March 17, 2020 It's Time To Get Serious About Your Corporate Website

Scott Payton
Managing Partner, Bowen Craggs & Co.

Effective digital channels are now a crucial cornerstone of commercial success, argues Scott Payton.

The first corporate websites appeared nearly three decades ago. Microsoft.com, for example, launched way back in 1994.

But it is only much more recently that most companies have given their own websites the attention they deserve.

Today, a growing number of senior executives are finally realising that effective use of online channels to explain to investors, customers, policy makers, jobseekers and other audience groups what their company is, does and stands for is a cornerstone of business success – in any country, and in any industry.

There are a number of reasons why corporate websites continue to grow in commercial importance.

In particular, more audience groups – including business partners, regulators, financial analysts and customers – are factoring all kinds of issues relating to a company's activities and reputation into the decisions they make.

For example, more jobseekers are factoring a company's reputation as a force for social and environmental good into their choices about who they want to work for.

And more mainstream fund managers and financial analysts are building social, environmental and ethical issues – as well as financial performance – into their investment decisions.

As Larry Fink, chairman of global investment giant BlackRock, wrote in his annual letter to CEOs in January 2020:

In the future, greater transparency on questions of sustainability will be a persistently important component of every company's ability to attract capital.

Online channels such as websites are increasingly influential, because they offer a cost-effective way for companies to provide this ‘greater transparency' about all issues, to all stakeholder groups – members of which now use online channels as their primary sources of all information about everything from where to buy their goods, to where to invest their money.

As an example, the corporate website is now almost always a company's biggest publication, in terms of size and readership.

And, crucially, a company's online presence has a measurable impact on how audiences see your company.

At Bowen Craggs, we run website visitor surveys on many of the world's largest corporate websites. This research shows that 20 per cent of people who fail to achieve the goal of their visit to a website leave with a worse perception of the company – compared to just 7 per cent of all visitors.

In other words, the ability of your website to serve the needs of its visitors has a direct impact on the brand perception of your company.

At Bowen Craggs, we've been identifying best practice on corporate websites and other digital channels since 2002. The good news for companies who have yet to take their site seriously is that there's a huge amount to learn from others – in terms of what works and what doesn't. And it isn't too late to catch up with the leaders – as long as you start soon.