November 27, 2019 Websites | Digital communications | Annual Reports

The future of the corporate website

By Helena Wennergren

In a time when 'fake news' is commonplace, the corporate website is more important than ever. This was one of the topics discussed by Comprend’s CEO Staffan Lindgren in the Swedish podcast "IR-podden", together with Cision. This article unpacks the importance of corporate websites and how they need to develop.

The corporate website - as a platform on which the company owns the information - is one of the most trustworthy sources for its audience. Year after year our research shows that it is the most-used source by the capital market, even ahead of professional tools such as Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters Financial.

There are at least three aspects to consider when working with the corporate website:

  1. A listed company needs to meet basic needs and regulations. The regulations differ depending on the stock exchange where your company is listed, but nevertheless need to be followed to avoid costly fines.
  2. When regulations are met, it is time to listen to and understand your stakeholders: what content do they expect from you? This is what our annual Webranking survey measures - both what the target groups want and what they expect, as well as the gaps which companies need to fill. 
  3. In addition, you need to consider what you want to communicate to your visitors. What makes your company unique? Why should one invest in you, write about you or want to work for you?

Every company has a story worth telling, and telling it in the right way is what will differentiate you from other companies in the long run. The story should instil trust that your company knows where it's heading, has a strategy, and has goals. This is a company to invest in.

Continuous improvements

One of the keys for a successful corporate website is continuous improvements. This year's winner of Webranking in Sweden, Swedish Match, does not only meet the needs of their target groups; they also manage to tell their story. With a long-term approach to their corporate communication and consistent investment in positioning themselves, they are successful in showcasing who they are as a company. Unlike many others, they continuously update their website instead of undertaking a big yearly update based on the content from the annual report. This communicates their ambitions and what lies ahead rather than purely reflecting what's been on the company's mind for the past 1-2 years.

The main learnings from Swedish Match's success is to update your website continuously and in smaller steps - let your audience be part of the journey. You don't want to surprise your audience with such major, rare changes that leave them feeling lost and scared off the website as a result. In short, make changes when and where they are needed, rather than wait until there is a massive pile of amendments to be implemented.

Inspiration from overseas

Companies in Northern Europe are often good at meeting the basic needs from regulators and target groups, but their websites can be left lacking the story-telling element. Looking overseas, American companies are generally better in relating their story, often using an active CEO as their representative. The use of spokespersons is a neat approach here. Examples of more people within a company telling the story is something that we would like to see as the next step from European companies.

How should corporate websites develop?

Corporate communications will need to be more relevant, sharp, dynamic and based on behaviour than it is today. AI and IoT can serve as tools to work in more data-driven ways and help to deliver behavioural communications solutions, making the information more customised and personalised to better suit the visitors' needs.

The demand for Sustainability information is increasing but this isn't yet matched by the content on websites, despite a slight increase in the Webranking scores this year. It is highly likely that Sustainability will not only stay on the agenda but continue to rise in importance, considering the increasing visibility of the issues in the mainstream. Along with the 'Greta effect', media coverage of Sustainability topics has increased, and this will ripple into the content companies are expected to demonstrate on their corporate websites.

The annual report - one of the most important sources for company information - is still in transition from a printed product to a digital product. The most recent catalyst for the move towards digital reporting is the new EU regulations which stipulate that annual reports - or at least the financial statements contained within - need to be readable by both man and machine. An additional benefit of a digital annual report is the increased find-ability of the content by search engines, thereby making it more accessible for a wider audience.

To gain the most from your efforts, here are three tips on how to develop your corporate website:

  1. Tell the story of the company. Make it easy to keep the regulatory obligations and content demanded by the target groups up-to-date, so that you can put the real effort into your story.
  2. Raise the Sustainability issue, not only by reporting numbers but also by discussing how Sustainability affects your company: how it influences your strategy and survival, as well as the society around you.
  3. Annual reports – reflect on how you can adapt to the manner in which we consume content today. If you prepare for that now, you will be well-equipped for the future!

The full podcast episode (in Swedish) can be found here.

Do you want to make sure your corporate website is future-proofed? Get in touch with us. 

Staffan Lindgren

CEO

staffan.lindgren@comprend.com

+46 70 971 12 12

James Handslip

Managing Director (UK)

james.handslip@comprend.com

+44 (0)20 8089 1583