Part 1: Mobile Compatibility
Investor relations websites are a regulatory necessity, but a properly designed and maintained IR site can do much more than simply check a box for you and your legal teams. Beyond the requirements, there’s so much content and functionality that can be included to engage your investors that choosing what to incorporate can be a dizzying proposition. So, how does a busy IR team build a web presence that meets the needs of their investment community without monopolizing time and resources?
Each year, we poll a wide variety of industry professionals to find out how analysts and investors are interacting with IR websites in the real world. The results of our annual Investor Survey provide actionable insights that can inform design, compatibility, and content decisions when developing and maintaining an IR website and related technologies.
The skyrocketing popularity of smartphones has changed the landscape of the internet, and along with it best practices for the IR sector. The rise of mobile has brought a host of new web options and associated jargon, like “responsive design” and “mobile apps.” But do these access methods really matter to the investment community?
It may come as no surprise that reports of the demise of the traditional computer have been greatly exaggerated. Nearly 85% of respondents state that between 75-100% of their time spent on IR websites is from a desktop or laptop computer. A large portion of that 85% report never accessing an IR website from a mobile device at all.
Given that, it would stand to reason that mobile accessibility is unimportant to analysts and investors. But as it turns out, that’s not the case. Even though relatively few industry users spend much time accessing IR websites from their mobile devices, more than one third of respondents consider it important for IR websites to have mobile compatibility.
One possible inference from this seeming incongruity is that maintaining a modern web presence, including mobile-friendliness, speaks to a company’s ability to adapt to evolving standards. While meaningful financial analysis might still be performed from the office, many investors still expect to seamlessly access an IR website from their phone or tablet, should the need arise.
There are two primary avenues for getting your IR content onto the mobile devices of your investors: responsive web design and mobile apps. Responsive web design enables the website to detect what type of device is being used to access it and “respond” by altering its layout to fit the screen, whether that’s a desktop computer, mobile phone, or tablet. The content on each page remains largely unchanged screen to screen and simply reformats to fit the device that’s being used at any given time.
Mobile apps offer a device-based alternative to responsive design. These are custom-built programs that cannot be accessed from a web browser, and therefore cannot be viewed from a traditional computer. Instead, they are downloaded directly to iPhones, iPads, and Android devices, usually obtained from an online portal provided by Apple or Google. Typically, mobile apps include certain features that are not available with responsive websites, like the ability to “push” notifications and announcements directly to a user’s device. However, there are drawbacks as well. The need to develop for multiple environments can easily lead to fragmentation and an inconsistent message. Your investors may have one experience on their office computer and then experience something entirely different on their mobile or tablet on the commute home. Plus, there can be a considerable additional expense in developing and maintaining a mobile app alongside your IR website.
With benefits and drawbacks to each method of addressing mobile connectivity, how’s an IRO to decide which to implement? As part of the Investor Survey, we asked respondents to rate the importance of dedicated IR mobile apps. The result is telling: less than 20% of those polled consider IR apps to be important, with nearly half stating that apps are “not very important.”
The conclusion, then, is relatively straightforward. Given that the investment community is not interested in downloading an app to learn more about your company, you can infer that the added expense and complexity of maintaining both an IR website and parallel IR app is not worth the potential benefits. But, a perceived modern web presence dictates that IR websites be mobile-accessible, and failure to do so may raise a red flag for analysts or investors. So how to proceed? Simple. Build your IR website using responsive web design to ensure a modern, mobile-friendly web presence that both impresses and educates investors.
Check back soon for more insights from our 2016 Investor Survey, including a review of what content matters to the Street, along with a discussion of the place of social media in IR. View the full report to learn more.