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Jan 28, 2019

Inside Estée Lauder’s three-year journey to online-only annual report

Company chose ‘digital-first’ strategy for reports

When it comes to corporate reporting, the old adage is that more disclosure isn’t necessarily better disclosure. While many companies’ annual reports are growing to include expanded ESG information, Estée Lauder has enabled readers to download their own customized report.

The ‘Build your own report’ feature is the latest in a string of innovations the Estée Lauder reporting and communications teams has launched in the last two years.

Three years ago, the company’s annual report closely resembled that of most other US companies: a PDF of the physical document that was uploaded to the company website. The team behind the annual report – this year called the Year in Review – decided in 2017 that the report needed to sit within the company’s ‘digital-first’ mind-set.

That led to that year’s great innovation: a shoppable annual report. Readers who wanted to purchase an Estée Lauder product could click the image on the website and would be redirected to an e-commerce platform.

Not content to rest on its laurels, the team – made up of individuals from the corporate communications, investor relations, finance and digital brand departments – created a fully online report for year-end 2018.

Laraine Mancini, senior vice president of investor relations at Estée Lauder, tells IR Magazine that the company felt comfortable launching an online-only annual report because it’s what investors would expect. ‘Estée Lauder’s shareholders expect us to stand out, to be best in class, and to be beautiful and innovative,’ Mancini says. ‘This fit well with our digital-first strategy and image.’

Build your own report

The ‘Build your own report’ feature is partly an acknowledgement of the different stakeholders reading a traditional annual report.

Visitors to Estée Lauder’s website have the option of checking several boxes – such as a letter from the company’s executive chairman, a letter from the company’s president and CEO and the financial performance section. Once readers check the boxes they’re interested in, they can export their own auto-generated report.

‘We wanted to give everyone a way to access the content he or she wants,’ says Elizabeth Just, executive director of global communications at Estée Lauder. ‘By bringing the report fully online, we were able to think about how to cater to all of our stakeholders – investors, customers, employees – at the same time.’

Interactive features

Following the success of 2017’s shoppable report – Just confirms that purchases were made through it – the reporting team has included that feature once again.

‘We’re so lucky to be able to leverage and make the most of assets from our brands,’ Just says. ‘It’s something I find unique in what we’re doing. Something that can be as broad and in-depth as the year-end review can also be fun and put our brands to use.’

Estée Lauder has also increased the videos it features online, including an 80-second introductory video to the website. Video has been mooted by experts as an area that IR teams could invest in this year, and Estée Lauder’s video views have increased by 40 percent year on year.

Ben Ashwell

Ben Ashwell

Ben Ashwell is the editor at IR Magazine and Corporate Secretary, covering investor relations, governance, risk and compliance. Prior to this, he was the founder and editor of Executive Talent, the global quarterly magazine from the Association of...