puts more information in the user’s hands more quickly, while looking less cluttered than other phones. Users can navigate through it more easily, which reinforces our message of providing innovative, superior service for our customers. It also reinforces our message of being available whenever and wherever customers want to come to us.”
Attractive to Millennial Demographic
The usage patterns for GloveBox on Windows Phone 7 bear this out. People using the company’s traditional website produce peak traffic around their lunchtimes and evenings. Windows Phone 7 users access the app more evenly throughout the day.
“Web users have to put off bringing up the site until they have a block of time to themselves,” explains Weaver. “Windows Phone 7 users can use the app anytime, because it’s quicker and easier to use.”
That, in turn, is attracting “millennial” customers to Geico. “The millennials are a market segment that we want to attract, and Windows Phone 7 is helping us to do so,” says Weaver. “Because this demographic is the one most likely to use self-service instead of the more-expensive call center, we’re also in a better position to control costs with Windows Phone 7.”
Windows Phone 7 is a different kind of phone, designed to bring together what you care about most—easier and faster. It delivers captivating phone experiences across work and play, enables productivity without compromise through Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Office Mobile, and provides a platform for compelling applications that can work across the phone, web, and PC.
For more information on Windows Phone 7, go to:
For More Information
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