Looping video on the corporate web – the best and the rest

In the past 12 months, the fashion for short, repeating videos on corporate sites has gone from unusual to mainstream. Jason Sumner highlights the best uses of this still emerging feature, and points out some pitfalls to consider as the trend spreads.


So-called looping videos – short, usually soundless clips that play automatically on web pages – have been a positive development for corporate sites. When done well, they are eye-catching, stylish and add visual interest; they help draw readers into accompanying magazine-style material; and, for the moment, signal that a company is innovative and in touch with modern web trends.

Leading media sites such as the New York Times have been experimenting with video for some time to add impact to stories. It is encouraging to see that corporate website designers have by and large taken this thoughtful approach (with a few exceptions), as opposed to gimmicky, GIF clickbait that is so prevalent on Twitter.

Over the last 12 months, we’ve been evaluating the best companies in the world at digital corporate communications for our latest Index of Online Excellence (scheduled to be released next week). We have seen the fashion for looping video take off during that time; so we thought it would be a good time to point out a few of the best examples so far, as well as highlight risks as the feature gains even more traction.

Verizon – getting the home page moving

Verizon, the US-based telecoms giant, uses a vertical carousel to automatically scroll visitors through a series of banners on its corporate home page, most of which use looping video. There are a variety of styles and subjects – covering responsibility, careers, innovation. My colleague David Bowen has pointed out before that the ‘moving eye’ video is one of the most interesting uses of the feature – literally ‘eye-catching’ (see below). On the whole, Verizon’s creative and actively edited approach is worth emulating.

A still shot from the Verizon corporate home page

A still shot from the Verizon corporate home page

Estee Lauder – a landing page with talent

Estee Lauder Companies, the US cosmetics manufacturer, also uses looping video to good effect on its corporate home page, but the most unusual use of the feature is on its ‘Talent’ (careers) landing page. The banner is a grid of looping video clips, in monochrome, showing a diverse range of employees in mid-interview. A jobseeker already interested in working for Estee Lauder and landing here would likely find it hard not to click on at least one of the profiles.

Maersk – appropriate balance

The Danish transport conglomerate’s looping videos fit seamlessly with the site’s polished visual style. Maersk limits the number of videos it uses, which makes them stand out more. When we checked the site this week, it was using looping video on the home page and only two of its six primary section landing pages – ‘Business’ and ‘About’. In the case of the landing pages, the theme is shipping and transport, a theme that lends itself to stunning imagery, as the Maersk site proves.

The cutting room floor: staleness and cliché

The best looping videos use good practice principles for any type of visual – variety, originality, appropriateness to the rest of the site’s look and feel and sharp editing.

The risks for looping video are the flip side of the above; and I would categorise the main ones at the moment as staleness and cliché.

BASF and Facebook – when should a good video be changed?

At some point even a great image goes stale, and the same goes for looping video. Some sites avoid the question by changing up their videos frequently, but for others perhaps with less budget and time, the question is harder to answer.

BASF, for example, has had the same looping video on its home page for several weeks. It depicts a man (we assume an engineer) inspecting a server stack. There is a lot to like about it on first watch – it is brief and on point (the feature being promoted is about a super-computer), and unlike many other looping videos, it ‘ends’ with a close-up of the server lights flashing, rather than starting again.

I happened to have returned frequently to BASF for my job in the last few weeks (reviewing the site for the Index), and I was thoroughly tired of it after a while. However, many, if not most, visitors to corporate sites are new and will not linger on the home page for long. So the balance is how much you will bore returning visitors versus impress the new ones. There is no right answer.

Facebook is another example – it has had the same looping video (also featuring servers) on its sustainability microsite for more than a year, raising the question of whether it can or should be retired.

Netflix – careers clichés

It seems odd to talk about cliché for such a relatively young feature, but we have noted a few already (servers and wind turbines are on the borderline, for example), but a certain kind of Careers microsite video may already qualify.

The Netflix careers microsite is one example (and probably not the worst) of a ‘type’ – wide shot of the workplace, followed by employees walking and talking; in meeting rooms; ‘collaborating’ next to walls, etc. These are beginning to look like they came from an agency cookie cutter.

A still shot from the looping video on the Netflix Careers microsite

A still shot from the looping video on the Netflix Careers microsite

The conventional ‘corporate video’ is a fertile ground for visual clichés, so it is interesting that looping videos so far have avoided most egregious of these. That may reflect the attention being given currently to making them stand out.

As they become easier and cheaper to produce and attention moves to the next new thing, then over-use and corporate clichés, as with more conventional types of imagery, will become bigger dangers not to be repeated.

BC Tip: Bayer sells itself virtually

Bayer has intriguing VR videos in its careers app

An image from the #Bayer360 feature

An image from the #Bayer360 feature

The feature

Bayer's careers landing page has a link to its Career App. This leads to a page where the app is described, and QR codes are provided to allow it to be downloaded for iOS or Android devices. 

The app has been available for a while, but has recently acquired its new #Bayer360 feature. This is a set of 360 degree videos covering the main locations, functional areas such as digital marketing and cardiovascular research, and three career areas: pharmacists, IT specialists and engineers. The videos can be watched in 2D on a smartphone or tablet, or in 3D using a VR headset.

Much of the information comes from the commentary - for example describing the Leverkusen site or organic chemistry research. The pictures show the buildings and employees, though the 3D functionality means it is possible to look all around.

The takeaway

Were these videos not 360 degree, they would be rather dull - there is no story, no attempt to show individuals, and the commentary is somewhat 'marketingy'. But the addition of the technology - especially when viewed through a headset - adds a certain something. Also, importantly, it underscores Bayer's all-important message that 'we are innovators'. 

Young people are the audience, and this is where the weakness may lie. Unlike their elders, many are used to 3D gaming, and are unlikely to be overwhelmed by the experience here. Bayer's job, surely, is to produce something that rivals Call of Duty. If it can.

https://karriere.bayer.de/en/mobile/index.html

 

Daimler: plentiful PDF hyperlinks

The German vehicle giant makes its sustainability report PDF much easier to navigate by offering a coherent, comprehensive set of embedded links

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The Feature

Daimler’s 2016 sustainability report PDF is signposted on the Sustainability landing page of its corporate website.

The first page of the PDF contains a set of panel links to the report’s eight chapters, plus a ‘hamburger’ icon labelled ‘Overview’. On click of this, users are taken to a detailed, clearly presented contents page. This provides links to specific sub-sections of the report. There is also a key in the left column explaining various icons used throughout the report to denote different types of hyperlinks. These include:

  • ‘Home’, leading to the report front page
  • Contents
  • Back
  • Forward
  • Link to material, such as an executive biography, elsewhere on the Daimler web estate
  • Link to another page in either the sustainability report or the accompanying annual report.

Pages throughout the PDF have a website-style primary navigation menu at the top linking to the report’s eight chapters, as well as to ‘home’, contents, page back and page forward. Links to related material on Daimler’s corporate site, and to downloadable CSR performance data, are also provided throughout the report.

The Takeaway

Embedding links in PDF reports makes them easier to navigate for the many users who view them on screen rather than print them off. Daimler’s use of hyperlinks is exceptionally effective for two reasons:

First, the links are extremely comprehensive, signposting a wide range of related material both elsewhere in the report, and in various other parts of the company’s online estate.

Second, the links are consistent: users can jump straight to the start of any chapter, or to the contents page, from almost any page in the report.  

One weakness: if the PDF is viewed within a browser rather than in Adobe Acrobat software, links to material outside the PDF open in the same window/tab. This is disorientating.

Overall, however, is an effective approach that could be used to enhance a wide range of investor, CSR and other PDF materials on other corporate web estates. It would be particularly useful in cases where there is no HTML version of the report in question.

https://www.daimler.com/documents/sustainability/other/daimler-sustainability-report-2016.pdf

 

 

 

BC tip: BP - Making existing material go further

BP selects some of its best images from 2017 for an effective New Year photo feature  

BP 2017 picture show

The Feature

BP has an online magazine which is one of the main sections of its website.

At the end of 2017, BP selected nine images which it had previously published in the magazine during the year to create a new article ‘Picture show: the faces and places of BP in 2017’.

The images are varied, ranging from an employee working in a laboratory to schoolchildren at an event to a landscape of an offshore platform. Each one is titled, credited to a photographer and has a short caption.

The feature was posted in the Observations sub-section and heavily promoted around the site, including on the global home page, and on the company’s Twitter feed.

The Takeaway

Individually the images are impressive, but taken together their impact is increased. The user is drawn to scroll down the page to see all the photos, partly by the strength of the images, but also by the bold titles such as ‘Line of sight’ or ‘The colour purple’.

The images seem to have been chosen and captioned carefully to convey the wide range of projects and locations that the company operates in, to convey key messages, and to provide a retrospective on the year.

For example, the top image ‘Hanging out’ is of an employee high up on rigging, installing equipment on a platform. Not only is the image stunning, with the operator in the foreground far above a ship in the background, but the fact he is wearing safety gear – and that the caption underlines this – is designed to communicate BP’s approach to safety.

A link to a magazine article from April 2017 on the company’s North Sea business, where the platform in question is located, is an effective way of drawing the visitor in to related information.

Crediting the images is a nice touch too – not just to recognise the photographers, but it also helps add to the magazine-feel of the piece. One criticism is that the original articles in which the photos were published are not linked: this would add context and interest.

Overall this is a powerful way of telling the company’s story and engaging the website’s visitors, simply by reusing valuable material the company already has. A useful pointer for companies that could be helpful not just at New Year, but at any time in the editorial calendar.

https://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/bp-magazine/observations/bp-best-of-2017-in-pictures.html

2018: The year of living unfashionably?

Too many companies follow fashion without asking why. Time for that to stop, says David Bowen
 

At the beginning of December a piece appeared on the New York Times blog. It was by Nick Kristof, who said he had been the first blogger on the paper and that this would be his last post: 'We've decided that the world has moved on from blogs,' he wrote (the link to the post is no longer available).

I wonder if 'we' included Mr Kristof. I suspect not; it certainly does not include us. We think blogs have a special and clearly defined place in the online world: they can be detailed, like a website but unlike other social channels, but they also allow organizations to use a tone of voice that just would not work on a website. The most poignant example I came across was a post several years ago on the British Embassy in Harare's blog: it talked of ZANU-PF's 'torture and murder'. Not something you could possibly see on an official government website; yet here it was. 

Nearer the heart of corporate comms, we regularly come across blogs that are hard to imagine working in other formats. Shell's climate change adviser David Hone has his own expert but personal blog. First person pieces in Daimler's blog are engaging. And pushing the technology all the way to video, GSK's vlogs feature employees on secondment with charities, reporting their experiences. These last could I suppose be on Facebook, but blogs are much more controllable – link to them, and they are there when you want them. Finally, the more Twitter and Facebook grow, the easier it is to direct people to blogs. All round, they are good. The New York Times may have moved on from blogs. The world has not.

The problem is that expressions like 'the world has moved on' are so often excuses for lazy thinking: we are not going to think what is really best, we are just going to do whatever other people are doing – especially if it saves us money. Many years ago an editor on the newspaper I worked on said that a particular cartoon strip was 'past its sell by date'. It migrated to another paper, where it is still flourishing. 'Past its sell by date' ... What does that mean? 

There are other victims of fashion-thinking. The most obvious is our old bugbear, decent visible navigation. I think (hope) we may have reached 'peak nonsense' on this, and we'll soon see sites launched with navigation that works (at which point, with luck, they will become the fashion).

Then there is the obsession with cutting the size of sites. There can be good reasons for doing this – providing the discipline of a limited page publication is the best one. But too often there is either a vague idea that smaller is better, or the realization that the useless navigation cannot cope with so many pages. Usefully deep archives are cut back; areas that thrive on the web  - such as history – are shoved onto inert PDFs; 'about' sections that should burst with rich material become thin and desiccated. One of the huge strengths of the web is that it is brilliant at handling complexity; use it, don't sideline it.

Of course there is a place for fashion. My carefully waxed moustache is as fashionable as the next man's. But the trick, surely, is to know when it is sensible to follow fashion – and when it is just silly.

BC tip: BASF – Executive tweeting for employees

An executive uses a public channel to communicate primarily with employees

BC tip - BASF.png

The Feature

Markus Kamieth, a senior executive at German chemicals giant BASF, joined the company’s management board earlier this year, and also joined Twitter in July.

His stated aim in joining the channel was to ‘get in touch with colleagues’, although of course anyone can follow him. He tweets every few days to his 338 followers, many of which are indeed BASF employees.

His subject matter is often about his busy travel schedule – to BASF offices in San Diego; meetings with investors in Paris; customers in Asia, etc; and lots of retweets of BASF news. He usually adds informal shots of himself with whoever he is meeting, eg, from August 30th, a selfie with the head of health and nutrition in North America.

The Takeaway

Mr Kamieth’s approach to Twitter is another model for how executives might use social media – soft launch, low-key and employee-focused; although you could see the value in investors or journalists keeping one eye on the feed. Those doing research also might find his tweet history useful to see what the company has been up to in the last few months.

The words in his tweets are often bland, but no more so than most public statements by executives. The photos he attaches are more interesting, with the selfies and amateur shots of the places he has been showing a refreshing informality.

It is an interesting contrast with the way many CEOs use the channel to influence the mass media. See our recent tip on Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein’s sparse but high-profile statements on controversial topics.

So far Mr Kamieth is keeping a relatively low profile on the channel, considering his following is a tiny percentage of BASF’s 114,000 employees globally; and which suggests his Twitter presence is still experimental.

https://twitter.com/markuskamieth

MiFID II: Rise of the websites?

Much has been written about MiFID II, the EU’s revamped Markets in Financial Instruments Directive, which comes into effect on January 3rd 2018. Andrew Rigby takes a look at the potential implications for digital managers.


MiFID II is a package – a very long one at almost 1.5 million paragraphs – of EU legislation that aims to bring greater transparency to financial markets. Ultimately the EU wants to make it easier for investors to see what they are paying middle-men (brokers and asset managers) for: research on and meetings with companies and their management teams in particular. The costs for these will have to be unbundled from charges for buying and selling shares, which has not been the case to date.

So while the bulk of the impact will be felt by financial institutions across the world – because any transaction that touches the EU is affected – there are likely to be implications for IR and communications teams.

If research and corporate access now has to be paid for in a more transparent way, it is reasonable to assume that there will be much less of both from analysts in the post-MIFID II landscape.  And what is produced and paid for, will have to be of high quality. IR teams will also need to work harder to communicate the company’s investment case directly to investors: produce more information themselves, and arrange and deliver more meetings.

It seems to us that this is where the corporate website can help, in two ways.

It can fill the gap created by the decrease in freely available research, by providing free access to company information for investors, journalists and other audiences.

And it can provide more detailed information for those producing paid-for research. This might be especially useful as the effects of MiFID II begin to become apparent. IR teams may need to scale up to deal with the increased workload, but this may take time to achieve. In the meantime, the website can be used to deliver information at scale, so it is worth talking to the IR team to see how the company website can help them.

More hard financial data might be useful, but so will a clear statement of the investment case, and ways to make senior management more accessible may be important – videos and webcasts. Our recently published ‘Explain Yourself’ index may be useful here. It highlights some of the companies which are best at telling their stories and presenting their leadership teams.

One particular aspect worth considering will be consensus estimates. With less research, it is not clear how the likes of Bloomberg will compile consensus, and consensus based on algorithms or crowd sourcing is still in its infancy. Once again, the onus may be on companies to manage and distribute consensus – so the website comes into its own. Barclays has a good example of a consensus estimates page.

screenshot-www.home.barclays-2017-12-04-13-21-19-789.png

Finally, with IR teams potentially needing to target investors more directly rather than through brokers, website measurement may assume greater significance to IROs. Building a picture of who is coming to the website, from where, and what they are looking for, could be very helpful…even if other pieces of EU regulation, both existing and future, limit how forensic you can be. But that is a topic for an upcoming blog…

For those who would like more background on MiFID II, we have prepared a short Q&A.

Duroc: How far can you push a tomato?

Duroc is a Morocco-based tomato grower that pushes form way beyond function with its website

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 16.00.59.png

The feature

Duroc is a Moroccan company with 14 farms producing 37,000 tonnes of snacking tomatoes annually. We know this from its site, which flashes bites of information up as it builds - the process takes about a minute on a fast connection, with the progress illustrated by a slowly-completing 'tomato'. A lively music track plays in the background. 

The site then settles into a patchwork of brightly coloured panels with a few words visible - including About, Product and Values. Clicking 'About' - which can also be done by mousing over the panels until the word 'About' is shown - a long page appears with a timeline as well as extra links, including 'Love to work' and 'Production'. Clicking any of these generates another page with a small amount of text (an animated sequence is triggered when any link is clicked). 'Love to work' describes the company's commitment to its workers, but we were unable to find any job offers.

The various product pages link to a brochure that contains brief specifications for the products, while the values area include pages on environmental compliance, R&D and the Sanady Foundation. The site is available in English and French, though the opening sequence is only in English.

 

The takeaway

Is this the most unusable site we have ever come across? Or the best looking? We can make a case for both. If you want to find any real information, you will likely be frustrated; if you want to find it quickly, you will be infuriated. But if you are a supermarket buyer looking for a new source of tomatoes, you will have to have a heart of stone not enjoy staring at the site in some amazement. 

Whether this is 'appropriate' (our favourite word) depends on what Duroc is trying to achieve. If it is trying give potential customers (or anyone else) quick access to useful information, it fails miserably. But if it is trying to say 'Hey, we are not as other tomato growers are!' it is something of a triumph. It might be sensible, however, to give visitors a nice easy way to find out the facts they need without having to play random games of 'move the mouse' all the time. 

www.duroc.ma

 

 

 

 

BC tip: Goldman Sachs – strident tweets from the top

The chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs uses his personal Twitter account to convey the firm's position on contentious sociopolitical issues in a way that is high profile yet at 'arm's length' from official channels. 

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The Feature

Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO of US investment bank Goldman Sachs, created a Twitter account in June 2011 but did not start tweeting from it until June 2017. Since then, he has tweeted sparingly (28 times) but stridently on contentious social, environmental and political issues, from Brexit to US participation in the 2016 Paris Agreement on climate change.  

The Takeaway

Mr Blankfein makes what appears to be carefully calibrated use of Twitter to convey Goldman Sachs' position on big global issues in a way that is high profile and 'straight from the top' – Mr Blankein’s Twitter biography says simply 'CEO @GoldmanSachs' – yet also at ‘arm’s length’ from the firm’s official corporate communications channels. For example, Goldman Sachs signposts four Twitter accounts from the footer of its website (including the 'Official Goldman Sachs Twitter account') but Mr Blankfein's is not one of them. The points made in his tweets are reaching far beyond the confines of Twitter: news outlets from the Financial Times, via the BBC, to Reuters, have extensively covered them in recent months.

Click here to read the 'Explain yourself Index' – our new report on the best companies in the world at telling their stories online.

Google Analytics Benchmark 2017 – Trends and highlights, Part 2

We presented the Bowen Craggs Google Analytics Benchmark 2017 in a web meeting earlier this month. Here, in the second of two posts, Andrew Rigby looks at how to examine web analytics in context, and the value of different data sources.
 

In the first part of our summary of the Bowen Craggs Google Analytics Benchmark 2017, which we presented via a web meeting recently, we highlighted some of the trends in user behaviour we are seeing develop across corporate websites.

But we also noted that meaningful comparison of a single site’s data against trends needs context, largely because of the variation we see in analytics between sites.

During the web meeting several examples of this were highlighted:

  • The ways that users reach corporate websites can vary widely. For example, organic acquisition varied from 16% to 71%, but there could well be a valid reason for sitting at the lower end of the range – such as a high level of referrals from a parent site or direct traffic because the company is well-known. Or of course the site may be performing poorly in search engines, which would be a cause for concern
Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 12.13.37.png

 

  • The amount of traffic referred to corporate sites from social media also shows a lot of variation. Only two companies in the benchmark received over 5% of their traffic from social networks, but one participant in the webinar reported social referrals of over 13%, an unusually high figure due to a very active – and successful – strategy to use social media to direct traffic back to the website. Those at the lower end of the scale may have taken a conscious decision not to pursue such a strategy. Or if they have not, they might use this comparison to show what is possible and adjust their strategy and resources accordingly
  • The site with the shortest average visit lasted 1 minute and the longest was 3 minutes
  • Mobile visits to corporate sites are much more likely to bounce than those made on desktop.  Visits from organic acquisition are most likely to be deep and long, while direct visits (where the site has been bookmarked or the URL typed) are the shortest, view the fewest pages and are most likely to bounce. But a high bounce rate might indicate that users are simply coming to a site for one thing, finding it, and immediately leaving, having had a successful visit. And a long, deep visit is not necessarily a productive one. Closer analysis is vital, and knowing where your visitors exited to can be very useful, so tagging exit links is a good idea – and often overlooked.

Insight through combined measurement data

As well as looking more deeply at the specific analytics of the site in question, it can also be very helpful to add context through other measurement, and in particular visitor surveys and user testing. By piecing together qualitative and quantitative data, you should be able to tell if that long, deep visit was in fact indicative of an engaged user, or in fact someone becoming frustrated at failing to find what they wanted.

We looked at one example where we had connected data from Google Analytics with survey data to gain some real insight into user behaviour.

On this particular site, looking at the survey data and cross-referencing it with the analytics, we noticed that referred users were less likely to achieve their goal. Further investigation revealed that a page in the careers section was the top landing page for those visitors who had answered the survey question about goal achievement. Delving deeper still, we could see that those referred from Facebook to this page were the least successful in achieving their goal, and especially those coming from Facebook on desktop machines.

While this has prompted the company in question to concentrate on its Facebook referrals, adding Google Campaign tags to Facebook links would help to identify which posts referred successful visits; in measurement, the deeper you dive, the more insight you can find.

– Andrew Rigby

You can be part of the analytics benchmark, and enjoy a host of other benefits, by joining The Bowen Craggs Club, an exclusive network for the most engaged online corporate communications professionals. It is aimed at individuals and companies who believe in the need for world-leading corporate web estates. Although most group members work in Fortune 500 corporations, we welcome senior managers from public sector and non-governmental organizations with responsibility for large web presences.

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

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

BC tip: Boeing – Bringing products to life

Bold presentation helps sell the benefits of the company’s planes to key audiences.  

BC tip - Boeing.png

The Feature

The Boeing website contains dedicated pages for the various aircraft models the company produces, under the heading ‘Commercial’ in the main menu.

Each of these pages contains a lot of information, attractively presented using different formats, which communicates the various features and benefits of the aircraft.

The page for the 787 Dreamliner is one example. A large image of the plane in flight fills most screens on initial view. A series of anchor links at the bottom of the image takes users to the various sections of the page, including ‘Technical Specs’, ‘New Routes’, ‘Feature Stories’, ‘Videos’, ‘Customers’ and ‘Dreamliner effect’.

Some of these in-page sections contain further interactive panels which are used to provide more detailed information.

Other sections lead to deeper sub-pages, such as the ‘787 Dreamliner by design’ section where the ‘Learn more’ link takes users to a page where they can view the aircraft’s features by relevance to audience groups (such as pilots or airline executives), or by topic (such as ‘passenger experience’ or ‘noise’).

The Takeaway

The bold presentation, use of interactivity and different formats makes the most of the online medium to present a lot of information in an engaging way that works well on screen, without resorting to long, text-based product descriptions.

The mix of videos, highly polished photography, interactive images and 360-degree tours creates a dramatic visual effect, which draws users in and encourages them to explore in greater detail.

Boeing has clearly considered its key audiences, and serves them with snippets of clearly-labelled information which are designed to appeal to them, rather than trying to create a single product description to satisfy everyone.

It is clear that airline executives – the people who would actually buy the planes - are the priority. For example, video testimonials on the Dreamliner’s benefits, from previous airline customers, directly appeal to the target market.

Boeing even incorporates user-generated content, using the hashtag  #Dreamliner Stories to obtain social media stories from passengers. It then displays them on an interactive map which can be filtered according to airline or location.

http://www.boeing.com/commercial/787/

Explaining 'Explain yourself'

Our newly published 'Explain yourself' Index is designed to highlight the companies that are best at telling their stories online. David Bowen answers some questions on it.

What is the 'Explain yourself' Index?

It's a ranking of the 15 large companies that most successfully use their corporate websites and social media channels as their 'voice'. Every company puts huge effort into selling its products and services, but few put much into 'selling' the company itself. By that we mean explaining what it does, how it is is run, who runs it, its values, its history, and so on. And - for companies that run into trouble (as most do at some point) - how well they use the internet to manage their reputations. 

You already produce the Bowen Craggs Index - how is this different?

This is a both a prologue and a development of the Bowen Craggs Index of Online Excellence. The next full Index will be published in the New Year, and will cover online communications from many different angles - from usability to job application mechanisms. The 'Explain yourself' Index takes two of the 27 sub-metrics we use - on company information and 'building a reputation for responsibility', and rescores them in a more granular fashion. The methodology is fully explained in the document you can download below.

Why is the internet so important for explaining yourself?

Because it has become the default destination for people wanting to find out ... pretty much anything. If they are wondering about working for a company, or they hear something negative and want to check it out, or they are looking for a good stock to buy, they will go to Google. If the company has done its SEO properly, they should then find their way to a corporate site (which may be central or country-specific). That is why some corporate sites have tens of millions of visits a year. Yet few of the people charged with 'selling' their company - for example in press, IR, HR and CSR teams, and most importantly their bosses - have realized just how important the web is for them. The exceptions, obviously, work in the companies that make up our Index.

Why is Nestlé at the top?

Mainly for its reputation management effort. The 'Ask Nestlé' section is unique, because it combines high-profile 'get in touch' devices with FAQs on topics that range from one-off crises to the decades-old baby milk controversy. Swiss companies are often thought of as secretive - Nestlé is fighting the image, and its main tool is the internet. 

What about the other top scorers?

They vary greatly. Several are strong on reputation management (look at all those oil, pharma and tobacco companies), but Axa gets in by being brilliant visually and telling stories well; Unilever infuses its sites with great 'responsibility' detail; and Luxottica is very good at explaining what it does. 

Why has Bowen Craggs produced this Index?

Partly as a teaser for the full Index, but also because we wanted to produce something that would convince the most senior people in large companies that online corporate comms should be taken as seriously as it deserves. So please download our document and pass it on - and up.

Download the 'Explain yourself' Index

 

 

 

BC tip: Netflix – Two too many views of the leadership

Different sets of leadership biographies for investors and journalists are a waste of resources and give a poor first impression of how well the company is run.

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The Feature

Netflix has a microsite for investors and a microsite for media, both of which are signposted from the footer of the US-based streaming service’s website. Each of these sites has a set of leadership biographies, which differ from each other editorially and visually.

The investor biographies sit on an older template; the biography page for media is newer and more accessible. In terms of the words, some biographies are exactly the same, the CEO for example. Other differences are subtle – the chief content officer biography is longer on the investor site. Another difference – directors are listed for investors, but not for media.

The Takeaway

Netflix’s fragmented web presence is typical of US companies’ approach to online communications, but most manage to present one view of the leadership even across multiple microsites. The Netflix example is an extreme case of where a lack of online governance can lead.

Our research into behaviour on corporate sites shows that audiences rarely stay in their silos. Journalists will almost certainly be visiting the Netflix investor site – it is signposted prominently from the media site. Some investor audiences, especially those new to the company will visit the media site.

Leadership biographies should be part of the unified ‘voice’ companies use to communicate to the outside world, as we note in our ‘Explain yourself’ Index, published this week.

At Netflix, neglecting the ‘About’ pages is unlikely to stop the company expanding its streaming service across the world, but why give such a poor first impression of the company governance to journalists and investors?

https://ir.netflix.com/management.cfm

https://media.netflix.com/en/management-team

Google Analytics Benchmark 2017 – Trends and highlights, Part 1

We presented the Bowen Craggs Google Analytics Benchmark 2017 in a web meeting this week. Here, in the first of two posts (second to follow next week), Andrew Rigby gives the headline findings, including data for referral traffic, device usage and landing pages.
 

The Bowen Craggs Google Analytics Benchmark has been running since 2014, collating and comparing data from a range of corporate websites across a variety of sectors, and representing a range of activity.

Although the constituent websites may have changed, what we have measured has not, so the data is comparable and shows trends over time.

The 2017 benchmark covers the period between May 2016 and April 2017, collecting Google Analytics data from 24 corporate websites.

The growth of mobile, organic and social traffic
 

We noted some clear trends:

  • The growth of organic traffic to corporate sites – with half of the visits to the sites in the benchmark coming via unpaid search – means search engine performance is increasingly important. Visits by users referred to corporate sites from other sites are dropping
  • Users referred to corporate sites from social networks still represent a small proportion of overall traffic at 2.5 per cent, but some companies are starting to see significant social traffic. Facebook is the largest single social source, but those users are the most likely of social referrals to bounce and have the shortest, shallowest visits
  • Mobile traffic to corporate sites is generally increasing and now accounts for an average of one in four visits, but so is the variation across sites in the benchmark: for some sites it is one in three visits
  • The length and depth of the average site visit has dropped slightly. The average visit included 2.42 pages and lasted 2m 1 second, compared to 2.6 pages per session and 2 minutes 12 seconds in 2016
  • The home page is still very important on corporate sites and the most common entry point with 27 per cent of traffic, but over the years the benchmark has been running there is a clear increase in the number of pages on which users enter sites. Understanding the variety of entry points, and where users then go on a particular site, can be very helpful to web managers in ensuring smooth user journeys.

Top landing pages by section, 2014-2017 (click to enlarge)

Nobody is average, so context is key
 

The busiest site had 37 million visits per year; the quietest 530,000, and an average of 7 million.

Yet these headline figures highlight perhaps the single biggest takeaway from the benchmark: the variation in user behaviour between sites. The companies at the extreme ends of the visits range obviously affect the average; many sites in the benchmark attract in the region of 3 million visits per year.

It is important, then, to not just compare the traffic on your site against an average – although that may be useful – but to also drill down into the detail of the comparison. A site with 4 million visits may be below the average, but in fact sits above the median as it has attracted more visits than many of the companies in the benchmark.

Number of visits across the companies in the Benchmark (click to enlarge)

But even then – as many of you will be thinking as you read this – simply comparing figures is often meaningless without the context to understand them.

In next week’s commentary we’ll look at the importance of putting web analytics data in context, and how you can draw company-specific insight from it.

– Andrew Rigby

You can be part of the analytics benchmark, and enjoy a host of other benefits, by joining The Bowen Craggs Club, an exclusive network for the most engaged online corporate communications professionals. It is aimed at individuals and companies who believe in the need for world-leading corporate web estates. Although most group members work in Fortune 500 corporations, we welcome senior managers from public sector and non-governmental organizations with responsibility for large web presences.

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

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

 

BC Tip: TJX and the joys of simple navigation

TJX, owner of the TJ Maxx retail chain, uses a neat navigation system on a cost-effective site

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-01 at 08.55.11.png

The Feature

TJX.com is a notably simple corporate site, with striking blocks of colour making it stand out from current fashions.

It does not have a left menu for internal navigation, but instead uses multiple horizontal menus at the the top. Passing the cursor over a main link (eg Investors), a row of secondary links appears below. Holding the cursor over one of these (eg Filing and presentations), a third row appears. Click on one of these (eg SEC Filings), and a page appears. At this point the second row menu stays in place, but the third one disappears – it comes back only if the secondary link is moused over again. 

In some case, the third  level menu also contains fourth level pages – for example the menu under Responsibility > Responsible business includes Governance and its sub-pages, such as Board of Directors.

The Takeaway

We are always on the lookout for sites that manage to combine usability with a modern look. If they do not cost a fortune, so much the better. While we have yet to see anything as usable as an 'old-fashioned' left menu, TJX's approach shows a plausible way forward – though implementation is flawed.

The advantage is that, like a left menu but unlike a dropdown panel, the menus stay in view. This makes it easy to see what other pages and sections are in view, and also means they can be highlighted for good orientation. The problem is that TJX keeps only the first two menus in view. When at the third level, its menu disappears – which means it is not particularly easy to move around within these sections.

Were it to keep the third level menu in view, and also introduce to a fourth level where necessary (rather than jamming the third and fourth level links into one bar), it would be exceptionally usable. Make it 'sticky', so it is always at the top of the screen when you scroll, and you would have something rather splendid.

We can hear the minimal navigation folk shouting that it will take up too much 'real estate' (or some such). It doesn't: each menu is shallow, and even if there were four menus in view, it would hardly impinge on the visual impact.

If you are struggling to make a 'no left menu' structure work, it's worth considering this approach – it should be possible to introduce it without a major rebuild.

www.tjx.com

 

 

 

The Walt Disney Company: Google Earth brings grass-roots projects to life

The US entertainment giant uses a customised interactive Google Earth map to present information about projects supported by its global conservation fund.

Screen Shot 2017-10-30 at 13.52.42.png

The Feature

A panel on the Environment landing page of The Walt Disney Company’s corporate website houses a link titled ‘View the DCF Google Earth Map’.

On click the link leads to a Google Earth map of the world, covered with flag icons – each indicating a project supported by the Disney Conservation Fund. A left column contains a search box and extensive set of filters under five headings: ‘Animals’, ‘Species’, ‘Organization’, ‘Years Funded’ and ‘Project Type’.

Selecting one or more filters changes the number and position of icons on the map. Projects related to a specific animal or species are indicated by illustrative animal icons on the map.

On click of an icon, a large panel expands into view in the left column, containing images and text illustrating and explaining the project in questions – as well as related links to websites and social media feeds/pages containing more details. Each panel also contains an email address for users who want to contact Disney’s conservation funding department.

Users can switch between the default ‘map’ view and ‘satellite’ view the world, as well as zoom in and out using Google Earth’s standard navigation tools. 

The Takeaway

Disney’s use of Google Earth effectively conveys the global breadth and depth of its conservation funding. It also provides visitors – from consumers, via jobseekers, to CSR professionals and conservationists - with an informative and engaging research tool.

But there are two weaknesses. First, the link to the Google Earth tool from Disney’s corporate website opens on click in the same browser window, which is disorientating. Second, the tool lacks introductory information about what it is and how to use it, which means that some first-time visitors may not stay on it long enough to discover the rich information within it. 

https://myatlascms.com/map/?id=967

 

 

 

 

The five biggest performance gaps in corporate digital communications

Corporate digital managers at 25 of the world’s largest companies have told us their teams’ top priorities for the next 12 months and where they think they are falling short. Jason Sumner and Lisa Hayward share the five biggest performance gaps across the group.
 

The Bowen Craggs Club, a new networking and research community for corporate digital managers, launched over the summer. As a first step in joining, we asked club members to sit down with us for in-depth conversations about their teams’ priorities, strengths and weaknesses in a number of core performance areas such as content strategy, measurement, relationships with internal stakeholders and managing high-performing digital teams.

We’ve had 25 conversations so far, and it seemed like a good time to share a little of what we have learned (on an anonymous basis of course). We asked members to score their teams on a scale of 1 to 5 across a number of skills and competencies, and then identify which of these skills and competencies they most want to improve on.

As a result, we were able to identify the areas where there were the biggest gaps between desired performance and self-reported outcomes. Here are the top five:

1. Failure to set or consistently use key performance indicators (KPIs)

‘Measurement’ is regularly near the top of digital manager challenges whenever we’ve run short surveys in the past. This time the long-form interviews allowed people to expand on the reasons good intentions so often lead to frustration when it comes to KPIs. Even in otherwise top-performing organizations, we found that the barriers are deep-seated, company-specific, political and even psychological. Three of the most interesting were:

  • In one organization, KPIs are applied in an ad hoc way because, ‘Stakeholders don’t understand how to translate business goals into KPIs and the digital team isn’t pushing them.’
  • Another organization said their ‘standard’ KPIs are not good enough. ‘They need to be more channel specific.’
  • Fear of linking metrics to goals is a factor for one organization, despite the fact that communications leadership is already convinced of the value of measurement. ‘They are scared of setting KPIs and failing. Failure needs to be seen as an opportunity to learn.’

2. Lack of a content strategy for different channels and screen sizes

The proliferation of digital channels and devices over the last few years has also kept ‘content strategy’ (which we define as having a defined process to produce and publish content across differing channels, devices and geographies) at the top of the priority list. Our interviews found digital managers planning to do a lot of work on the device and channel side over the next 12 months – particularly in developing multi-purpose content. Said one, ‘The leading channel is the website. Content published there is repurposed for social media use, and some content is created first for social media. We don’t plan ahead.’ Said another, ‘We have an editorial group managing content across platforms, but can sometimes think offline first. There is room for improvement to help educate employees and agencies to change this mindset.’

Rounding out the top five: Roles and responsibilities, agency relationships and usability testing

There was a three-way tie rounding out the top five performance gaps:

  • Who owns the channel? Given the above work on content strategy, it is not surprising that digital teams are still working out the right relationship with internal stakeholders and local teams over who publishes what, and when. ‘A grey area exists in the mind of the content owner about who owns the page. Internal stakeholders think the digital team. A roadshow is planned to educate and keep reinforcing.’ Another interviewee said, ‘We are trying to create combined and shared content plans rather than work in silos.’
  • Getting the most out of agencies: The difficulties mentioned included a lack of corporate and industry expertise, and an assumption that corporates don’t want to be seen as creative. Another organization does not use agencies currently but wants to bring in fresh thinking from outside.
  • Finally, usability testing was seen as a priority by many of our interviewees, but it is not widely used at the moment. Several companies are taking first steps and sounding out experts. ‘We are testing new designs, a team member is doing a master’s degree in user experience and we plan to focus on it in the next 12 months.’

- Jason Sumner and Lisa Hayward

The Bowen Craggs Club is an exclusive network for the most engaged online corporate communications professionals, aimed at individuals and companies who believe in the need for world-leading corporate web estates. Although most group members work in Fortune 500 corporations, we welcome senior managers from public sector and non-governmental organizations with responsibility for large web presences.

For more information, visit our website or contact Lisa Hayward, lhayward@bowencraggs.com

BC tip: BBC News – A very usable filtering system

Elegant handling of complex filters draws readers in to a collection of articles on British jihadists.

BC tip - jihadis.png

The Feature

The BBC news website has a database of over 250 British jihadists, which it claims is ‘the most comprehensive public record of its kind’.

It presents this information on a standard page using a series of filters which control the profiles of jihadists in real time further down the page.

There are two levels of buttons: the first, colour coded, allows users to filter by the current status of the individuals. The next level can be used to narrow down by category, such as ‘Attack planners’ or ‘Converts’.

Below this three drop-down lists allow further refinement by age, gender and hometown. Finally there is a free text name search, a results counter, and the option to view the profiles in grid or list format.

The profiles themselves display head shots where available, and on click, display summary details of the individuals with links to further articles featuring them on the BBC web estate.

The Takeaway

A jihadist database may not have obvious parallels with online corporate communications, but the filtering system is notable for the way it elegantly allows users to drill down into information, and then discover related pages.

Knowing what we do of the BBC’s approach to website usability, we expect this will have been rigorously tested.

It packs a lot of functionality into a compact area. The filters are complex and multi-layered, yet the layout is easy to understand and use. The combination of colour coding, real-time results, buttons used with drop-downs, and the results counter means that the effect of the user’s filtering choices is immediately obvious, and can be quickly undone or amended. It also enables browsing or targeted searching.

The BBC’s filtering system could be applied to any area of a corporate digital site that needs to present a lot of information, and onward links, in a usable way. News and feature repositories, product selectors and even board and committee pages could benefit.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-32026985

Chart of the week

Facebook outpaces LinkedIn as the biggest source of social media traffic to corporate websites, Twitter referrals stall by comparison
 

Occasional feature highlighting useful data for corporate digital communication.

(Click to enlarge)
Source: Bowen Craggs Google Analytics Benchmark 2017*

By 2016 Facebook had overtaken LinkedIn as the most significant source of social media referrals to corporate websites, and both channels have grown to account for more than 1 per cent of all visits; while Twitter growth has stalled. Referrals from YouTube have declined to nearly zero, which is why the channel is not shown on the chart.

  • Looking at the wider picture, in 2014, fewer than one in 100 corporate website visits were referred from social media. That was compared with one in five visits referred from all other recognised sources.
     
  • By 2017, one in 40 visits came from social media (2.5 per cent of all traffic). This is still a very small proportion of overall traffic, but an increase from 1.5 per cent recorded in 2016.
     
  • In 2012, mobile traffic to corporate websites was also low but grew to become a major source of visitors. We think it is unlikely that social referrals will see the same level of growth.
     
  • However, it is useful to think in terms of absolute numbers of visits, which can be more significant than the percentages imply. For example, while the percentages may be low, for one company in our benchmark group, out of a total of 36 million visits, there were 783,000 visits referred from LinkedIn and 236,000 from Facebook.
     
  • The usefulness of different channels depends on the company and there are wide differences between individual companies in the benchmark. We have found, for example, that Facebook is less useful for B2B companies, except in some regions, such as South America, where it can be an important customer channel.

*The 2017 benchmark covers the period between May 2016 and April 2017, collecting Google Analytics data from 24 corporate websites from a variety of sectors, and representing a range of activity. The busiest site had 37 million visits per year; the quietist 530,000, and an average of 7 million.

BC tip: Washington Post – Memorable design features

Design elements from an online special feature could be adapted for corporate stories.

BC tip - WaPo.png

The Feature

‘Tampa Bay’s coming storm’ is a special feature on the Washington Post’s website, published in July, about the disaster that could unfold if a strong hurricane hit the Florida city.

It is full of creative animations, illustrations, embedded videos and professional photography; with interesting arrangements of the elements to increase impact – for example, as readers scroll down the page, a pull quote from a government official appears alone against the backdrop of an animation of a hurricane.

The Takeaway

The Washington Post feature represents the best of online journalism at the moment – great writing combined with unique and eye-catching visuals, all of which make the most of the web as a medium. You continue to scroll because the writing is compelling and the design elements keep surprising.

Companies with the appropriate budgets should consider adapting the ideas in the ‘coming storm’ feature to engage with readers and make their own online stories more memorable.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/health/environment/tampa-bay-climate-change/