November 04, 2020 Webranking

Belgium's corporate sites ares at the back of the European pack

 By Chris Henson

In this year's Webranking, Belgian companies trail behind their European counterparts due to a lack of key content on the corporate websites. The results should inspire a move to action considering the sites struggle to meet stakeholder needs in virtually all areas from governance to sustainability to the media service.

This year we evaluated the corporate websites of the largest 18 listed companies in Belgium for how closely the service they are delivering aligns with what stakeholders expect. The average score for Belgian sites this year is 36.1 (out of 100), with only two companies satisfying at least half of their various user groups' needs. This represents a 5.6 point drop since last year, positioning Belgian communications as the weakest in Europe, aside from perennial strugglers Russia. There are several possible explanations for this drop-off:

  • Stakeholder expectations are continually rising and Belgian communication teams are struggling to keep pace
  • The Webranking criteria have updated to factor in modern accessibility guidelines, and Belgian sites are not accessible enough
  • This year's ranking is our largest ranking of Belgian companies, with an additional five included since last year, but these companies have brought the average down, not up

A combination of these reasons may go some way to explaining this year's decrease, but Belgian websites have never been on a particularly strong footing in Webranking. Now is the time for companies to be proactive with the improvements, considering the results expose many communication gaps that need to be filled.

It's time to renovate the press section

One of the most significant areas to prioritise an overhaul is Belgian press sections (sometimes found under 'newsroom' or 'media'), as these need to serve various stakeholders but particularly business journalists, who are always in need of rapid access to media information and assets. When comparing the 18 largest companies in Belgium with the largest companies from across 14 ranked European countries, Belgium's press sections rank bottom of the pile, as they provide just 30% of the content most important for this part of the website.

A major contributory factor to this unwanted accolade is that Belgian press release archives are missing the mark for stakeholders in several ways. For starters, only two thirds of the 18 ranked companies actually have one, which is by far the lowest rate in Europe. This also flies to the contrary of our research, as 95% of respondents to our latest Capital Market survey consider the press archive an important communication channel on a corporate website. In addition:

  • Only 17% of Belgian press archives have filter functions for dividing releases by month or quarter
  • Only 11% of Belgian press archives have a search function that returns relevant results

Making the press release archives as easy to use as possible is highly desired among stakeholders who lack the time to manually trawl for information, and both search and filter functionalities offer useful shortcuts to save this effort.

Image libraries are key for business journalists

89% of all business journalists we spoke to for this year's Capital Market survey noted the importance of companies having a well-stocked image library available either on their corporate websites or clearly linked to an external hosting service. These assets need to be easy to find and available in different resolutions, suitable for printing, downloading and digital use. Images should cover different aspects of your business, from logotypes to products and services. If they can't be found, then journalists may need to get in contact to procure them, which suits no one as it slows them down while also creating work for your communications team. Despite this, Belgian companies again score the lowest in Europe for their image libraries, with just 22% having any images available at all.

The best press section in Belgium belongs to UCB, who score 4.8 out of the 8 points available for this Webranking category. The main strengths of their section are the press archive, where releases can be filtered by date and category to hasten the search for relevant results, and the image library, which contains photos of UCB's locations and executives, as well as company logo images.

Belgian websites need to be more transparent about their governance

Another area where Belgian companies are particularly struggling to communicate with their stakeholders is corporate governance. Again, they trail their European counterparts, and only provide 25% of the most important information in this area overall. One aspect which none of Belgium's 18 largest companies tackle is remuneration information, which can offer key insight into the compensation policy and packages for the Board and executive management. This is one of the most important areas of governance information for the capital market, as it shows how senior staff have been rewarded in light of the company's performance. These details will be available in the annual report and perhaps also in a standalone corporate governance report, but Belgian companies need to understand that this information is too important not to lift out of PDFs and place directly onto the corporate website.

Belgium's winners and the biggest climber

As was the case last year - and the five years before that - KBC Group is the winner in the Belgium list of Webranking with a total score of 57.5 points. Ahold Delhaize has consolidated last year's 3rd place finish, while we now have a new player on the podium, as UCB jumps into the runner-up spot. The Best Climber award goes to Proximus Group, who have managed to increase their score by an impressive 9.5 points in a year where the average score in Belgium is down by 5.6 points. We evaluated the websites of five more Belgian companies than last year, a reflection on the higher market capitalisation of the companies in the STOXX All Europe list. Read more on how we select companies.

RankCompanyScore (out of 100)
1KBC Group57.5
2UCB50.0
3Ahold Delhaize48.4
4Solvay45.9
5Proximus Group43.9
6Umicore42.1
7Ageas39.2
8Cofinimmo38.2
9Galapagos38.0
10Elia Group36.1


See the full Belgian results

Helena Wennergren

Head of Research

helena.wennergren@comprend.com

+46 70 971 12 10

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