The communication gap widens between Europe's largest companies and their audiences
We've evaluated the corporate websites of Europe's 500 largest companies by market cap to see how closely they are meeting the needs of their stakeholders, and the results show cause for concern. On average, companies are delivering less than half of the key content users expect to find across many areas of their sites.
This year has seen an overall trend of decline in Webranking scores across Europe's 500 largest companies. The average score for 2020-2021 is down by nearly 3 points for the second consecutive year, from 45.7 to 43.0 points (out of 100).The corporate website remains the most-used source of company information for both the capital markets and jobseekers, as well as one of the most-trusted sources along with the annual report. Currently, though, companies may be placing more attention on satisfying legal requirements and delivering a nice design than giving these audiences the content they require.
The fact that the majority of Europe's largest companies are failing to meet even half of the needs of their stakeholders on their corporate sites is alarming, but the downward trend has been influenced by a few factors too:
Stakeholder expectations are continually rising
The Webranking criteria have updated to factor in modern accessibility guidelines, and European sites are not accessible enough
This year's criteria takes user experience into account, and European sites are not always seamless to navigate
We'll dig more into the details on how Europe's websites are falling short, but fundamentally communication teams are struggling to keep pace with the needs of their corporate user groups. Our latest Webranking study reveals some of the areas to start prioritising action.
The design of European sites must factor in accessibility and UX
A prime example of where companies are struggling to breathe accessibility into their websites is when showing charts. Many companies present a chart of their governance structure, for example, but only 40 of the 876 ranked companies provide one which contains the details in text, as opposed to a static image. The difference is that text embedded within images is not picked up by screen readers, so unless companies support the images with a proper alt text, which is rare, the content is not accessible enough for all user groups. Portuguese retail company Jerónimo Martins are one of the minority who present a clickable, interactive, and thus fully accessible corporate governance chart. In fact so accessible is their website's content that a user is able to highlight any text element and select whether it is read out loud or translated into another language. There's also a dictionary tool to define any words a visitor might be unfamiliar with.
Many are struggling with navigation
This year we evaluated the user experience of corporate sites, particularly for their ease of navigation. While some of the websites offer their users a clear content structure and logical nomenclature, many are struggling to deliver straightforward UX:
63% are at least somewhat difficult to navigate
64% have too many items in the navigation
48% have an inconsistent navigation that makes it unclear where you are on the site
The design does not have to be simplistic, but it should drive consistent and easy to follow journeys, otherwise key content might not be found and the company story will not be told as intended. Swedish global appliance company Electrolux have a corporate website that scores fully in this year's UX criteria. The items in their main navigation are familiar and understandable, and the secondary level does not contain an overwhelming number of pages. When moving through the site, it's always possible to see exactly where you are and where to go next as the navigation remains highlighted.
The press section is a key area of the corporate website for capital market stakeholders, and this includes business journalists. A good press section should contain plenty of information and assets which can be efficiently located, as time constraints are likely to be a factor for users here. However, Europe's largest companies are fulfilling less of these needs than before, with an average of just 44% of the key information on their corporate websites compared to 53% last year. Let's dig into this a little further.
Our latest Capital Market survey showed that the most important element of a press section is the press archive, which needs to be intuitive to use through the ability to filter releases by dates and topics. While it's encouraging that as many as 93% of the 500 companies have a press archive or at least an archive of regulatory news available in HTML, not enough is being done to make these archives easy to use. Barely a quarter of press archives have filter functions that allow users to view releases by month or quarter, and only 38% include the option to filter releases by categories, such as sustainability or products/services, which can make it simpler to find relevant results.
Dutch insurance company Aegon have one of the best press archives in Europe. As well as being able to filter by year, month, and category, there is also a search bar which returns useful results when searching for the latest information.
Less than half of the companies provide an image bank on the corporate website, or at least link to an external image hosting service (such as Flickr) where corporate materials can be freely found. 89% of the business journalists who responded in our latest Capital Market survey consider this an important area of corporate communication. The availability of such assets saves them the potential bottleneck of reaching out to media contacts to request access. Despite this, only 42% of companies have a photo gallery containing high quality, downloadable pictures of their executives, and even less have one which includes brand images or logotypes.
Sportswear manufacturer Adidas stand out for their media centre, which contains 65 pictures in several different categories from board members to logos to workplaces.
Embedding sustainability within the corporate strategy
This year's results reveal that 90% of Europe's largest companies have a sustainability strategy on the corporate website. 67% are going one step further by linking their efforts to the overall corporate strategy, which represents a 10% increase from last year. This rising alignment of sustainability goals and commercial objectives shows that companies are more reflective than ever of the impact they have on the world around them, as well as understanding the importance of such content to all stakeholders.
In our recent article Sustainability and corporate strategy starting to go hand in hand, we share insights on the sectors making the most progress and showing examples of different ways companies are tackling the integration of sustainability into the corporate strategy. The next step that companies need to make with far greater frequency is sharing environmental and social performance data and targets, to show they are acting upon the rhetoric of their strategies. Currently companies are presenting less than a third of the key information in these areas, which is a significant drop-off from last year's figures.
The European winners and the best climber
It's an Italy-dominated top end of the Europe 500 list in Webranking this year, with Italian companies taking 7 of the top 10 places, including all of the top five. Eni and Snam retain their positions in the top three, showing remarkable consistency in their corporate communication, but there's a new winner as Terna reach the top spot with 92.1 points. In a year when most companies across Europe experienced a score decline, Terna's improvement of 4.8 points is all the more impressive.
From the Nordics, Wärtsilä and Swedish Match remain inside the top 10, while Swisscom move up to 6th to rank as the highest-placing central European company.
The best climber in this year's list is Howden Joinery Group, with the UK company launching a new site and improving their score by 15.3 points, to climb a massive 246 places to 206th in the ranking.
The results for all ranked companies follow the Europe 500 trend
In this year's Webranking we ranked a total of 876 companies from 24 countries. As is the case for the Europe 500 list, the average score for all companies is down this year, from 44.1 to 39.8 points. This represents the first time the total Webranking average has dipped below 40 points in the last decade. While some of the reasons for the dip overlap with what's covered earlier in this article, it still shows that in a time of business uncertainty where clarity is essential, companies are communicating less effectively with their audiences than they have done in the past. Particular attention should be directed towards the Investors section, as Europe's largest companies are barely averaging a quarter of the most important financial information on their corporate sites.
Learn about how the Webranking report can bring clear direction to your content priorities and get in touch to see how we can support you with your communications.