What are your challenges with… serving customers on corporate sites?

The final session of our annual conference in Lisbon three weeks ago was called ‘Talking tables’. These were breakout sessions in which delegates discussed some of their most pressing challenges as digital corporate communicators, facilitated by a Bowen Craggs consultant. Here, Jason Sumner, who facilitated the ‘challenges with serving customers on corporate sites’ table, reports on the issues shared and solutions identified.

Getting your colleagues to believe

Customers are not ‘supposed’ to visit corporate sites, yet they do, often in great numbers. According to anonymised data from the Bowen Craggs library of 400,000 corporate website visitor surveys, customers are the second-biggest visitor group – behind jobseekers – accounting for nearly a quarter of all visitors. When we run surveys of corporate digital communicators asking them to tell us their biggest challenges, ‘customers on corporate sites’ is consistently at the top or near the top of the list.

Your colleagues outside digital comms may still have trouble believing it though; partly because they need and want customers to be somewhere else – on the brand or retail site, or country site, or anywhere else actual sales happen; and definitely not on what is thought of primarily as a ‘communication’ platform.

Although some delegates at our table have moved beyond this stage, getting colleagues to acknowledge customers visit the corporate site is still an issue for others. One delegate put it this way: ‘we are still at the stage of convincing internally that customers are a group to be served on the corporate site‘. Of course, ‘serve’ can have many different meanings – all the way from actually closing a sale, to quickly routing a customer elsewhere, or showing them an interesting story about your company; but that is where the complexity comes in, and the need to tailor an approach that works for your company’s unique situation.

Complex challenges without simple solutions

Other challenges the table identified were wide-ranging, including recognising that customers come but there is nothing tangible on the site to ‘sell’; having different combinations of product and services available across countries, making it hard to explain on the global site; dealing with multiple sites, even at country level; lack of processes to pass on contacts and a poor working relationship with sales and marketing; multiple social media channels in different languages; lack of tie-in with back-end CRM systems, etc.

After a useful discussion, the table managed to reduce a long list of issues to five main challenges (apart from convincing colleagues that corporate websites should be addressing customers):

  • How to talk to customers when not selling something tangible
  • Dealing with the disparity of products and services across geographies
  • Understanding who our customers actually are
  • Managing the disconnect between the web and social media channels
  • Difficulties in organizing cross-functional teams

And six suggestions for improvement:

  • Serving customers more via social media channels
  • Conducting surveys to capture more data
  • Identifying customers and personalising content for them
  • Having better relationships between comms and marketing
  • Having more clarity and direction on user journeys
  • Acquiring more resources and skills for serving customers within web teams

Each approach opens up a Pandora’s Box of new challenges

The approaches identified above would certainly resonate the clients we consult with; but each one opens up another Pandora’s Box of challenges. For example, serving customers more on social media could be a good idea, but it raises new questions about content and governance: for example, which social channels are for customers, who owns them (and if multiple owners how can these teams best work together), and what do you want customers to do when they read a post?

Personalisation, as noted in bullet three above, is growing in interest again. We are sceptical about purely technical solutions, when good navigation and structure can go a long way to routing customers accurately (but that is a subject for another article).

Surveys, customer journeys (and best practice) are crucial

Surveys and user journeys are crucial, from our point of view. Surveys give you important data to help discover who your customer visitors are and what they want; but also to prove to others in the organization that customers are coming and something must be done with them. We find that in running surveys for clients, it is important to ask questions that have the right level of detail, so ‘customers’ groups can be further segmented into sub-groups. It is also important to measure whether customer goals are being fulfilled and whether their impression of the company is positive or negative. Movement in the ‘net promoter score’ – the difference between those with a positive versus negative impression of the company – can be powerful evidence to convince colleagues.

Along with surveys, mapping authentic customer journeys (which can be built from survey answers to develop detailed and accurate personas) is a way for our clients to cut through complexity to find big-picture problems as well as quick fixes. These should include all possible starting points for your customers, the corporate site, country sites and Google.

The big-picture insights can often be surprising. One client we worked with had the stated aim of doing next to nothing for customers on the main global site (fair enough) because all selling happens at country level. However, only a few minutes of testing revealed that there were big problems with signposting on the global site, and it was failing even in its one job – to get customers to country sites as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Conducting detailed journeys can also help you venture into areas rarely visited to make quick fixes – finding multiple 404 errors in links product finders; uncovering a useful but largely hidden Ukrainian history section; or discovering product literature five years out of date on the France site (all real-world examples we have come across).

Adding research on best practice in the industry and wider online world can inspire improvements, and also help convince colleagues if the service on your site falls short.

Two other solutions our table raised have to do with internal politics – having better relationships with marketing, and acquiring more resources. These are certainly not quick wins, but arming yourself with data from surveys, and evidence from customer journeys and wider best practice will put the digital comms team in a stronger, more useful – and respected – position within the organization.

- Jason Sumner

Register for the ‘Best of WEC 2018’ web meeting on September 26th, 2018

Were you unable to join us at our Web Effectiveness Conference in Lisbon last week? Did you attend and are keen to share the learnings with your team after the event? Join our web meeting and relive the Best of WEC 2018.

To register, visit our events page (and scroll down to September events)

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.  

BC Tip: Samsung Electronics - Board committee transparency

Samsung Electronics hides its corporate governance pages away, but they contain some unusual, but welcome, transparency on board committee activities


The Feature

Samsung’s global Investor Relations site, available in English and Korean, has a Governance & CSR section, which contains pages on the company’s six board committees.

Each ‘Committee’ page lists its members, with links to individual biographies; and outlines the committee’s responsibilities and duties.

Unusually, each of these pages – see the Audit Committee page, for example –  has a sub-section called ‘Activities’, which has committee meeting dates, agenda items (along with an indication as to whether each item was approved or not) and the number of committee members present. The information is presented in tables and click-to-expand menus by year, back to 2012.

The Takeaway

Recording committee meeting dates, agenda items and attendance back to 2012 sends a strong message about Samsung’s approach to governance and transparency, and is a level of detail we have rarely seen in corporate governance sections.

The company could go further: agenda points could be explained in more detail (for example, linked to board documentation), and the exact voting results for each motion could be recorded rather than just saying whether they were approved or not. And attendance figures do not reveal exactly which members were present.

The biggest problem for these pages is that they are so hard to find: there is a lot of clicking and scrolling required to find them, especially if users start on their local Samsung sites.

However, despite not being as well signposted or executed as they could be, including board committee ‘activities’ on corporate sites is an idea worth emulating if the aim is to improve the organization’s reputation for transparency.

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.  

BC Tip: Vinci – Social press contacts

The provision of links to press officers’ Twitter accounts and LinkedIn profiles on a Media contacts page conveys an impression of openness and is likely to be appreciated by journalists.

 Vinci's Media contacts page

Vinci's Media contacts page

The Feature

French construction group Vinci has a ‘Media contacts’ page within the Media section of its corporate website. The name, job title and photograph of four press and communications officers is provided, along with direct telephone number for each, plus links to their email address, Twitter account and LinkedIn profile. 

This Media contacts page also includes the contact details of two investor relations officers. Direct telephone, email and LinkedIn profile links are provided for each of these IR contacts – but there are no links to their presences on Twitter.

The Takeaway

The provision of links to press officers’ Twitter accounts and LinkedIn profiles is relatively unusual on a corporate site’s Media contacts page – but it makes sense for both the company and the journalists who cover it. 

Providing such details (alongside direct telephone and email contact details, which is also good practice), conveys a positive message of openness and transparency. It is also likely to be appreciated by journalists – many of whom are prolific users of Twitter in particular.


Corporate website usability: more vices…and some virtues

As we did last year at our annual conference, we conducted some user testing in partnership with the Bunnyfoot user experience (UX) consultancy at our recent event in Lisbon. Here, Andrew Rigby reports back – once again some familiar themes emerged, along with some new insights into corporate web usability.

We tested 14 different websites over the course of two days, with conference delegates asked to carry out a relevant two-stage task (or tasks) on each site. Jon Dodd, CEO of Bunnyfoot, oversaw the sessions with assistance from me.

Eye-tracking added to the insight that the tests provided. Of course, with such a small test sample, and the familiarity of our users with corporate sites in general – although not the sites they were testing – any conclusions drawn can only be indicative of possible results from more comprehensive user testing.

But we think that, as we explained last year, the tests did show the value that can be gained from real usability testing on corporate sites – something that a couple of presentations at the conference also touched on.

Search to the rescue – or not

Once again we saw users either resorting to internal search to find pages, or simply using it instead of attempting navigation. Yet few internal search engines were truly helpful, and some were very poor.

It was suggested that, in at least one case, this was because the corporate site search engine was being shared with customer-facing sites, and set up to rank results on keyword density rather than relevance. This resulted in older, less useful results being surfaced - such as old quarterly results announcements, rather than the latest ones.

It should be possible to adjust search engine behaviour across corporate and customer-facing sites, to ensure corporate sites return relevant, recent material for their audiences.. If this is not possible, consider circumventing the search engine with promoted results for popular searches, and in any case use keyword/phrase completion tools to help users.

Navigation sometimes needs help

Although our small 2018 sample showed generally improved navigation and orientation from last year, there were still some sites on which users became lost because helpful location cues such as breadcrumb trails, or a menu highlighting indicating the current section (or indeed menus themselves), were missing or obscured.

Another persistent trait we saw was the eagerness of users to identify themselves as a certain audience, and look for a similarly-named section, such as Customers or Patients. If your site does not have sections for each potential audience, pay attention to where they might end up or what they may be looking for – and provide effective cross-linking to their desired destinations.

For example, a pharmaceutical company had some information on a new drug in its Pipeline area, and not under Patients, as it is not yet licenced or in production. All very logical, except a user looking for that drug might not know its status and so simply head to the Patients area. In this case, cross-linking from the Patients section is essential.

Avoid ads, signifiers and page furniture

We also noted that users could easily ignore design features which companies were relying on as links. For example, on several occasions visitors missed hotspots or panels with text over an image. Jon Dodd says is this is common and results from our increasing tendency to ignore anything that looks like an advert.

There were several examples of carousels or images filling an entire browser window, and fooling users into missing the information they wanted further down the page. While some companies tried to avoid this by adding downward arrows or ‘Scroll down’, the need for such signifiers indicates the design is not working well enough. The design itself should communicate that more valuable material is available down below.

Components which looked like parts of the page furniture could equally be overlooked, so be wary of enclosing important links or calls to action in full-width bars or areas that could be mistaken for the top or bottom of the browser.

Lack of information ‘scent’

Users missed some clear onward links because the information ‘scent’ was weak. For example, brand carousels that did not explain why users should be interested in the range of brands, or the information users would receive on brand pages; or adverts for annual reports which did not pull out an interesting key headline or message. 

Surface some of the valuable content from below to inform and entice users to follow – avoid just another bland title with a corporate stock picture.

The state of tabs and filters

Tabs and filter mechanisms need clear labelling and ‘selected state’ indicators. In a few instances users were confused by the presence of just two tabs, where it was not clear which of the tabs had been selected. Another hindrance to usability was hiding information in open and close mechanisms, without an ‘Open all’ feature, which is common on FAQ pages.

Cross-country routes

In keeping with the theme of the conference, communicating effectively across cultures, we tested routes between country and global sites – and they were often found wanting. Country site selectors, like any call to action, need a visual cue, such as an icon or arrow, to attract users’ attention, and they need to be consistent across the estate. Also avoid the common error of using flags to denote language and risk offending for example French speaking Belgians - some of the sites we saw got this right but others did not.

Register for the ‘Best of WEC 2018’ web meeting on September 26th, 2018

Were you unable to join us at our Web Effectiveness Conference in Lisbon last week? Did you attend and are keen to share the learnings with your team after the event? Join our web meeting and relive the Best of WEC 2018.

To register, visit our events page (and scroll down to September events)

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, including the visitor profiles* Bowen Craggs uses when evaluating websites and social channels for our Index of Online Excellence, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

*Eligible recipients only – usually senior digital communications professionals working for large corporate or public sector/non-governmental organizations.

Omni-channels, tag-mania and organizing closets: Quick takeaways from our annual conference

Digital managers from across the world gathered in Lisbon last week for Bowen Craggs’ annual Web Effectiveness Conference. Jason Sumner shares a few quick lessons from the event.

1. When working across cultures, learn when to adapt and when to ‘add value’

Our keynote speaker, Karen Cvitkovich, kicked off proceedings with a lively presentation about how business team members in different cultures approach communication, feedback, trust and persuasion. People from particular countries tend to operate along a similar spectrum of behaviour, she explained. For example, those in some cultures are more likely to want to ‘get down to business’ quickly with new colleagues, while people in other cultures prefer to build a relationship first.

Understanding and adapting to such differences is crucial if multicultural teams are to flourish rather than flounder, Karen said.

Compromising is sometimes difficult yet almost always necessary when managing cross-border teams, she added. One delegate asked how managers can avoid losing their own ‘selves’ in the process of accommodating others’ cultural styles. The best managers learn when it is best to adapt to local customs and when to ‘add value’ by sticking with their own cultural preferences for the good of the project – regarding the delivery of negative feedback, for example – Karen replied. But even in these cases, cultural awareness is necessary to know how best to deliver the message, she added.

2. Why your content management system is like a closet

When communicating with other parts of the business, Lynne Freeman of Verizon uses the ‘closet’ as a metaphor for her company’s content management system (CMS) – because it helps non-technical people to understand what a CMS is and why it’s important to ensure that it is well organized. To extend the closet metaphor, the shelves are like the navigation and the clothes are like the content, Lynne said. A lot of her current work boils down to ‘keeping the closet clean’. As she often tells her colleagues, ‘if you have a messy closet, you can’t find anything.’

3. Assign tags from the centre to avoid ‘tag-mania’

Another lesson from Lynne at Verizon: don’t let authors choose tags for articles themselves or else you will end up with what she calls ‘tag-mania’. For example, before Lynne got tags under control, Verizon’s CMS contained 11 different tags for ‘Fios’ (a television service) – ‘Fios TV’, ‘Fios Television’, ‘Fios Internet’ and so on. Keeping tags orderly saves a lot of work later on, Lynne said.

4. Amazon’s customer obsession

Amazon is one of the most complex businesses in the world, but it has succeeded by making the complicated simple. The same is true of the way Ashley Brown manages Amazon’s engaging blog, ‘Day One’. All stories, he says, must reflect the company’s wider ‘customer obsession’ and have some connection to the company’s seven reputational ‘pillars’. Just as importantly, they must be genuinely appealing to their target audiences.

5. People do not stay in their lanes

BP is moving to an ‘omni-channel’ approach to online and offline communications, and implementing a strategy that considers what content is trying to achieve – audience, message, etc – before determining which channel to publish it on. Campaigns are first planned around what people want to see, read or do. Only then are materials created; whether a press release, speech or online magazine. The reason, says BP’s Ben Jeffries, is because ‘people do not stay in their lanes’; they move seamlessly from offline (a billboard, for example) to the website, social media, television and so on.

6. Using measurement ahead of time

Novo Nordisk’s digital team is among the most thoughtful in the world comes to measuring the impact of its digital communications. As Benedikte Larsen explained, the company has designed a number of bespoke measurement frameworks for the website and social channels, which have been polished from the digital team’s own experience and by adapting best practice from others.

Novo Nordisk uses its measurement frameworks to help editors plan future campaign content, rather than simply to gauge the success of material has already been published – something that many web teams are striving for but few have so far achieved.

Register for the ‘Best of WEC 2018’ web meeting on September 26th, 2018
Were you unable to join us at our Web Effectiveness Conference in Lisbon last week? Did you attend and are keen to share the learnings with your team after the event? Join our web meeting and relive the Best of WEC 2018. 

To register for Best of WEC 2018, visit our events page (and scroll down to September events)

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.  

BC Tip: RBC lays tracks around a PDF

Royal Bank of Canada has installed a simple but effective navigation system in its corporate citizenship report

Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 11.28.10.png

The Feature

Royal Bank of Canada's corporate citizenship report is a 79-page PDF document reached from the 'Community and Sustainability' section of rbc.com. 

The report has a left menu on most pages, allowing users to click straight to another area. Most of these sections also have sub-sections, which appear in another menu immediately to the right of the main one. 

The report does not have clickable links – for example on the contents page – and like other PDFs is hard to read or use on a mobile phone screen.

The Takeaway

RBC's relative sophistication in the PDF will come as a welcome surprise to those who have arrived from the main site, much of which is a throwback to the old times (the 'Community and Sustainability' section is not even responsive). However being old-fashioned sometimes works well – especially if it means applying tried and trusted left menus to notoriously hard-to-navigate PDFs. 

The lack of clickable links makes little sense in a document whose URL declares it to be an 'e-pdf', and there is not much that can be done (for now) about the lack of usability on a small screen. Nevertheless, as a simple idea designed to tackle a common problem, the PDF menu is refreshing. 


For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.



Why sites and social should take up the tango

Richard Branson is showing how Twitter feeds and websites can do each other a lot of good, David Bowen says

Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 16.19.29.png

I’ve just been listening to a whale imitating a woman saying ‘hello’. It is quite extraordinary, and can be found here, embedded in article by Sir Richard Branson on the Virgin.com website.

What is interesting – apart from the whale itself – is that I got here by clicking a link on Branson’s Twitter feed. So what, you may say, that’s what Twitter is for? Indeed, I reply, but two years ago we said that Mr Branson’s Twitter feed managed to ‘outbland Mr Cook’, with posts such as ‘Talk less – smile more’. Something has changed.

There is still only a handful of CEOs who tweet, and most follow Tim Cook’s masterclass in blandness. These still read like a string of vaguely liberal clichés. To pick a typical scattering from the last couple of months: ‘Nothing inspires us more than fresh ideas’, ‘Happy #MothersDay to all the moms at Apple and around the world’, ‘We’re committed to supporting powerful innovation that helps protect the planet’, ‘Democracies depend on a free and diverse press’. Why have 11m people bothered to click ‘follow’? Perhaps it’s a vague form of political solidarity: I’m pretty sure it’s not because they are blown away by the messages.

The difference between Branson’s and Cook’s tweets (and indeed between Branson’s tweets now and two years ago) does not however lie in the text of the posts, but in the links that accompany it. Sir Richard’s tweets have their share of blandness: ‘Success never happens overnight, keep repeating your steps and walking in the right direction’. But while Cook’s posts are full of hashtags – which simply lead to other Twitter streams – nearly every Branson one goes to Virgin.com.

We know from our analysis that social media is a poor driver of traffic to corporate websites. The percentage of visitors coming from social channels tends to be tiny. But I would be surprised if that were true for Virgin.com. Branson has 12.6m followers, and nearly all his tweets point to the site. They must surely be a major source of visitors.

Of course the other key element is to have stuff on the site that is worth visiting. If Branson’s tweets went to nothing but promotion for his many companies, people would swiftly get fed up. With the exception of Virgin Galactic, which is a heaven for those of us who like boys’ toys and loud noises, the companies are pretty dull. Users of Virgin Trains may feel that ‘dull’ isn’t a strong enough word.

But Branson (or whoever writes his tweets) now points mainly to stories that are fun or intriguing, while Virgin.com is doing its bit by hosting as many such stories as it can. Some are written (or not) by Sir Richard, some by his children, but relatively few are corporate or marketing stories. Although Virgin.com was around (and looked similar) two years ago, it had a much more promotional – and duller - feel.

All this confirms our belief that social media and websites are most effective when they work together. Which is why it is encouraging that, as the governance project we are now working on shows, most of the most sophisticated corporate communicators now run them from the same team. We will be watching closely to see if traffic between them picks up as a result.  

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

BC Tip: FIFA – flagging country information

Elegant use of colour coding, photographs and flags makes it easy for visitors to find material about national football teams.

Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 12.35.33.png

The Feature

Football’s global governing body, FIFA, has a large portion of its website dedicated to the 2018 World Cup, which begins later this month.

The section has a Teams link, which leads to a large grid of shield-shaped icons, each linking to information about a particular national football team taking part in the Russia-hosted tournament.

Each shield contains the relevant country flag, with the country name below it. The country name is shown on a background that picks up a colour in the flag and/or a colour of the team’s kit. 

The top of each shield icon is taken up by a photograph of the national squad in action. 

The Takeaway

FIFA’s use of flags, photographs and colour-coding on its World Cup Teams page offers inspiration for any corporate web manager looking for elegant, effective ways of signposting country sites or other country-specific material.

The use of colours that pick up on elements of the relevant country flag or football kit is a simple idea but its consistent deployment on the page makes it quicker and easier for users to find what they are looking for – as well as making the page more visually engaging.

Most importantly, the inclusion of country flags and squad photos in the shields ensures that users looking for their home team have visual cues that are instantly recognizable. 


For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

BC Tip: Asda takes the guesswork out of passwords

Jobseekers and others who are frustrated by obscure password requirements can be helped if companies follow the example of supermarket chain Asda

Screen Shot 2018-05-28 at 18.38.35.png

The feature

UK supermarket Asda has an online shopping tool, which users must register to use.

After a postcode check to ensure that home delivery is an option in their area, customers are presented with a ‘Create an account’ overlay which presents a simple form requesting an email and password along with a very few additional details.

A prominent yellow panel above the password fields clearly outlines the password requirements for the site, including the number and type of characters it should include (eight characters minimum, at least three of: uppercase character, lowercase character, a symbol, a number). Another option allows visitors to see passwords as they write them.

The takeaway

We regularly come across registration forms – on job application tools, for instance – which invite users to suggest a password and only tell them after they have submitted the form that their choice does not meet the parameters. In too many cases this frustration is compounded as the site returns the form stripped of all previously entered data (which can be substantial on some job tools) or offers no information about why the password has been rejected.

By providing very clear guidance about password parameters before users submit their form Asda is avoiding a potentially frustrating feedback loop, which not only improves the customer experience but also reduces the likelihood of abandoned registrations. Simple, but no less useful for that.


For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.


Content strategy for the corporate web – answering three big challenges

The Bowen Craggs Club recently had a wide-ranging conversation about our members’ biggest challenges when it comes to content and channel strategies. While the proceedings are confidential, Jason Sumner shares three of the common problems that came up, as well as some of our advice, present and past.

Challenge one: Internal politics

The corporate website is too often a battleground of internal politics. Senior managers may demand that their material is given undue prominence, while others fear the risks involved in publishing compelling material.

The answer to this one is for the digital team to have influence and decision-making power – easier said than done, of course. However, some do achieve this. The most successful digital teams among our clients are those whose senior executives trust them to make the right choices on the web and give them the freedom to decide.

You and your digital team may be in that fortunate position, or more likely, you are not (or somewhere in between), having to go through rounds of approval, watering down a once-compelling story or being hopelessly late in fostering an online response to a fast-moving communications crisis.

There are ways to build influence and trust, and they come down to ‘proving one’s worth’ or in a word, ‘measurement’. The metrics and evidence that persuade bosses will be different for each organization but there are similar themes across the companies we work with. The evidence being compiled must refer back to the organization’s goals (or perhaps just the goals of the executive you are trying to convince – hopefully they intersect).

Many executives, being focused on the bottom line, love numbers, and especially ones that say the website is important to customers. Meaningful visitor data and analytics are often the key, showing where customers go on the site and their opinion of the brand and company after their visit – number of leads generated, for example.

Numbers are not everything, and well-chosen anecdotal evidence about a few big sales that started as leads from the website can be just as powerful. So in addition to all the other skills, the digital manager needs, as they say at my daughter’s nursery, ‘listening ears’ for these kinds of compelling internal stories.

For more, see ‘The right personality to run a global web estate’ on our website.

Challenge two: Sourcing good stories

See the ‘listening ears’ point above – it is sometimes about being in the right place in the right time to overhear an employee’s weekend feats that could turn into a good story for the website.

Processes and structures for sourcing good stories are important, such as brainstorming forums and well-publicised ways for employees to send tips. The digital team at SABMiller, before it was swallowed up by AB InBev, used to have an editorial board with dotted lines across the organization.

At our Web Effectiveness Conference last year, Tim Clark of SAP explained how he finds and nurtures gifted writers inside his organization for the production of articles on the company’s presence on Forbes.com, as well as on the company’s own online channels. Tim also urged delegates to focus on publishing articles that are genuinely interesting – even if their relevance to company activities are tangential – rather than falling back on marketing puff pieces, which never fail to fail on Forbes.com.

Also at the conference, Scott Roane of Aegon said he takes an informal, personal approach, contacting potential authors directly, offering encouragement and constructive feedback. With a streamlined approval process, he can sometimes get stories on the web in a matter of hours, which also helps to motivate contributors.

For more on stories, see ‘The joy of words’ on our website.

Challenge three: Balancing global and local content

The concept of the ‘corporate centre’ is common in most large organizations, but there is no common approach, or even definition of ‘local’. Some organizations have autonomous country managers, others are highly centralised; some markets take a higher priority; in others, they are equal. This diversity is reflected in the needs for local-presence websites, so there is no single model for success.

However, the most effective organizations find the right mix for them between incentivising regional editors with training and support and saying ‘no’ to new microsites or inappropriate material.

Our ideal is the ‘loose-tight’ model: light central governance and support, with engaged senior managers and well-trained web managers. Again, how this ‘ideal’ plays out will be different for each company.

The way forward we advise is to identify some companies who are doing it well, see which governance model best fits your company, and adapt accordingly.

For more, see ‘The tribulations of worldwide websites’ on our website.

For more information about the Bowen Craggs Club, our community for leaders in digital corporate communications at the world’s biggest organizations, please visit our website or contact Lisa Hayward: lhayward@bowencraggs.com

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

BC Tip: The British Royal Family - Making a royal mess of navigation

The marriage of Meghan Markle to Prince Harry received a lot of news coverage globally, but the Royal Family’s website is not without a hitch when it comes to navigation

 The Royal Family's website

The Royal Family's website

The Feature

The British Royal Family’s website has a splash page, with an image of the newly-wed couple.

Clicking on ‘Explore’ or scrolling down reveals the ‘usual’ home page, which employs tiles, with and without photos, to guide users to content within the site.

The main site navigation is hidden behind a hamburger icon and the label ‘Menu’ at the top right of the page, but there is a brief left hand menu, indicating the user has landed on a page ‘About the Duchess of Sussex’. The only other option in this navigation is ‘Biography’, and there is no breadcrumb trail.

Clicking on the Royal Coat of Arms at the top left of the site header, which appears without a site title, takes the user back to the home page – with the splash image displayed again.

The Takeaway

The site as a whole looks appealing, and the use of big, bold images featuring smiling, candid shots of the Royal Family adds a warmth and authenticity to the site. The incorporation of Instagram images on the home page and in other areas also sends a positive message of modernity and inclusivity.

But the overall impression is let down by deficiencies in the navigation.

The fact the home page defaults to the splash image each time the user returns to it is likely to frustrate some, and the lack of any site title or navigation on it could confuse those who arrive here from links or search engines. While devices like splash pages can be used to add impact, especially around important events, the fundamentals of user experience should not be forgotten.

Those users who navigate within the site, or who find themselves sent there from search engines, are given no help with orienting themselves; even clicking on the Menu label and icon does not reveal where in the site they are, and there is no website title to help – just the Royal Coat of Arms.

For example, a Google search for ‘Duchess of Sussex’ returns a page from the site as the first result, so the lack of orienting devices including the absence of a website title will be a major problem for them.

Site managers should remember that it is not enough to ensure good search engine performance: the experience of the user once on the site, especially those who may arrive deep within it, must be taken into account too. And that means providing easy ways of understanding where they are, and how to navigate around the site, in addition to visually appealing and easy to read pages.

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

BC tip: AXA – Fiction in the spotlight

A French insurance group uses well-written, speculative scenarios to help visitors understand its business.

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The Feature

‘Inside the Emerging Risks Room’ is a section in AXA’s online magazine, ‘Spotlight’, which uses fictional scenarios describing how risks could play out in the future, such as a disease pandemic or a major attack on the internet of things.

The imaginary scenarios are supported by non-fiction material, including facts the scenarios are based on and expert discussion presented as a series of text messages between the participants.

The Takeaway

AXA’s use of fiction on a corporate website is unusual, and perhaps unique, but it is an effective and creative way of making one aspect of AXA’s business more understandable.

Fiction works in this case because the scenario format aligns closely with the business of insurance risk planning. There is also plenty of non-fiction in the section to provide valuable information and context (no one can accuse AXA of ‘fake news’). They are also well written and designed, with eye-catching illustrations.

Corporate sites normally, and appropriately, do not cross the factual barrier with their content. However, this unorthodox approach, when done well and applied in a limited way, could help bring conventional ‘corporate’ stories and topics to life for visitors in a way that facts alone could not.


For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

BC tip: Apple – subtle animation guides the eye

Key points and onward links are made more prominent and easier to find through elegant use of moving graphics.

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The Feature

A Climate Change page on Apple’s corporate website employs large headlines, striking images, charts and graphics to explain the technology giant’s efforts to reduce its impact on the environment. As the user scrolls down the page, a series of animated summary facts, figures and charts appear on the screen. Towards the bottom of the page, animated green icons also appear, denoting onward links to sustainability reports and FAQs. 

The Takeaway

Sophisticated animated graphics are fashionable on the web – particularly on media sites. But, as we pointed out in our recent tip about the BBC’s site, they can often hinder rather than help the reader to digest information. Apple’s subtle animation on its Climate Change page shows that when used sparingly, and executed elegantly, such elements can help to draw readers’ attention to key points and, perhaps most importantly, to calls to action. 


For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

BC tip: Asda - Merger, what merger?

The UK supermarket's reluctance to talk openly about a major deal is likely to frustrate website visitors

 Asda's corporate home page - no merger in sight

Asda's corporate home page - no merger in sight

The Feature

Asda and Sainsbury’s, two of the UK’s biggest supermarket companies, have announced plans to merge, attracting a great deal of coverage in the mainstream media and even debate in the UK Parliament.

The Asda corporate site has nothing on its home page about the deal, and even navigating to the Newsroom still reveals nothing (as of the afternoon on the day the announcement was made).

It is only when the user clicks ‘See All Press Releases’, and accesses the press releases listings page, that a news article is shown – with no image and the utilitarian title ‘Proposed combination of J Sainsbury plc and Asda Group Limited’.

The article is brief and advertises a ‘Digital Press Kit’ – which turns out to be some standard images of employees and stores available at the bottom of the article.

Asda’s parent company Wal-Mart did carry a home page story about the deal – but many people may not be aware that Asda is a subsidiary of the US company.

The Takeaway

Given the huge public and media interest in the deal, since it would create a retailer with massive power over suppliers and potentially affect both customers and employees, Asda’s online reticence about the merger is unhelpful for people visiting its corporate site. (This approach contrasts with another current high-profile merger in the US, where both T-Mobile and Sprint have material on their customer-facing sites, and have created a dedicated website about the deal.)

Granted, the terms of the tie-up suggest Sainsbury’s is the dominant player, so it is possible that Asda as a company is less enthused than Sainsbury’s clearly is: Sainsbury plc’s corporate site has plenty of material, including videos, prominently displayed on the home page, and even posted an article about pre-deal speculation over the weekend before the formal announcement.  Or perhaps Asda is expecting rival bids and so is anticipating further announcements and changes.

But that is all guesswork. What is not, is that there will be plenty of users coming to Asda’s corporate site wanting to find out what the company thinks and says about the deal. Making a limited amount of information hard to find is likely to frustrate them, whether they are journalists, customers, jobseekers or employees.

BC tip: MSD – a map to unexpected destinations

An interactive map provides quick access to local office contact information – but then frustratingly transports users away from it. 

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The Feature

MSD.com, the global corporate website for US pharmaceuticals company Merck, has a Worldwide Contact Information page. A global map occupies the entire visible part of the page before scrolling on a standard desktop or laptop monitor (see screenshot).

Each country on the map is coloured either grey or company-brand dark green. Hovering the cursor over a dark green country triggers a pop-up box containing the country name, plus addresses and telephone numbers for local MSD offices.

Clicking on a dark green country transports users to the home page of the relevant MSD country site if there is one. Grey countries on the map have no information or functionality associated with them.

Below the map is a table listing countries in alphabetical order, with office address, telephone numbers and (where available) country site links for each country. A horizontal set of A-Z anchor links allows users to quickly travel down the listing.

This listing is not visible to visitors without scrolling.

The Takeaway

MSD’s Worldwide Contacts Information page has a number of strengths:

  • It is prominently signposted via a self-explanatory ‘Worldwide’ link, accompanied by an intuitive globe icon, in the permanent site header.

  • The map is cleanly presented, with elegantly executed mouseover functionality.

  • The tabular listing of country office contact details below the map is comprehensive and makes intelligent use of anchor links to help users travel rapidly to the relevant country information.

However, two key weaknesses risk frustrating and disorientating visitors to this page:

  • The fact that clicking on a country on the map leads to a country site home page, rather than deeper country contact information – as the title of the page promises to deliver – is likely to be unexpected, unhelpful and confusing for many visitors. The pop-up boxes do contain a very small-font caption, eg ‘Click on country to visit MSD in Spain’, but this is easily overlooked by first-time visitors. Moreover, country site home pages we visited do not contain contact information.

  • The useful A-Z country contact directory below the map is very easily missed by visitors, because it is not visible without scrolling, and there is no clue above the scroll line about its existence.


For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

What do 400,000 surveys tell us about your corporate website?

Our archive of corporate website visitor surveys, which we’ve been conducting for clients since 2011, continues to grow – to more than 425,000 currently. We recently presented an update on what this body of research can tell us about how to serve your visitors more effectively. Here are the highlights.

For a full recording of the web meeting, please email Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com. 

Corporate website measurement is maturing

Digital managers want to measure engagement and journeys rather than simply tracking visits or downloads through analytics: they want meaningful information – did users achieve their tasks and if not, why? Using surveys and analytics together, as we do for some of our clients, can help answer these questions. We are able to see at a granular level, what particular audiences did on a site, or where visitors failed when trying to do something specific.

There is much room for improvement when it comes to ‘goal achievement’

Only just under half of survey respondents, 48 per cent, say they achieved their goals on corporate websites. Nearly a quarter of respondents say they definitely did not achieve their goals, and 28 per cent ‘partly’ achieved them.

Jobseekers and customers continue to outnumber other visitors, but only sometimes succeed

The largest audience on websites, according to our surveys, is jobseekers, and the biggest reason for visiting a corporate site, at 39%, is to search for a job.


The second biggest audience continues to be customers, at 25%: confirming what our analytics  suggest – that customers are indeed present on corporate sites, whether site managers want them to be or not.

Of those, almost half come for customer service or to find out about a specific product. Sites which fail to address those needs, or at least to direct customers to the appropriate place to serve them, risk alienating customers.

Our surveys suggest this is happening more than digital managers may like. Customers may be the second biggest audience on corporate sites, but they are least likely to achieve their goals of all corporate audiences, with a goal achievement rate of 41 per cent. Journalists and CSR analysts do not fare much better, with a 46 per cent success rate, while many web managers might worry that their largest audience, jobseekers, only succeed half of the time.

Jobseekers have the most positive perception of the brand, and customers the least

We measure how corporate website visitors’ perceptions of a company’s brand improves or declines after visiting the site. Jobseekers are the most likely audience to  have their brand perception improved after visiting, at 55%. In contrast, only 34% of customers have their perception of a company improved by a corporate website visit. Investors, on the other hand, tend to leave with their perception unchanged: a challenge to investor relations teams?

Failure to achieve goals is linked to a decline in brand perception

Overall, 44 per cent of survey respondents leave with a better perception of the company (in itself an opportunity for improvement), but only 24 per cent of those who fail to achieve their goal do so. Helping website visitors complete the tasks they came for could improve the company’s reputation.


To discuss our measurement services, including how we can help with visitor surveys and analytics, please contact Dan Drury ddrury@bowencraggs.com or see our website.

For more information on the Bowen Craggs Club, visit our website, or contact Lisa Hayward, lhayward@bowencraggs.com.

BC tip: LVMH – A virtual luxury?

A virtual reality annual report has flaws, but is worth watching

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The Feature

LVMH, the French luxury goods conglomerate, has created a 360-degree version of its annual report, which is being promoted on its corporate website.

Visitors begin the virtual journey outside the Paris headquarters of the Louis Vuitton Foundation, LVMH’s non-profit art museum and cultural centre. Inside, visitors are taken to different rooms in the museum, as well as four virtual, but realistic, luxury stores in the LVMH group.

There are clickable icons along the way to call up videos and ‘page-turner’ narratives about the group’s activities in 2017. At the end, key figures are displayed on a screen, before directing people to the exit.

The Takeaway

We tried the feature on desktop, mobile and using 3D goggles, and although the overall experience on all three types of screens was awkward in different ways, we spent longer than we thought we would looking around.

It is visually sumptuous, beautifully designed and probably more expensive than most corporate comms budgets will accommodate. But the message it sends – ‘we don’t mind spending money to show how innovative we are’ – fits in well with the rest of LVMH’s web presence and brand (the subject matter – luxury goods and Frank Gehry architecture also help).

As an annual report, it has little or no value for professional investors, but it is most likely not intended for them. The audience is broader – all corporate audiences, private investors, customers and the general public; part of turning the annual exercise of producing a financial report into more of a public relations event.

Although perhaps not directly relevant for most corporate websites yet, it is worth watching for potential applications of the future. For example, it manages to convey an awful lot about LVMH as a group, and as the technology improves and gets cheaper, we could see a similar feature fitting nicely in a future ‘about us’ or careers section.


For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.


A jobs quiz for millennials has lofty aims but poor execution

Vodafone’s new online tool for jobseekers, the ‘Future Jobs Finder’ is an interesting idea, but the way it is implemented may test jobseekers’ patience more than their skills, says Karen Le Marquand.

Vodafone launched its ‘Future jobs’ campaign in March, which is aimed at helping a ‘lost’ generation of millennials find a job in the digital sector.

As part of the initiative, the UK-based telecommunications giant has an online test on its corporate website called the ‘Future Jobs Finder’. The stated goal of the quiz, which was produced by experts in psychometric testing and occupational psychologists, is to identify skills and match candidates to appropriate careers.

The tool is interesting and engaging in some ways, and we could see how it might be adapted successfully by other corporate careers sections. However, we encountered a number of problems when we tested it.

This is no quick multiple choice tool. Test-takers are required to register (which may put many people off right from the start). It has 45 steps, including an ‘About me’ questionnaire and several analytical and mathematical challenges. These evaluate skills such as multi-tasking and deductive reasoning, set against the clock. Completing the test took us about 20 minutes, a generous time commitment; and the challenges were fast-paced and interesting, but stressful.

The question is, do jobseekers get something useful in return for their time and stress?

After we competed the four challenges, the ‘profile’ information was perfunctory and usually no more than a few words – eg, ‘key skills’ listed as ‘memory’. Nothing was listed under ‘personal strengths’ – potentially disillusioning to young jobseekers.

Jobseekers are matched up with a list of potential jobs or training courses, but strangely, a majority of the jobs listed are not actually with Vodafone. Following one of these ‘opportunity’ links takes users away from the Vodafone site, where they are required to use a further set of filters to find any useful results.

The need to register raises questions about data collection, in a time of increasing concern about the topic. How many young jobseekers be willing to share in-depth information that could potentially be linked to future job applications? Or will the more savvy among them simply shy away from revealing the truth, putting the reliability of the data in question?

The associated privacy statement is unclear about how data will be used with job applications, but apart from privacy concerns, what serious applicant would admit to ‘not being able to maintain high levels of concentration’ during a test (one of the answer options), should they one day wish to work for Vodafone?

For such an extensive tool requiring a high level of commitment in time and effort, a lack of substantive profile feedback will be a surprise and, coupled with the need to register and share personal data, could raise further questions about the real value – and purpose – of the exercise.

BC Tip: Back to the future in search

Daimler's media site offers Boolean operators to improve search results

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The feature

Daimler's corporate site has a separate Global Media Site, reached from the Press link in the primary menu. This has a large database of assets that include press releases, pictures, videos and press kits. A 'detailed search' option allows these filters to be selected. The search field (on the English site) also has this in it: 'Conjunction (AND): Term 1 Term 2. Disjunction (OR): Term 1 OR Term 2. Negation (NOT): -Term'. This suggests that Boolean operators will work  - use 'and', 'or', or 'not' to refine the search. A further filter box on the results page allows a date range to chosen, or another term added.

A test search for 'zetsche and truck and hybrid and speech' brings up nine documents, one of which was a speech by the chairman Dr Zetscher that looked at the future of electric cars and trucks. 'Formula 1 and china' shows 74 documents and 88 pictures, most of which are of the Chinese grand prix. However 'China not Formula 1' interprets 'not' as 'notiert':  German for 'notes'. It is necessary to write 'China - Formula 1' to find results that exclude motor racing.

The takeaway

There was a time when Boolean operators were commonplace in searches. They were a librarian's tool. No one knew how to do it better – until, that is, Google taught us to write in any question we liked. But anyone who uses internal search engines knows they will struggle hopelessly to match Google – unless they use Google technology (which is to be denied to them). So Daimler has been brave in throwing away fashion and reintroducing Boolean operators. Our tests showed that when used carefully, they can quickly zoom in on results that might otherwise never be found. 

There are two problems. First, the need to use a 'minus' sign instead of 'not' means that anyone used to Boolean operators is likely to be confused. Second – linked to this – there is insufficient explanation of this: indeed the tiny '-' in the search field is likely to be missed. This is just part of a lack of explanation – a generation of users is arriving that has no clue what a Boolean operator is. A simple explanation, with some examples, would make all the difference.


BC tip: Home Depot – Showing sustainability at store level

A simple interactive tool puts the US retailer’s sustainability programme in an appropriate context.

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The feature

Home Depot’s corporate website has an interactive graphic in its ‘Responsibility’ section that lets visitors click around an image of one of its retail sites to see how the company is reducing its environmental impacts.

There are 11 clickable numbers around the image of the site, each with one sentence summarising the efficiencies being made, from the introduction of low-wattage lighting, fewer parking spaces, recycled roofing materials, etc.

The takeaway

The interactivity is basic, verging on old-fashioned, but the graphic’s strength is the way it explains sustainability at an easily understandable level – the individual store.

The target audience for the page is general visitors – jobseekers, customers, individual investors – for whom simplicity is an advantage. The information imparted is clear, straightforward and memorable; and it fits in with the rest of the corporate site’s ‘fun’ and informal feel.

A drawback is that we found the usability fiddly, with some trouble zooming in and out in desktop view; and it was even more difficult on a smartphone.

However, the central idea behind the tool – finding an appropriate visual ‘hook’ for explaining a company’s environmental programmes – is one which has applications across sectors.


For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.