IR websites: Traffic surges, device optimization and the Covid-19 impact

Nov 05, 2020
Why the IR website matters more now than ever before

With Covid-19 meaning IROs can’t see investors, analysts and other stakeholders face to face, the IR website has become – more than ever before – not just the first point of call but also often the second and third.

As AGMs and roadshows have gone virtual and webinars and Zoom meetings have become the new social clubs, traffic to the IR site has increased. So it’s more important than ever to make sure your site is doing all it can to work for you.

‘Our website has always been an important resource for connecting with investors,’ Scott Spirit, chief growth officer at S4 Capital, tells IR Magazine, adding that this is true ‘even more so now that in-person meetings are off the agenda in most cases. We think the website and other digital methods of communication will only increase in importance and utility.’

The digital advertising and marketing services company, founded by Sir Martin Sorrell in May 2018, had been planning a physical capital markets day in Amsterdam for April this year, explains Spirit. But of course that had to be put on hold. ‘Instead we held a virtual one in early September,’ he says. ‘This was very well attended with more than 200 analysts and investors registering and tuning in live to the sessions, which were spread across three afternoons UK time. We have since had more than 1,000 streams of the content from our website.’

Scott Payton, managing partner at London-based online communications consultancy Bowen Craggs, says IR websites are seeing a Covid-19 boost as a result of all the virtual events that have been held this year. ‘We have evidence that a number of companies have seen sharp increases in their IR section traffic as a result of their AGMs being moved completely online,’ he tells IR Magazine.

So where should you be focusing your resources if you want to make sure analysts and investors have access to the best possible IR site you can offer? Some elements of the IR website are easy to offer and really quite fundamental, though – surprisingly – not always included. Named contact information is a basic but often overlooked element, for example.

Make sure your quarterly results are clearly archived and easy to find – and easy to download in a format that is useful for investors and analysts – and consider including ESG information in the IR section rather than tucking it away elsewhere. Many of the companies winning IR Magazine Awards for best IR website this year focused on a clean and clear page setting out the investment case for the company, as well as being ‘mobile-friendly’.

Device matters

If you’re planning to make some upgrades or changes to the site, it can also help to know how your site is being accessed, Michael Hufton, managing director at corporate access firm ingage, tells IR Magazine. The company has been asking corporate clients what devices they use for the past five years, with more than 300 responses.

The data shows that among corporates, at least (investor data shows similar trends but the sample size is smaller), iPhones are the most-used mobile device: more than 90 percent of respondents have one, up from 70 percent five years ago. Very few use an Android mobile – the numbers have hovered around 15 percent over the past five years – and no one uses an Android tablet.

The popularity of the iPhone doesn’t necessarily apply to iPads, however. ‘When we started with all of this back in 2013, iPads were suddenly the device of choice and all the rage,’ says Hufton. ‘But their use has plateaued.’ His data shows that iPad use has grown just 3 percentage points over five years to 43 percent.

Where there is a notable shift, however, is in the numbers using the Microsoft Surface, which has gone from just 3 percent to 16 percent. ‘I believe what we’re seeing is that people are moving back to laptops, but they’re doing it via mobile devices like the Surface,’ explains Hufton. ‘And that’s more important than you might think because suddenly it’s less about apps and more about your web functionality. It means more is online, rather than offline.’

It’s also a trend he expects to see grow. The shift to almost fully virtual as a result of Covid-19 – and the resultant rise in the use of video meetings – is going to have an impact on the choices made around operating systems, screen size preferences and more. The fact that Microsoft Teams is integrated within Outlook makes it an increasingly easy choice and likely to give the Surface a further boost, Hufton notes.

An ‘all devices first’ approach

While the number of visits by investors and analysts using a mobile phone continues to rise, Payton says companies would be making a mistake to take a ‘mobile first’ approach to IR site design. ‘This can lead to a second-class service for visitors who use a desktop computer – and they still make up a substantial proportion of IR site visits,’ he says.

There is also a difference in the way information is consumed across different devices. So while mobile site visits might be rising, does that actually translate into more time spent on the website? Payton says not.

‘Our research shows that, overall, visits to company websites via mobile phones tend to be shorter than visits via desktop computers,’ he explains. ‘So your IR site needs to cater both for visitors who want quick access to summary information – while they’re using their mobile when on the move, for example – and for visitors conducting deeper desk research, and are therefore looking for more granular detail.

‘These considerations should affect design decisions around IR site navigation and page layout – as well as decisions about depth and breadth of IR content.’

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