In 2011 there were more, but luckily also better, online annual reports. How can companies make optimal use of the features available in online reports? What makes visitors, who come in all shapes and sizes, happy? Following are three interesting trends in digital reporting, aimed at both dummies and iPadders, which show that reporting can be more visual, simpler and iPad-proof.
An update on online annual reporting
Many companies start thinking about their 2011 annual reports immediately after the end of summer. So it’s high time for an update. Online annual reports are nowadays a common variant, i.e. a separate website containing all the information offered in the print version. Online annual reports often have extra visual and interactive content. And good websites have clear navigation menus that enable visitors to find relevant information quickly.
How many online annual reports are there in the Netherlands now? The answer to that can be found in the preliminary research conducted for the FD Henri Sijthoff Award. In 2010, 22 companies published HTML annual reports. In 2011, there were 33. Small-cap companies in particular are eager to jump on the bandwagon:
|AEX||14 (of 25)||13 (of 25)|
|Midkap||6 (of 24)||9 (of 24)|
|Smallcap||2 (of 73)||11 (of 65)|
It is not only the quantity but also the quality of online annual reports that is on the rise. Which is good news, of course. It seems the times when companies thought ‘we should have an online report too’ are behind us. Instead, companies are now focusing on how digital reporting can provide added value for visitors. We have spotted a number of international trends.
So the first question is: who looks at online reports? Jungle Minds regularly conducts research on corporate stakeholders. This target group is broader than you might think. Of course, financial stakeholders are a major part of this group – not confined to the stuffy, elderly private shareholders, but also the trendy financial analysts who travel the world with the trendiest gadgets in their hands.
Now that sustainability is often integrated into reports, socially minded stakeholders are also part of the group of regular report readers. These include people involved in national and regional politics or working for large suppliers and customers, NGOs and rating agencies. Many companies therefore identify their own employees as an explicit target group for their annual reports. Have you ever ploughed through a company’s annual report while preparing for a job interview? Applicants are also a target group.
Companies are increasingly capable of adapting their annual reports to the needs of these different target groups. Three trends confirm this:
- More visual and interactive
More visual and interactive
What’s the difference between a print and digital version of an annual report? It’s the possibility of adding video, animation and interaction! Companies are especially eager when it comes to using video. This might not be what number crunchers have been waiting for. But for visitors interested in background information, video provides enormous added value. Think, for example, of the job applicant who is really keen to understand exactly what a company does. Philips offers, in addition to a video introduction by the CEO, a few excellent background stories that say a great deal about the company’s interesting technological developments.
It is essential to make the content as accessible and simple as possible, especially in light of the variety of readers.
TNT (now PostNL, but of course when talking about annual reporting we are always talking about last year’s report) visualizes the core facts and presents layered information.
- A simple sketch on the annual report’s homepage allows readers to view the most important facts and figures at a single glance.
- When visitors click on an item, they are taken to the relevant content pages containing much more information.
- If visitors want to know all the details, then they can download an Excel file containing all the figures up to four digits after the decimal point.
Another refreshing example is SNS REAAL’s online annual report. This company sets the tone with their pay-off, ‘Simplicity is human’.
This financial service provider uses a 2½ minute film to visualize the core of the annual report’s message in a playful and crystal-clear way. How is the organization structured and what are its plans? What went right in 2010 and what didn’t? What was the story with state funding again?
Something that’s really new compared to last year is the trend of also offering annual reports as an app. Good examples are the report apps by Pernod Ricard, GE, Allianz, Citigroup and Vodacom. Dutch examples include AkzoNobel, Van Gansewinkel Group and Wolters Kluwer.
The number of tablet users is exploding. And don’t think this is only a gadget for young people. Professionals in particular are turning massively to the iPad – in fact, 30% of iPad users are above the age of 45!
Next year, let’s have a look at how many Dutch companies have developed a 2011 annual report app, and how user-friendly they are. Exciting!