Ever wondered who reads annual reports?

For a long time we did too. We know how long they take to create, how much effort goes into making sure every page is perfectly designed, every figure excruciatingly accurate and exactly how many rands it costs to produce. But we’ve never really known who actually engages with them.

That is, until we focused our publishing, brand and digital expertise towards the reinvention of the good old annual report from an old bogey printed item, to an online, mobile-friendly experience.

Want to see whether your board or stakeholders have actually opened your company’s report, or whether they’re just blowing smoke and mirrors?
The beauty of an online report is, you can. It’s accessible to anyone, wherever they are. This means, not just at their desktops during the working day when they might be too busy to engage, but also during the lean-back phase in the evenings, while on their tablets, or while browsing on their mobile phones when commuting. Along with being a far more sustainable method of disseminating corporate information, a well-strategised mobile annual report is far more appealing, and has the added bonus of being a brilliant online marketing tool.

Layering the content with interactive extras like video and audio, swipe and pinch features, extra image galleries, or even simple click-throughs to  relevant online platforms, can turn the reading of an annual report from a chore into an engaging experience.

Tracking a reader’s entry and exit paths, time spent on specific pages, readership over different devices, audience feedback and measuring downloads are all possible, thanks to that wonderful little invention, Google Analytics.

Pursuing this route presents certain challenges; like browser and device compatibility, and having to rethink the content strategy. But, understanding what a reader intrinsically wants from an online experience helps with the creation of content, which in turn, informs the design, and thus, the user experience.

Cape Town Tourism were up for the challenge with their 2014 Annual Report. A large percentage of their target audience are not desk-bound. It made sense then, to align the annual report with their 3-year digital strategy and create, for the first time, an online-friendly-first version. Launched at the 2014 AGM through a QR code, the annual report is fully responsive and optimized for mobile and tablet use.

With video content, click-throughs and infographics which establish the information as the hero, the annual report makes for an easy read.

We now also know the reading behaviour of those who are engaging with it. With an average of 5,25 minutes spent per page and a high percentage of unique page views, we’ve discovered it also has a relatively low bounce rate. If the average time spent on any web page is 15 seconds, this publication is doing pretty well for itself.

Translated, it means high reader engagement, which, in anyone’s terms, is good business.

It’s also great news for the folk who lovingly create these beauties each year and wonder, from time to time, if anyone, anywhere, ever reads them.

By Sam Bainbridge


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