Trend Spotting: An engaging digital user experience for investors
1 August 2017
By Lorena Reyes
Effective digital communications is critical to your overall IR strategy. Investors, customers, and partners refer to your website to learn about your company’s trajectory, values, financial standing, and announcements. Good storytelling is the result of valuable content and enviable web design. The narrative you tell, and how you do it, will ultimately differentiate you from your peers.
In 2016, Q4 launched well over 100 new sites, a number Joe DiBacco, Director of Implementations at Q4, knows we’ll exceed in 2017. As head of Implementations, Joe has worked with a myriad of clients who have looked to Q4 to create engaging online experiences packed with website best practices – whether it be a new build or a revamp of a current site.
We sat down with Joe to learn more about trends in digital, design best practices, and how he sees the digital world evolving over the next few years.
Lorena Reyes (LR): You’ve been leading web implementations for nearly four years and have seen the needs and wants of IROs evolve. What have been the major shifts in IR websites over the last couple of years?
Joe DiBacco (JD): In 2016, 79% of people consumed content on mobile, with desktop usage falling by 16%. So with the rise of mobile, it’s no surprise that public companies are investing more and more in a responsive framework. Over the past two years, over 85% of Q4 customers have opted for a responsive site, a number that was closer to 45% in previous years.
What is more interesting is the way people access content on their devices. Long scrolling allows site visitors to move the page up and down opposed to clicking to access new content. If you’ve ever used social media feeds like Twitter, Pinterest, or LinkedIn – you’ve interacted with a long scrolling site.
This type of design allows for huge improvements to the visual narrative of an IR site as it seamlessly adapts to the screens of mobile, tablets, etc.
With the shift in how people consume information comes the change in what they like to consume. People are hungry for bite-size information that’s easy to digest, like videos and infographics. Multimedia assets are becoming very popular as a way to provide a salient snapshot of key company facts and figures vs. a standard PDF, or Excel file. And the use of video for corporate storytelling is impactful, and does wonders to the overall look and feel of a site.
(LR): What are some of the main concerns/questions expressed by clients during kick-off?
(JD): Clients are often concerned with the structure of their site, organization of content, and security. Their main objective is to enable visitors to quickly and easily access key content. Of course, we always advise based on best practices, but ultimately aim to marry their vision with engaging design elements. We tend to focus on the content that should live on the homepage as the gateway to the rest of the site. Without being overwhelming, we use interactive modules and visual elements to ensure that visitors can access financial information, events, and news easily within two clicks. Aside from this, with increased awareness around online security, we’ve also encountered an increased preference to host IR sites as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) which establishes an encrypted link between a web server (i.e. Apache HTTP Server) and a browser (i.e. Google Chrome). This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browsers remain private and integral.
(LR): Security is a hot topic these days. We recently put out a blog on cyber attack preventative measures, and found some alarming stats on the global cost of cybercrime, which is estimated to reach $2 trillion by 2019. What precautions does your team suggest to clients?
(JD): Besides SSL, which we’ve already talked about, we have implemented two factor authentication (2FA) to our web platform. 2FA is a two step authentication process that requires your typical username and password, but also a second piece of information that only the user would know. In our case, that second piece of information is a code that is texted to the user’s cell upon logging in. 2FA makes it more difficult for attackers to gain access to your IR web application because knowing the password alone is not enough to pass the authentication check. And we reset these passwords on a regular basis for clients and employees.
We also suggest creating strong passwords using password keepers such as ‘Keeper’ which stores all your passwords in a vault.
Another great feature of our content management system (CMS) is that we are able to safely store non-public information by encrypting these files until they go live.
(LR): Moving back to web design. You mentioned that you aim to marry a client’s vision with engaging design. How does that work?
(JD): Our role is to be advisers. We start with the client’s vision and work to weave best practices into their design. Annual reports are a great example of this. Traditionally, clients provide us with their 10-K wrap or a PDF of their annual report. We gain a better understanding of the company’s brand, values, vision and trajectory from the report. We like to show how the same information can be made more engaging by using an interactive tool. Same content, but the graphics and interactivity that comes with it does wonders to their storytelling. The results have been positive. See Viad’s 2016 Annual Report for reference.
(LR): Over the last few months, ESG sections have become mainstream. What has your interaction with clients been like on this topic?
(JD): We’ve been implementing ESG sections to websites, or creating ESG micro-sites for companies in the natural resources industry for a while now. However, with more than $2 trillion poured into sustainable investments in the last two years, investors view ESG as value creating. We’ve seen an increase of requests coming from clients in all sectors.
We often advise clients to treat this content as part of their story – make it an easy transition from their corporate and IR websites to their ESG section. This means ensuring that their initiative is evident throughout all aspects of their website – in visuals, in their navigation, etc. We want it to be embedded in who they are versus an afterthought or last minute add on.
(LR): For those new to IR, what are the top 3 best practices to consider?
(JD): First, brand storytelling. I always tell clients to first and foremost worry about the brand, and the look and feel of the corporate site before designing the IR site. The goal is to provide a seamless experience for site visitors: one brand, one message. For example, if your corporate website is responsive, your IR site will need to be as well, and linking between the two should be simple and intuitive. Often this takes form in how we design the main navigation, and keep it consistent between the two sections.
Think mobile and how people consume information these days. We live in a day and age when everyone is on the go, and where most users are accessing and consuming content from their mobile devices. That said, responsive design is key to implement. Providing equal access will maximize your reach, and ultimately investor engagement. And with responsive frameworks comes the need for interactive/visual content. The attention span of people browsing the web is low. On average, if your content takes longer than fifteen seconds to consume, users will move on. In order to effectively convey your message, you need to engage your audience in ways outside of the norm. This means using more video, infographics, interactive tools, etc.
Ensuring that you stand out among your peers begins with an engaging digital user experience for investors. The most important thing is to ensure that the content, and the format, you provide fits with how users consume your information.
Joe DiBacco is director of digital implementations at Q4, and resident expert on all things web.