This digital evolution has had a revolutionary impact on companies and the investment community. It wasn’t long ago that the investment community was hesitant to embrace the digitisation of communications and investor relations that are now standard. Investors now expect a variety of enhanced digital communication channels; in response, company websites have been redesigned to accommodate these expectations with improved navigation and interaction, dedicated sustainability and investor pages and far greater disclosure of decision useful information. Investors use these digital insights to shape a view of economic markets, company strategies and investment prospects.
Naturally, digitisation impacts have changed the way investors perceive, think and act. Investors are increasingly using digital media in their investment decisions and problem analysis. Furthermore, as information retrieval becomes easier, so does the internationalisation of investing. With investors looking to invest globally, companies will need to embrace digital communications to break free from a dependency on domestic investors.
This year, we conducted digital research on the websites of the largest 40 companies by market capitalisation in the FTSE 250, which focused on three chapters:
- brand and communications;
- user experience; and
The findings help capture the priorities and expectations of digital IR and contain unique insights into how companies meet those expectations.
Research from the company websites reveals a lot of variety in how the 40 companies examined approach digital IR and what is to be considered best practice.
Brand and Communications
- 48% of websites sampled use interactive tools, i.e video, and audio on the website homepage.
- 53% of websites sampled provide an interactive summary of the annual report, less than half contain animation
- Despite a rise in hybrid or digital meetings, fewer than a third of the websites sampled incorporate a video or audio recording of the annual general meeting.
- 85% of sampled websites incorporate a smart navigation system for one-click user journeys to content destination.
- With 83% of sampled websites guiding the user seamlessly towards specific content.
- 88% of the sampled websites then explain complex information in a digestible manner.
- Just over half of the websites sampled portray the company business model on the website, but less than half explain how the organisation creates value within the business model.
- Less than a third of sampled websites have amplified the business model by integrating ESG strategies.
- 55% of sampled websites poorly identify and discuss key material ESG issues, and only 8% are considered leading.
- Only 50% of sampled websites communicate the company’s ESG strategy.
- Less than a quarter of websites show the results of a double materiality assessment.
- 30% of sampled websites provide transparency to third-party ESG ratings.
- 40% of websites sampled include a standalone sustainability report.
- 70% include a digital or screen first version of the annual report.
Our best-practice considerations
This initial research shows that companies have a way to go when it comes to the animation and interaction of their websites. Videos and more ways to interact with the website will enhance communication and keep viewers on the website for longer. Animation can bring awareness to the purpose of the company and help convey a brand story.
The sampled websites show a strong focus on the user experience; simplifying navigation and communication allows the website to provide a positive experience and define user journeys on the website that are most conductive to business success. Company websites failing to fulfil the user’s needs will therefore struggle.
Despite the shift towards greater ESG/sustainability disclosure and transparency, companies are struggling to know where to put content. Some companies will put all their sustainability information on one page or within the sustainability report, but this can lead to a siloed sustainability experience that may be ineffective. A company that is genuine about sustainability will have the story integrated throughout the website and show that all stakeholders are being considered.
Falling behind means getting left behind in a digital world. A digital approach to investor relations brings costs and opportunities; thinking globally, knowing your audience, innovating, and leading on communication will allow company websites to control their narrative and communicate directly with investors. Digital IR has the potential to enhance and streamline the work of engaging with investors if managed efficiently.
The full findings from our digital research will be released later this year alongside insights into the possible future of digital communication and interaction, the metaverse.