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Sep 10, 2014

Building a mobile IR strategy: what IROs need to know

Harnessing app technology for investor relations

No one can argue that a technology paradigm shift is taking place. Within the investor relations industry today, compared with just two or three years ago, most people have an iPhone, iPad or Android mobile device (maybe even two or more). And they are using them in their work.  

There is no escaping the numbers:

  • According to Frost & Sullivan, by 2016, 56 percent of US and European companies will provide their employees with tablets
  • Yankee Group predicts that by the end of 2014, 4.55 bn people in the world will use a mobile device.

So what are we waiting for? Mobile technology provides us, as communications professionals, with the ability to communicate directly and instantaneously with our investors via their preferred communication method, the one that most engages them. A recent survey by theIRapp finds that 68 percent of institutional investors look at investor-related content on their mobile devices throughout the day. And this number is almost certain to increase, making it critical for IROs to start developing mobile strategies now, before their investors ask why it is taking so long.

There are two solutions for mobile IR strategies: native apps and web apps. Given the newness of this technology, confusion exists as to the difference between the two and whether to have one or the other. The reality is that they are not mutually exclusive.

At its core, a native app is software developed specifically for the operating system that is ‘native’ to the mobile device. Native apps constitute the more than 1 mn icons that can be found in Apple’s App Store and on Google Play. Native apps offer functionality like push notifications that can appear on the home screen of a user’s phone (even when it’s asleep and locked). This is a coveted place where all marketers and communicators strive to appear.

With native apps, content can also be downloaded for viewing and listening when an internet connection is not available. Within a native app, investors can make notes directly onto presentations and other documents, making it a practical business tool as well.

Then there are ‘web apps’, essentially websites developed with a special code called HTML5 that allows the website to respond proportionately to the screens of different mobile devices. In many instances, web apps cannot be found in the app stores and, as they are websites, they require an internet connection to work. From a communications perspective, web apps require a pull of information by the investor, rather than a proactive push of information from the company.

Many companies are joining the mobile bandwagon in recognition of what is taking place, with some companies opting for both types of app. Companies like Edwards Lifesciences, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Campbell’s Soup, for example, have both a native app and an optimized web app. As early adopters of a mobile IR strategy, these companies have recognized the importance of making information accessible to their investors in an easy-to-consume and proactive way.

As the technology behind the mobile device continues to advance, investors will undoubtedly become more dependent on them in their work. All the technology behemoths – Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and now IBM – have placed a ‘mobile’ stake in the ground. While desktop computing as we know it today will not go away anytime soon, there can be no question it will ultimately become less relevant.

The choice is ours whether to embrace a mobile IR strategy now ‒ or wait until it is no longer a nice-to-have option, but rather a must-have best practice.

Jeff Corbin is CEO and founder of the theIRapp®, part of the APPrise Mobile communications app development platform. With theIRapp, any global public company can have a native app on Apple's App Store and the Google Play Store to communicate with and push information to their investors' mobile devices.