With print reports, things are not that simple: If 10,000 copies of a report are printed, in the end no one really knows how many of them are actually read. And more importantly: Which content was most relevant to the “actual” readers. Fortunately, things are quite different on the web. Statistics of Online Annual Reports provide a valuable insight into actual usage, and the answers you may get are manifold: Do access habits change within the course of a year? How popular are certain features? What are the most important search queries? Which pages are most popular among users? This research aims to answer some of these questions and can be used for the long-term development of your Online Annual Report. It might even impact your overall corporate reporting strategy.
Methodology and sample
nexxar analysed user statistics of 20 Online Annual Reports of leading global companies. All companies are part of the FT Europe 500 (2015). Our data covers a full-year period (365 days) since publication of the Annual Report 2014.
- Our sample covers company reports from six European countries: Germany (9), Switzerland (4), Netherlands (2), Italy (2), Austria (2) and England (1).
- The smallest company in our sample had less than 5,000 employees; the largest more than 500.000 employees. The average number of employees per company was 185.846.
- Ten companies belong to the top 100 of the FT Europe 500.
Online Annual Reports – Overview of key statistics (Average usage data from 20 online reports)
How many users are reached?
The average company in our sample reached more than 35,000 visits (Ø 37,376 visits) within the first 365 days after publication of the Online Annual Report. On average each report records 165,938 pageviews (4.4 page views per visit). Some of the largest companies in the FT Europe 500 account for more than 100,000 visits and 400,000 page views. Compared to their respective print runs, online reports reach far more stakeholders.
Do access habits change throughout the year?
It’s not surprising that the highest usage numbers are registered in the first week after publication. But Annual Reports are statutory publications that are used for reference. Our statistics show a continuous, interest-specific use, throughout the course of the year. Peaks in usage can be traced back to specific company developments – such as the publication of new quarterly figures or other media attention-grabbing events such as take-over talks or litigations. Statistics show huge usage spikes whenever a company enters an acute crisis. This shows that the Annual Report serves well as a first point of call and is very welcome as the primary source of information for diverse stakeholders. Online Annual Reports – use during the year (n=19 Online Annual reports; 626,207 Visits)
What language do stakeholders prefer?
15 of the accessed 20 Reports are offered in additional languages besides English (e.g. German or Italian). Nevertheless, even for these bilingual reports, the English version is preferred (61.7% of visits and 62.0% of page views). Nowadays, German, Italian or Dutch corporations report to an international stakeholder base. This is also reflected in the use of their Online Annual Reports. Online Annual Reports – split by language (n=15 Online Annual reports; 547,596 Visits and 2,066,959 Pageviews)
Which chapters are most popular among users?
More than two out of three pages views are pointing to the Management Report (37.0%) and the Consolidated Financial Statements and Notes (30.1%). A clear vote for the statutory aspect of the Annual Report. Information about the company and the share price (19.4%), corporate governance (7.3%) and the image section or magazine (1.9%) is significantly less accessed. This aspect of our research clearly questions the current trend towards one-page summaries. User interest clearly points to the classic cornerstones of reporting, namely the hard facts and figures. This is well in-line with other findings positioning the Annual Report as statutory document rather than an image-based fun read. Online Annual Reports – access by report sections (n=10 Online Annual reports with a comparable structure)
What is the role of search engines?
Aside from the corporate website, search engines remain of most importance to readers accessing the content of online reports. On average, 28 percent of all referrers are coming from search engines. Online reports, especially when mobile optimised are referenced much better than PDFs by search engines. The visibility for potential new readers is a major advantage of fully-fledged HTML Reports.
And what about the usage of web features?
Some stakeholders use the possibility to download parts of the report as PDF and tables as Excel files. On average there were 2,590 PDF downloads and 1,425 Excel downloads within the first year after publication of an average Online Annual Report. Nine percent of all users use the search function to find specific content within the Online Annual Report.
How important is the mobile version?
At the moment every tenth user is already accessing the report via mobile devices (smartphone or tablet). While the content-heavy nature of Annual Reports certainly continues to favour desktop screens, the optimisation for mobile usage becomes increasingly important for looking up key messages on the go. Dieser Beitrag ist Teil unserer Research-Reihe „Nutzung von Online-Berichten“: Teil 1: Nutzung von Quartalsberichten Teil 2: Nutzung von Geschäftsberichten in Deutschland Teil 3: Annual report statistics of FT Europe 500 companies