It is no secret that mobile browsing and applications for mobile devices are proving to be a hit for businesses and consumers alike.
This app-boom era has fostered healthy debate among industries, including investor relations, on the role this technology can play in strengthening relationships with current and prospective company stakeholders.
Why mobile matters
As with all elements of corporate management, there remains the need for a delicate balance in the way companies deliver content and communications. Digital information distribution should conform to brand and business strategy, deliver on the desires and requests of shareholders, and position the company as innovative, on trend and responsive to advancements in digital capabilities.
For companies with public holding, successful investor relations can be as important as the quality of products and services your company delivers. This is a bold claim, but is in direct response to the opportunities that exist to modernise IR and capitalise on the advances that have been made in readily accessible digital content – namely mobile and app-based browsing.
The emergence of mobile-specific options for IR outreach is a logical and rational response to consumer internet usage trends and the ways people browse the web and engage with media today. Not only are we seeing an increase of web traffic on mobile devices, but an estimated 85% of time spent on smartphones is using apps. This data offers a strong case for the argument that users are opting for the experiences offered by native apps, which are developed and optimised specifically for the device the consumer is using.
Mobile Apps: Changing technology and attitudes
Momentum for IR apps has grown within the industry in recent years, with influencers promoting ease of use, friendly interface and push notification functionality as just some of the drawcards. There is growing realisation this technology is available and ready for the taking, with most mobile device users already accustomed to the personalised features and functions smartphones and tablets provide, such as alerts, reminders and updates. Similarly, if an investor downloaded a company’s IR application, they would be digitally plugged in to live push notifications, which would alert them to new information as soon as it arrives. Having such a direct and immediate line of communication between IRO’s and investors is an incredibly powerful and valuable resource.
Jeff Corbin is an IR professional with over 15 years of experience, and the founder of theIRapp. He has been one of the leading advocates for the use of IR apps for many years. Speaking to Adweek in 2013, Corbin said:
“Right now all companies need IR sections on their websites, but my professional view is that every company will soon be expected to have an IR app. It’s a whole new platform, not just an extension of the corporate website.”
We have seen some of the largest companies operating both in and outside of Australia follow the predictions made by Jeff Corbin, with the likes of NAB, ANZ and Allianz all offering native IR applications for smartphone and tablet devices.
NAB’s offering (pictured below) is used to deliver live share prices and stock data, investor presentations, announcements and other forms of multimedia which can be viewed both online and offline.
Mobile Websites: The new must have media
As an alternative to investing in the development and maintenance of functional and vibrant native apps, businesses can consider redesigning their websites for optimum performance on smartphones and tablets. IR Magazine reports that some 68% of investors use their mobile devices to access investor related content. Statistics like this show that formulating a plan to mobilise IR is not optional for companies, but rather a necessity.
It has also been reported that 75% of prospective investors lose interest in companies with poorly designed websites. Given the increasing likelihood the first web based contact will occur on a mobile device, it reinforces just how crucial a sophisticated, modern and intuitive mobile IR platform is to sustain company success, and investor satisfaction.
Designing a corporate and IR website with optimised settings for display on mobile devices will ensure accurate scaling, layout, style and functionality of the presented material. Beyond the performance improvements made possible through mobile based optimisation, it is also important for companies to think about the type of content they present to current and potential future stakeholders and investors.
Creating content for mobile
Embracing the use of video content on mobile websites and apps has been identified as a particularly effective strategy for corporates, with 59% of executives reporting they would rather watch a video than read a lengthy document. Video content offers the opportunity to simplify and modernise the layout of websites, which aids in developing a mobile-friendly platform serving to communicate the goals and objectives of the organisation, while remaining modern, engaging and timely.
A Nielsen Norman Group report found that individual investors felt confronted by slabs of indecipherable financial report data, and preferred simplified summaries which highlighted and clarified the most important details. Considering this information in the course of developing a mobile-ready IR strategy is key to a successful outcome.
All of this research depicts a clear strategy for IROs to focus on presenting a clean, modern, interactive and mobile friendly website, which provides the key data of interest to buy-side individuals, while also offering the potential to delve deeper. Interactive reports are one of the most effective strategies for streamlining data from complex reports to create user friendly digital presentations. These reports are ideal for viewing on mobile based platforms, and can be hosted on and combined with mobile optimised websites or apps.
Perfecting the platform
When considering the use of native apps or a mobile optimised website, it is important for companies to pursue the option best suited to their individual practices, and the needs and digital behaviours of their shareholders. While large financial institutions like NAB have pursued the development of a native application in shaping their mobile IR strategy, this may not be a necessary or even appropriate step for a smaller, publically listed organisation. For these organisations, attention might instead be given to the optimisation of their IR webpages to ensure efficient and engaging mobile performance.
For those companies feeling overwhelmed by digital technology demands, it is important to remember the continued rise of mobile browsing and increasing number of smartphone and tablet devices presents an opportunity, and not a burden. It opens new pathways to connect with stakeholders which are far richer and conducive to a more robust IR approach than what was previously possible.
With the 2017 Proxy Season Preview of US publicly listed companies showing more than 50% of investors opted to receive proxy materials electronically, it is clear the digital age has altered IR forever. This transformation is only set to grow as we move beyond desktop based communications and focus increasingly on mobile based alternatives.