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Edited Transcript of EVER.O earnings conference call or presentation 4-May-20 8:30pm GMT

Q1 2020 EverQuote Inc Earnings Call

CAMBRIDGE Jun 5, 2020 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of EverQuote Inc earnings conference call or presentation Monday, May 4, 2020 at 8:30:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* John Brandon Wagner

EverQuote, Inc. - CFO & Treasurer

* Seth N. Birnbaum

EverQuote, Inc. - Co-Founder, President, CEO & Director

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Conference Call Participants

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* Aaron Michael Kessler

Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - Senior Internet Analyst

* Dae K. Lee

JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Analyst

* Jed Kelly

Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., Research Division - Director and Senior Analyst

* Mayank Tandon

Needham & Company, LLC, Research Division - Senior Analyst

* Michael Patrick Graham

Canaccord Genuity Corp., Research Division - MD & Senior Equity Analyst

* Ralph Edward Schackart

William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division - Partner & Technology Analyst

* Ronald Victor Josey

JMP Securities LLC, Research Division - MD and Senior Research Analyst

* Brinlea C. Johnson

The Blueshirt Group, LLC - MD

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by, and welcome to EverQuote's Fourth Quarter 2020 Earnings Conference Call. (Operator Instructions) Please be advised that today's conference is being recorded. (Operator Instructions) I would now like to hand the conference over to your speaker today, Brinlea Johnson of The Blueshirt Group. Thank you. Please go ahead.

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Brinlea C. Johnson, The Blueshirt Group, LLC - MD [2]

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Thank you. Good afternoon, and welcome to EverQuote's First Quarter 2020 Earnings Call. We'll be discussing the results announced in our press release issued today after the market closed.

With me on the call this afternoon is Seth Birnbaum, EverQuote's Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder; and John Wagner, Chief Financial Officer of EverQuote.

During the call, we make statements related to our business that may be considered forward-looking statements under federal securities laws, including statements concerning our financial guidance for the second quarter and full year 2020, our growth strategy and our plans to execute on our growth strategy, key initiatives, our investment in the business, the growth levers we expect to drive our business, our ability to maintain existing and acquire new customers, our interest or ability to acquire other companies, our goals for integration and other statements regarding our plans and prospects. Forward-looking statements may be identified with words and phrases such as we expect, we believe, we intend, we anticipate, we plan, may, upcoming and similar words and phrases. These statements reflect our views only as of today and should not be considered our views as of any subsequent date. We specifically disclaim any obligation to update or revise these forward-looking statements except as required by law. Forward-looking statements are not promises or guarantees of future performance and are subject to a variety of risks and uncertainties that could cause the actual results to differ materially from our expectations.

Actual results may differ materially from those indicated by these forward-looking statements as a result of various important factors, including uncertainties with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic and the matters discussed under the heading Risk Factors in our most recent annual report on Form 10-K, which is on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission and available on the Investor Relations section of our website at investor.everquote.com and on the SEC's website at sec.gov.

Finally, during the course of today's call, we refer to certain non-GAAP financial measures, which we believe are helpful for investors. A reconciliation of GAAP to non-GAAP measures was included in the press release we issued after the close of market, which is available on the Investor Relations section of our website at investors.everquote.com.

With that, let me turn the call over to Seth.

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Seth N. Birnbaum, EverQuote, Inc. - Co-Founder, President, CEO & Director [3]

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Thank you, Brinlea. Good afternoon, and thank you, everyone, for joining us today.

Our company, much like most of the country, has adapted to shelter-in-place brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our thoughts are with all the individuals and businesses impacted around the world, and we extend our heartfelt thanks to all of the healthcare workers, first responders and other essential employees for their selfless efforts.

Throughout this crisis, we have been and remain dedicated to the safety of our team, our families and partners as well as our broader community. While we are vigilant and cautious during the rapidly shifting market dynamics brought about by COVID-19, we are fortunate that our company is in a strong position. Our online insurance marketplace is demonstrating flexibility and resilience as consumers continue to go online to shop and save on insurance, a nondiscretionary expense for the vast majority of auto, home and health insurance consumers. The insurance industry remains healthy, with personal lines insurers showing strong financial performance, resulting in a number of our distribution partners increasing bids and budgets since shelter-in-place began.

Our employees were able to smoothly transition to work-from-home, given that the foundation of our business is our proprietary distributed data platform and extensive use of cloud-based services for our products and systems. Our resilient business model continues to benefit from the network effects and the power of our marketplace for connecting insurance consumers and providers, resulting in strong financial performance and we are raising our full year guidance, which John will detail shortly.

Quickly touching on our first quarter results. We are pleased to report we exceeded expectations across all of our key financial metrics. Year-over-year, revenue increased 56% and Variable Marketing Margin, 1 of the primary metrics for managing our business, was up 72% year-on-year. And we continue to expand adjusted EBITDA on our path to profitability consistent with our model. We believe the changes forth by COVID-19 may benefit our business by accelerating the shift online in insurance. Our business continues to be strong, and we remain confident in our long-term model. Before talking in more detail about the first quarter and progress on key initiatives, I want to address the dynamics of our business and market in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak.

During this unprecedented period, I have been humbled and inspired countless times by our dedicated and talented employees who smoothly transitioned to serving our customers and partners remotely. We have adapted our business, with a focus on maintaining a highly-engaged and collaborative team dynamic through such efforts as daily operating stand ups across our operating teams, weekly company-wide town halls and daily one-on-one project team checking. We are pleased to see our team's productivity remain strong 8 weeks into shifting remote. Our business model and operational efficiency also benefit from our proprietary bid to buying data technology, flexible cost structure, cloud-based service architecture, data and reporting infrastructure as well as established, distributed communication tools and business processes. During this period, we have had no layoffs, no furloughs and no reductions in our employee salaries. We continue to add to our talent base as we remotely onboard new team members.

I'm also impressed by, and thankful for, our agent and carrier partners who have shifted to remote operations and continue to partner with us to grow their businesses efficiently as we execute on our mission and work to deliver exceptional service to customers throughout this crisis. Truly, thank you. It's an honor to work with all of you during these challenging times.

From a market perspective, we are fortunate that the insurance industry remains healthy. Our largest verticals, auto and home insurance, are benefiting from fewer claims being filed as consumers are staying home and driving less due to nationwide stay-at-home orders. This has resulted in many carriers publicly reporting strong profitability for Q1 and passing savings on to consumers. Based on what we are seeing in our marketplace, some carriers are now investing more in online customer acquisition as we believe they are leading to incremental profitability in their business and driving up new premium volumes, which may have moderated in the second half of March in the immediate aftermath of the shelter-in-place decision. In addition, we continue to see both consumer demand and provider budgets remain strong in our verticals, both for auto and non-auto. Early indications are that the impact from any moderation in premiums in the personal lines insurance market are being outweighed by increased profitability, which we believe supports continued investment in acquiring consumers, particularly in large, efficient online channels such as ours.

A similar dynamic is occurring on the agency side of our business, where we believe COVID-19 is creating a relatively favorable environment for EverQuote. After shifting to remote operations, we are seeing increased demand for our consumer referrals from agents in our marketplace and many agents are leaning into the transition from off-line to online customer acquisition, with some growing spend and reporting increased productivity. Some captive agents are also receiving COVID-19 relief packages from their carriers which can help support their marketing efforts.

On the demand side of the marketplace, our offering provides consumers who are belt-tightening in a weaker economy an opportunity to shop and save on the largely nondiscretionary expense of insurance. We are proud of the feedback we receive from consumers, such as one who recently shared with us that EverQuote has helped us narrow down which insurers to look for. I like that it's a one-stop shop. You go to 1 place and put in what you're looking for. This is more helpful than trying to navigate all the different insurance companies that are out there on our own, which would have been very time consuming. With the same coverage and number of vehicles, we saved $1,400 per year. Our surveys of individuals who purchased insurance through our marketplace indicate that consumers realized an average savings of $610, which we estimate has resulted in aggregate savings of billions of dollars for millions of consumers who bought insurance through our marketplace, which is especially important now.

While we saw some moderation in consumer shopping volume in late March and early April, we are seeing evidence that carrier support for consumers and agents as well as government stimulus efforts, are positively benefiting consumer demand, and that the performance of our channel for providers is reflected in increasing bids or pricing to EverQuote. Based on initial indications, we expect that the impact from any moderation in consumer demand will be offset by the benefits of a relatively more favorable environment for advertising costs.

During Q1, we continued to invest and execute across our growth levers, growing provider coverage and budget, attracting more high-intent consumers to our marketplace and deepening consumer engagement, resulting in an increasing conversion rate, while also growing and expanding across insurance verticals. Our traffic teams are executing well in growing consumer volume, delivering an 80% year-over-year increase in consumer quote request volume in Q1 year-on-year. We have also been successful focusing on channels that bring high-intent consumers to our marketplace and improving the workflows to enhance conversion.

Our non-auto verticals, which consists of home and renters, life, health and commercial insurance revenue, increased 90% year-over-year as we benefited from the network effects of our marketplace and from our targeted investments in growth. In our home vertical, for example, we are testing and implementing features that dramatically improve the consumer experience, increase conversion and lead to better partner outcome. While these improvements are consumer-focused, our provider partners are receiving even more accurate and precise data than ever before, leading to fewer rejected referrals and more accurate filtering to align with their desired consumer profile.

We also continue to add more providers and deepen our relationship with existing carriers and agents. This quarter, more than 95% of revenue from carriers came from those who have been on our platform for more than a year. Our agency business grew its revenue by 62% over the prior year, adding over 1,000 new agencies to the platform and increasing revenue from our Accelerated Growth Program, or AGP, which consists of our larger agents by more than 30% since the start of the year. An example of our successful partnership with our AGP agents is John Heep, who started his agency from scratch 7 years ago and turned to EverQuote to achieve rapid profitable growth. John shares that EverQuote helped him grow his business by 600 policies per year, a substantial percentage of which are for more profitable, multi-line and longer-term consumers.

At the beginning of the year, I listed 3 primary initiatives for 2020. Let me provide an update on each one.

First, we established the goal of completing deep integrations with 100% of our carriers by the end of 2020 to improve the customer experience and bind rates or policy purchase rates. Integrations create a more efficient marketplace with less friction for consumers and providers, delivering better customer experience. 1 of our top 5 carriers, for example, recently launched a deep prefill integration where EverQuote populated over 20 data fields onto their online quote flow. This prefill reduced the need for the consumer to reenter information to get a quote, and the carrier reported that the integration directly improved performance on their applicable campaign KPI by 28%. We understand that this leads to greater efficiency for the carrier, a better consumer experience and higher performance for EverQuote. At the end of the first quarter, we are over halfway to our 2020 goal, with 56% of our carrier partners deeply integrated, and we continue to make steady progress.

Second, we continue to build our engineering and data science capabilities as we seek to better leverage our large and rapidly-growing data set of consumer and carrier preferences to drive consumer satisfaction and operating leverage. We are creating unique experiences for each consumer profile and cost effectively testing which approach best improves relative performance. This past quarter, we added a number of great hires to our talented and growing data sciences and machine learning engineering team. And with these resources, we have launched significant ML automation to customize and improve many aspects of a customer's journey.

Which brings us to the third key initiative, team building. We have been successful hiring new talent while developing current talent to support growth, scale and innovate. During Q1, we expanded our team and hired a record number of new engineers in the quarter. We have experienced minimal attrition and are attracting, onboarding, developing and retaining employees successfully as we scale. We continue to hire, and we have seen tailwinds in our engineering, tech and data talent recruiter. Some of our recent senior hires include: David Brainard as Head of Engineering, who joined from Wayfair; Lee Bossio as Head of Insurance Data Services, who joined from Amazon; and Maya Gumennik as Head of Performance Marketing from TripAdvisor. Given our large and growing market, we believe a major lever for continued growth is building our team.

In summary, we delivered a strong first quarter with solid execution across our verticals. Our key revenue growth drivers, coupled with our disciplined approach to managing our operations, led to strong financial results and cautious optimism even in the light of the macro environment. As our country adapts to what we expect to be prolonged periods of social distancing, we believe that the pandemic will accelerate digital transformation in the insurance industry, which has been a laggard moving online. We feel very lucky and are grateful to be in a strong sector and in the opportunity for EverQuote to be in a dominant position as insurance continues to shift online. At EverQuote, we will continue to evolve, refine and weave the elements of our growth and strategy together and work to increase value for customers, expand our business and maximize shareholder value over the long term. We'll be smart data-driven and flexible, cognizant of how challenging this crisis is, but we remain optimistic on the year and beyond.

I would like to thank our customers, our partners and our shareholders for believing our vision and for your ongoing support. I'm honored to work with this team that we continue to build and have the deepest gratitude for their dedication and hard work in these unprecedented times. I'm especially appreciative of our people ops team who have been our unsung heroes in this period. Their countless efforts have enabled each employee to remain productive and supported. We believe we will ultimately emerge a stronger company and have set the stage for future growth and profitability.

Now I'll turn the call over to John to provide more detail on our financial results.

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John Brandon Wagner, EverQuote, Inc. - CFO & Treasurer [4]

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Thank you, Seth, and good afternoon, everyone. I echo Seth sentiments, and wish everyone the best during these unusual times.

I'll start by discussing our financial results for the first quarter of 2020, provide some additional explanation as to how COVID-19 is impacting our financial performance, and then provide guidance.

We are pleased to report strong first quarter 2020 results across all of our key financial metrics, exceeding our revenue, Variable Marketing Margin and adjusted EBITDA guidance provided last quarter. We delivered first quarter revenue of $81.4 million, up 56% year-over-year. We continue to achieve strong growth in our auto insurance vertical and even greater growth in our newer other insurance vertical, which includes home and renters, life, health and commercial insurance.

First quarter revenue in our auto insurance vertical increased to $67.6 million, a growth rate of 50% year-over-year. First quarter revenue from our other insurance vertical increased to $13.7 million, a growth rate of 90% year-over-year, and this represents 17% of revenue. We delivered first quarter Variable Marketing Margin, or VMM, which we define as revenue less advertising expense, of $23.8 million, an increase of 72% year-over-year, which exceeded our guidance provided last quarter. As a percentage of revenue, first quarter VMM expanded to 29.3%, up from 26.5% in Q1 of last year, an increase of nearly 3 percentage points. The VMM expansion this quarter resulted from attracting more consumers to our marketplace at lower acquisition costs and with better unit economics.

Once again, in Q1, our growth was driven by a significant increase in the volume of consumers shopping for insurance in our marketplace. In the first quarter, we delivered an 80% year-over-year increase in consumer quote requests to $7.4 million. As we had anticipated and discussed last call, this substantial increase in the volume of quote request was accompanied by a 14% year-over-year decline in revenue per quote request to $11.01 for the quarter. Although there are various contributing factors to revenue per quote request, the volume of quote requests can often be most influential as our insurance providers bid for volume in our marketplace auction. Large increases in consumer volume in a given quarter can outpace insurance provider coverage and/or budget, resulting in our marketplace monetizing less referrals per quote request, which is what we saw in Q1.

While revenue and cost per quote requests are metrics that provide insight into the dynamics of the EverQuote marketplace, it's important to recognize that we think of them as outputs of our efforts, which are primarily focused on growing Variable Marketing Margin dollars. Said another way, success in consumer traffic may temporarily outpace marketplace distribution resulting in lower monetization of individual quote request on average. This is not a concern as we also realized an even greater proportionate reduction in advertising cost per quote request, with a 17% reduction year-over-year to $7.78 in Q1. Our increased volume yielded additional Variable Marketing Margin dollars, again, a result that we primarily target as well as an expansion of Variable Marketing Margin as a percentage of revenue. It's important to note that our reduction in cost per quote request was largely driven by our efficiency, performance and the market for online advertising and less by the influence of COVID-19 in Q1.

First quarter GAAP net loss was $1.4 million or a loss of $0.05 per share based on approximately 26.6 million weighted average shares outstanding. First quarter's net loss was an improvement of $2.9 million as compared to the prior year period. We delivered positive adjusted EBITDA of $3.8 million or 4.7% of revenue for the first quarter, favorable to our guidance range. With non-advertising operating expenses consistent with our expectations, our adjusted EBITDA was a direct result of our better-than-expected VMM performance.

On the balance sheet, we ended the quarter with $50.5 million in cash and cash equivalents, a $4.4 million improvement from the previous quarter end and the result of $3.9 million in cash provided by operating activities in the quarter.

Before I dive into guidance, I'd like to address the impact of COVID-19 on Q1, our business today and how it's factored into our guidance.

COVID-19 had a minimal impact on our Q1. From the time the national emergency was declared on March 13 through the end of the quarter, the volume of quote requests remained largely consistent with the immediately preceding period, while the revenue per quote request declined approximately 5% and the cost per quote request declined approximately 7%. Though we did have some insurance providers temporarily pause or alter their marketplace participation at the beginning of the crisis as they dealt with shifting their workforce to remote operations, these changes were fairly limited, and we've seen most of these providers resume their prior marketplace operations.

As we've progressed into Q2, our marketplace has continued to perform well. While we have seen modest reductions in consumer traffic volume, it is largely consistent with the normal seasonal pattern we would expect in Q2. We also are experiencing some expansion in VMM as a percentage of revenue due to a combination of benefits of lower advertising costs year-over-year and sequential growth in revenue per quote request over Q1 levels. We've considered these early trends in our guidance for the quarter and the year, with revenue and VMM guidance that imply an increase to our VMM operating point from strong year-over-year quote request growth and sequential improvement in monetization.

Now turning to the specifics of Q2 guidance. We expect revenue to be between $77 million and $80 million, a year-over-year increase of 41% at the midpoint. We expect Variable Marketing Margin to be between $23.5 million and $25 million, a year-over-year increase of 45% at the midpoint. And we expect positive adjusted EBITDA to be between $3 million and $4.3 million, a year-over-year improvement of more than 100% at the midpoint.

For the full year 2020, we are pleased to reflect our strong Q1 performance and increased all aspects of our full year guidance as follows: We expect revenue to be between $318 million and $327 million, an increase from our prior guidance of between $315 million and $325 million. We expect Variable Marketing Margin to be between $96 million and $102 million, an increase from our prior guidance of between $92 million and $98 million. And we expect positive adjusted EBITDA of between $12.5 million and $17.5 million, an increase from our prior guidance of between $10 million and $15 million.

In summary, we delivered strong first quarter financial results. And while we are being thoughtful of the uncertainties related to COVID-19, we continue to feel confident in our outlook. We are particularly grateful to the efforts of our employees who have rallied during this time of adversity to deliver solid operating performance. Seth and I look forward to answering your questions.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) Your first question comes from Ralph Schackart with William Blair.

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Ralph Edward Schackart, William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division - Partner & Technology Analyst [2]

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Great. Glad to hear that everyone is doing well and the businesses as well. Seth, maybe go back to some of the comments you made about with the unfortunate COVID situation, that the dollar laggard to the shift of budgets online to insurance may be benefiting from the unfortunate situation now. Any perspective you could share more color about your expectation of that shift in 2020 and perhaps in the 2021 and going forward? And then John, just on Q2 guidance, I know you had talked about some demand reduction being seasonal. I know Q1 is a big renewal cycle quarter for you and the industry. Just curious, as we think about the guide, was there any sort of pull-through in Q1 or just some perhaps conservatism when you set the guide or some of that sort of paused activity? Any more color on that would be helpful.

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Seth N. Birnbaum, EverQuote, Inc. - Co-Founder, President, CEO & Director [3]

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Sure. So maybe 2 examples. What we've seen in the near term, Ralph, and we believe will carry certainly for the near-term for a year or so is incremental profitability from the providers, from the carriers, specifically the P&C insurers will lead them to lean in. That's sort of -- we're confident and we're comfortable that they'll lean in on the back of incremental profitability. We have seen certain carriers actually open up entire states that were sort of bid down or had their budgets moderated because of loss ratios, and those have obviously the loss ratios have reversed out and they've turned on entire geos. So we'd expect that kind of throttle open position from the carriers to benefit us and sort of increment up the online marketing spend for the near term, which, again, is 1 year to 2 years from our perspective.

The second kind of sign that I think would give you some color on it, is we've seen agents, insurance agents essentially increment up their online budgets with us specifically. We've now seen, in the past 6 weeks, the highest level of demand from our agent base in our platform than we've seen in our entire history. So again, we believe that bodes well for the immediate term for the next year or 2, and it's significantly above where we expected it to be. Certainly in the times of pressure, but it's above even the sort of normal range we would have expected for Q1 and flowing into the beginning of the quarter. So optimistic that these kinds of demands from both agents and carriers persist as we move forward, and it is, in fact, a pulling forward or acceleration of the shift to digital.

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John Brandon Wagner, EverQuote, Inc. - CFO & Treasurer [4]

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And Ralph, with regard to the guidance, I'll give you a little color. The methodology that we used this quarter is the same as past methodologies, this idea of providing high confidence scenarios and high confidence guidance. We probably did widen the scenarios a little bit this quarter when we thought about those different scenarios. But in general, we're proud and happy that we can produce guidance that, at the midpoint, for VMD is a 45% growth rate for Q2. On revenue, still in Q2, a strong growth at 41%. So we think of it as strong guidance, and it has been colored by part of what we're seeing already in Q2, which is really a testament to the resiliency of the model. And so even a testament to the resilience that we can provide quarter and full year guidance because the model really has been fairly consistent. So it's surprisingly consistent in terms of the guidance methodology as compared to prior quarters.

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Operator [5]

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Your next question comes from Mayank Tandon with Needham.

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Mayank Tandon, Needham & Company, LLC, Research Division - Senior Analyst [6]

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Now looking for too many beat and raise quarters, so we'll take this one. So great job. First question would be, Seth and John, in terms of just the trends in the market, one would think that with drivers driving less and then the carriers offering all kinds of discounts and rebates, we would have seen a sharper decline in maybe consumer traffic. But you haven't seen that yet. Is that partly reflected now in the 2Q guidance in terms of maybe slower trends on the consumer traffic front?

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Seth N. Birnbaum, EverQuote, Inc. - Co-Founder, President, CEO & Director [7]

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So Mayank, this is Seth. Thanks again, and we're excited as well by the progress. So yes, what we've seen even with I'd say modest moderation in consumer demand, that's outweighed by 2 other factors that we've seen early on. One is some increasing demand from the provider side of the business in the form of increased bids, increased budgets from agents and carriers. The other way we are seeing it is reduced costs in several of our large online marketing channels, such as display or social, where there's still very strong consumer demand volume and the ad costs have gone down because folks in the travel industry and the e-commerce industry has exited. So those 2 trends kind of wash out any moderation in consumer demand for us at these times. And so flow right into the guide.

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John Brandon Wagner, EverQuote, Inc. - CFO & Treasurer [8]

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And Mike, you'll remember that Q2 is traditionally a time where we see a quarter that is usually flat to slightly down. That's just the normal trend, especially within auto. I'd say what's different this quarter than other Q2s is we are seeing a little bit of sequential increase in monetization revenue per quote request as well as that little tick up in VMM operating point as well. So a little bit better margin this quarter as well.

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Seth N. Birnbaum, EverQuote, Inc. - Co-Founder, President, CEO & Director [9]

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So we're excited about the -- yes, we're excited about the operating momentum, Mike. And I would say 1 last thing. With regards to the rebates of the pricing that we're seeing from the carriers, again, it's our belief and understanding that, essentially, the reduction in losses will stay ahead of any of these rebates or prices. So in fact, they'll be realizing incremental profitability, and some of the benefits for our provider partners and us will be incremental marketing lean in or demand.

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Mayank Tandon, Needham & Company, LLC, Research Division - Senior Analyst [10]

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Right. That makes sense. Just 1 quick follow-up in terms of the non-auto. Could you maybe parse that a little bit more in terms of what trends you saw between healthcare, home and life and some of the other verticals? And maybe your expectations for the remaining of the year as these newer verticals ramp?

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Seth N. Birnbaum, EverQuote, Inc. - Co-Founder, President, CEO & Director [11]

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So again, sort of the secular dominant trend we expect, just given that those verticals are relatively new and even smaller than autos, is we continue to see them grow. From an operating momentum perspective, we haven't seen much, if any, difference at all in the non-autos verticals, and we expect them to continue to grow more quickly than autos through the year. With that having been said, we do sort of keep an eye on commercial. Now happily for us, small commercial insurance is exceptionally tiny. It's probably a very, very small amount of revenue, so it's not very material for us. But we'll be thoughtful about how we invest in terms of headcount on small commercial, just given that you're likely to see some disruption in the small business market, no matter what anybody does or says.

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Operator [12]

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Your next question comes from Michael Graham with Canaccord.

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Michael Patrick Graham, Canaccord Genuity Corp., Research Division - MD & Senior Equity Analyst [13]

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Just a couple of questions. One, on -- can you just remind us when you think about Q2 and the rest of the year, like how do you factor in consumers shopping for new cars and associated insurance versus sort of switchers?

I think a couple of years ago, you had talked about how some of the European markets have a lot more switching behavior, and 1 of the other things that could help you in the U.S. was that sort of picked up. So I just want to kind of ask that question.

And then I also wanted to ask specifically on the health vertical. Can you just remind us sort of where we are in the arc of that rollout? What are some of the important milestones on the calendar ahead? And just wondering if you have to do anything additional to the product sort of as we get through the year here, like what are some of the key things you're working on.

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Seth N. Birnbaum, EverQuote, Inc. - Co-Founder, President, CEO & Director [14]

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Sure. So recall -- Michael, thank you again. Thanks for joining us. And I appreciate the kind comments. You'll recall that we don't have much many connective tissue with car shopping. 98%, 97% -- vast majority of the consumer demand is renewals, is folks shopping to look for discounts, coverage, perhaps they've had a claim. So again, there's very little to no connective tissue for us with car shopping. In addition, switching, obviously, may be a net positive for us, but we're not reliant on it in our -- if the consumer comes through, and finds out, hey, I'm with a great provider and renewing with them is a good match, that's perfectly fine by us. There's a number of carriers and agents who, in fact, and a vast majority I believe, run some kind of retention campaign with us to retain consumers, which we support for both the consumer and the provider. So again, we don't expect much impact at all from any changes to car shopping or switching behavior, which is part of what's resilient about our marketplace model for insurance, right? So that's a benefit for us as well as our partners and customers. On the healthcare side, I mean, it's just going to be continued investment in engineering and data headcount. Recall that as we scale these verticals, they're able to leverage the investments we've made in data, platforms, product systems. So it's a very high leverage activity scaling the health vertical from an operating leverage perspective, but we will continue and do continue to add headcount and talent, particularly tech talent to the health care vertical team.

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Operator [15]

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Your next question comes from Ron Josey with JMP Securities.

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Ronald Victor Josey, JMP Securities LLC, Research Division - MD and Senior Research Analyst [16]

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Great. Glad everybody is safe and sound and operating very well. So I wanted to ask just, Seth, following up on the comments around the moderation in consumer shopping, I just want to make sure I understand the dynamics here. 2Q, seasonally, is a little bit lower than 1Q. So was this moderation in line with what was expected to a certain extent? Has it sort of stabilized off here, would be question number one? And then as we think about the insurance carriers and the givebacks and everything, but they're also advertising less. And so I'm wondering if you're seeing any impact from lower ad spend by the carriers on demand for insurance and renewals overall. And then lastly, John, can you just give us an update? We're thinking about overall M&A strategy with the dislocation in the markets. Is there any change there or anything that you might be thinking about as you think about being strategic to grow the business overall?

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Seth N. Birnbaum, EverQuote, Inc. - Co-Founder, President, CEO & Director [17]

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Great. Thank you again. Thanks for the kind comments, Ron. It's good to hear from you as well. No. So this is not particularly atypical from what we'd see as a seasonal traffic pattern in the insurance markets going -- shifting from Q1 to Q2, as did over advertiser demand. So 1 thing to think about in terms of what we've seen, Ron, and it's particularly interesting, a lot of the large personal lines, the auto and home carriers, are massive advertisers on things like sports on TV, right? They're the perhaps the top 1, 2 or 3 spot for all of them for football and baseball and basketball. And so as these providers sort of have that channel no longer available to them, what we've seen is actually increased, not just demand from those providers, but we then have increased capacity to advertise ourselves in the online channel to bring in incremental consumers because we've seen some fade in things like display and social display marketing campaign costs. So we have capacity to increase consumer demand or bid into the consumer demand at the same time as providers are actually seeking to grow the online channel, especially with the absence of some of the big offline channels for them. And again, recall that we run the business for Variable Marketing Margin. So 1 of the aspects of our business model, being an online insurance marketplace, is we have this flexibility and resilience. If we can decrease ad costs while maintaining volume while increasing the revenue we're seeing from providers, Variable Marketing Margin can grow. And in fact, that's what we believe we're seeing as we head into Q2.

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John Brandon Wagner, EverQuote, Inc. - CFO & Treasurer [18]

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So Ronald, on the M&A side, you'll remember that this business has been growing completely organically until now. And we have, in the last couple of quarters, started to build out kind of that M&A muscle in order to be able to look at opportunities at least opportunistically. I'd say we're starting to get a little more disciplined around that. And to your point, this certainly is a time in which we think, not just in the near future, but over a number of quarters here, we may see some opportunities that wouldn't have been present without COVID-19 and what it might do in terms of rippling through smaller businesses. So we do think it could present some opportunities for us in an avenue that we have not explored yet.

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Operator [19]

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(Operator Instructions) Our next question comes from Jed Kelly with Oppenheimer.

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Jed Kelly, Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., Research Division - Director and Senior Analyst [20]

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Great. Just given the current dynamics in terms of some of the advertising campaigns you're starting to run, can you talk about the ability sort of to stimulate demand in some of the campaigns, given that consumers now are tightening their budgets?

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Seth N. Birnbaum, EverQuote, Inc. - Co-Founder, President, CEO & Director [21]

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Sure. I mean, again, I want to emphasize, we still see typical operations in the consumer demand side of our business. And what that means, Jed, is that as advertising costs -- and these are some very big channels, these are great ways to reach consumers who might be looking for discounts or renewals or price shopping, especially now. So again, the resident demand will be there because folks are going to be seeking incremental ways to save money. That's the belt-tightening we referred to in the call. But as folks do that, remember, our ad costs in some of these channels will be reduced because there's simply less competition. And I don't mean intra-insurance. I mean things like e-commerce, travel, there's other verticals who are basically paused out of the online landscape. And that enables us to lean into the resident consumer demand that's out there and market our services to consumers to save money and shop for insurance.

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Jed Kelly, Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., Research Division - Director and Senior Analyst [22]

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And then just given what's gone on in the technology sector in Boston, there is going to be quite a bit of tech talent maybe looking to get to a platform that's a little more insulated from this. So can you just talk about where you kind of see your capital structure and how you want to sort of be aggressive in hiring like tech talent?

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Seth N. Birnbaum, EverQuote, Inc. - Co-Founder, President, CEO & Director [23]

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Well, maybe I'll let Wag take the cap structure question. I'll just talk about the tech talent. We've seen, Jed, perhaps the biggest tailwind we've had in tech recruiting since we started the company. We had, this past quarter, the most successful quarter we've had in recruiting engineers and data analysts. And that's to add to an already great team that's fully committed and developing. But in terms of hiring, for us, it's been a very successful period. We do, to your point, expect that to continue. The business operations and momentum in the business, we believe, remains strong, so we're in a position to continue hiring great tech talent. And that tailwind was certainly observable through Q1 and up until very recently. I'll let Wag -- John, comment on the capital structure. Yes.

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John Brandon Wagner, EverQuote, Inc. - CFO & Treasurer [24]

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Jed, when you say capital structure, you mean particularly with regard to hiring? Because there is an aspect that says the stock, the company has continued to perform well through this period of time, and it does position the company as a kind of stable, consistent grower, even in the Boston market. So we've seen some of the other Boston technology companies that have been really aggressive high flyers and that we've competed with for talent, some of those are contracting, not hiring. So even when you look at kind of the capital -- even if you look at our stock performance, I think it reflects the fact that business has continued to perform well. And then certainly, as 1 -- as kind of 1 of the leg of the stool in terms of compensation, the equity that we're able to attract folks with is real, and it has performed consistently. So I think we're starting to get benefited from that and starting to compete very well in the Boston market with some of the larger ones in town.

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Operator [25]

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Your next question comes from Aaron Kessler with Raymond James.

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Aaron Michael Kessler, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - Senior Internet Analyst [26]

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Great. And then just a couple of questions. First, we've got some questions from a few investors. Kind of how important is new auto purchases as a percentage of the business? And how do you maybe adjust the slower car sales right now? And obviously, as rates have been declining, can you maybe just talk about have you seen ad rate start to tick back up in April? Or kind of what's been the recent trend there?

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Seth N. Birnbaum, EverQuote, Inc. - Co-Founder, President, CEO & Director [27]

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Yes. Net of seasonal, sort of regular seasonal patterns, consumer demand remains -- we see consumer demand remaining and has remained strong in Q2. And I would say that incrementally, there is likely, again, we believe to be some shopping as people really do need savings and are looking to basically tighten their belts at this time. I would say this, as far as being connected to car sales, some small fraction -- I mean, again, this is truly like just an estimate. It's single-digit percentage. A vast majority of our consumer demand are folks who already have insurance and are shopping, or already have a car and don't have insurance and need to get it on the road. So there's little to no connective tissue between car shopping and auto insurance shopping.

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John Brandon Wagner, EverQuote, Inc. - CFO & Treasurer [28]

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It's often intuitive to think of those 2 things together, car shopping and insurance shopping. But if you think back to your last vehicle, usually, when you're purchasing a car, you're focused on just transferring over your insurance. It's later when you get the renewal in the mail that you think about actually shopping the price when it goes up, or else, you're answering just a broad-based call to shop for insurance. All the providers usually have shopped with us, and you'll save money in their messaging. So that is much more of the catalyst for someone coming to EverQuote to shop for insurance. It's generally about saving money on coverage or getting the right coverage and much less connected with the new auto sale.

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Seth N. Birnbaum, EverQuote, Inc. - Co-Founder, President, CEO & Director [29]

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With regards to consumer demand, beyond the typical seasonality, perhaps what's most dramatic in the advertising landscape is the not big online noninsurance advertisers. E-commerce, travel, auto or the actual auto car sales, have largely exited the online market. So we have seen and expect to continue to see reduced costs for things like display and social display, which are large marketing channels for us, Aaron. So ultimately, we can lean in on those channels, either for volume or more primarily for us, Variable Marketing Margin, and that's reflected in our guidance.

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Operator [30]

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Our next question comes from Doug Anmuth with JPMorgan.

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Dae K. Lee, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Analyst [31]

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This is Dae in for Doug. The first 1 is on quote request acceleration in 1Q. I was just wondering if you can talk a little bit about the drivers behind that growth. Any particular channels that may be working well for you? And has that changed early in 2Q? And how should we think about the trajectory of quote request growth as we go through 2020 and comps get tougher? And then in terms of lower pricing that you're seeing in the traffic acquisition channel, are you factoring in any of your competitors or noninsurance competitors coming back into these advertising channels in second quarter?

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Seth N. Birnbaum, EverQuote, Inc. - Co-Founder, President, CEO & Director [32]

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So yes, let's break it up. So let's start with Q1, Dae. So in Q1, we drove incremental volume and/or incremental Variable Marketing Margin in literally every 1 of our major marketing channels: search, display, social, partnerships, reengagement, remarketing, retargeting that entire bucket of reengaging consumers. Literally, across the spectrum of our traffic operations, we saw either increased volume and/or increased Variable Marketing Margin through incremental volume or cost reduction. That has largely continued into Q2. There is incremental opportunities in display and social. Now you will recall, Q2 is seasonally typically a lower volume period of the year for us. And so we're seeing that naturally. But underlying that, the cost for display and social, which, as you know, are big advertising channels for non-insurance competitors or folks like travel and e-commerce, have gone down substantially, and we'd expect those to continue, certainly through Q2, and perhaps through the end of the year for the near-term until the market really begins to turn on. All of that having been said, I would say, we've been thoughtful about the ins and outs around advertising costs as we project out.

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John Brandon Wagner, EverQuote, Inc. - CFO & Treasurer [33]

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Yes. And I think, certainly, within the year, you have a very different story in terms of comps in the second half of the year. I think we've said before that as we look out, the growth numbers will get harder in the back half of the year. We're confident we can continue to maintain growth of along -- at least at that long-term growth level of 20%, and do that while increasing profitability and also expanding variable marketing dollars. So that's really what we've reflected in the full year guide as well, is just expanding VMD dollars as well as adjusted EBITDA, increasing both of those in the back end.

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Operator [34]

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There are no further questions at this time. I'll now turn the call back over to management for closing remarks.

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Seth N. Birnbaum, EverQuote, Inc. - Co-Founder, President, CEO & Director [35]

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Thank you so much. So we delivered a strong quarter, capitalizing on the insurance shift online. We remain vigilant during this current market environment, and we feel very, very fortunate that our company is in a strong position and believe we've set the stage for future growth and profitability. I want to thank you all. Thank you all for joining us today. I thank you sincerely for all your support. Stay safe and be well. Thanks so much.

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Operator [36]

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This concludes today's conference call. You may now disconnect.