It goes without saying that, in a digital world, digital competence is essential. Yet when it comes to providing accessibility and a smooth user experience across digital platforms, new research shows that most businesses are failing to provide an outstanding digital experience. The research data offers chief marketing officers a timely wake-up call.
According to Radley Yeldar’s FTSE 350 Standout Digital Survey, which monitors corporate website performance, companies in highly regulated or sensitive industries are emerging as digital communications leaders—pharmaceuticals and healthcare companies especially, but also energy players who are pushing hard to be more outward-facing.
With a performance rating of 76.8%, AstraZeneca’s is the best performing corporate website, closely followed by SABMiller—last year’s winner—GSK, Shell, and Unilever. AstraZeneca’s performance was especially outstanding, given that it was a first-time entrant to the top 10 and up 63 places on last year. However, financial services websites are consistently among the poorest performers, with an average score of just 32%.
Also evident from Radley Yeldar’s research is a 45% year-on-year increase in responsive websites, with 71 of the FTSE 100 now embracing mobile. When it comes to interaction, however, performance was significantly lower, with just 4% of the FTSE 350 companies engaging in dialogue on their corporate websites.
Furthermore, overall digital experience remains consistently poor, with the FTSE 350 companies scoring, on average, below 40% for website experience. The average score for digital content across the FTSE 350 was 36%. Meanwhile, just 15% of the FTSE 350 companies make it easy to complete a simple task via the corporate website, for example applying for a job.
These findings clearly show that the strongest corporate communicators are found within the FTSE 100. In contrast, the FTSE 250 companies lag some way behind. Most worryingly, the gap between the leaders and the laggards is getting larger.
Radley Yeldar’s FTSE 350 Standout Digital Survey also reveals a narrowing of the gulf that once existed between traditional corporate communications and marketing, with the upswing of campaigning brands prepared to tell their story and address broader industry issues in more inventive and creative ways.
It also highlights six indicators that show that the most successful companies are those adopting a more integrated approach to website communication:
1. A Shift In Focus Onto Issues, Challenges, And Problems
The best digital communication assessed for this year’s study is concerned with more than “just” business. It shares a focus on bigger issues, challenges, and problems important to an industry sector of wider society and how businesses can work to help solve them. It is progressive—tackling issues head-on, while, at the same time, embracing transparency with content serialised to demonstrate the progress that is being made.
2. The Rise Of Visual Content
With a rapid recent expansion in the role of digital visual content online, those most successful in digital communication are experimenting with visual and moving image content. The best, like AstraZeneca and GSK, have a highly differentiated approach to visual content. Noteworthy innovators include Sainsbury’s with its video-based “Little Stories” and Tesco with its social media home page takeover.
3. More Serious About Storytelling
Purpose and honesty about the challenges being faced characterise the brands with the best digital content. They do not see digital content publishing as just another way of recasting the traditional press release. Instead, the stories they tell reflect core concerns of the business and are of sufficient quality and genuine interest in their own right to stand alone, away from the corporate context. Powerful examples include GSK’s “Behind the Science” and Shell’s “Inside Energy.” Both are powerful pieces of digital storytelling, irrespective of their makers’ corporate aim.
4. Greater Focus On Investor Communications
The poorest digital communicators treat the investor relations section of their site as little more than an asset repository. The best are more active—curating their own investor story, pulling in key details from presentations and reports, and broadening their target audiences. For banks, especially, the potential here is to use the corporate website to meet demand for greater openness and transparency, and Royal Bank of Scotland’s “Investment Case” page that explains the opportunity to retail and institutional investors provides a powerful case in point.
5. Better Careers Content
The best corporate websites are innovating with careers content, too. Though often the most visited section of a corporate site, careers content has traditionally been fragmented across microsites, local sites, and social channels. While different channels will continue to co-exist, the strongest communicators are working harder to engage using the corporate website—and not just in the designated careers section. Better content integration is supporting the employee journey across the strongest websites to create a better user experience and build deeper engagement at every point of the recruitment journey.
6. Towards A More Integrated, Cross-Channel Approach
Social content isn’t new. But what is emerging among a broader array of FTSE 350 companies is a greater focus on integrating social content across all channels—something already done well by top performers including GSK, Unilever, Rolls-Royce, Shell, and Anglo American. FTSE 250 investment company Woodford’s Funds Blog, meanwhile, includes moderated comments, while Safestore Holdings includes social filtering on its FTSE 250 corporate website.