PDF and Powerpoint annual reports are becoming a relic of the past. In the new digital age, more and more public companies are transforming their annual reports into digital moments and, in doing so, capturing investors’ attention with interactivity, animation, and new social sharing functionalities.
Although fullscreen visuals and interactive elements are important pieces of digital annual reports (and prominent in our top 5 choices), that’s not all we’re focusing on. It is possible to be wayyyyy too visual in an annual report to the point of distraction. Sorry Dominos. You want to keep investors engaged with graphics and multimedia, but also don’t want to overwhelm them into thinking they’re watching the trailer for the next Avengers movie.
Here are examples of some companies doing it the right way.
1. BT Group
Why it’s great: you get a choice
BT group, a holding company owning British Telecommunications, is probably our favourite example of the lot. Why is it our number 1? Their 2015 annual report understands that while it’s important to be innovative and explore new digital territories, it’s also important to keep what’s familiar for that audience that’s just not there yet. That’s why BT Group’s 2015 annual report page offers users a choice: you can easily download the full report in the most recognized PDF format, or you can ‘view annual report online summary’ for a fully visual and interactive report.
The interactive annual report offers year financial highlights, company milestones, as well as a full timeline. For those viewing the visual highlights report who wish to get more into the details, a navigation bar at the top offers an easy download to the strategic and full report. The top navigation also features a prominent social media sharing space to encourage viewers to circulate the report on their social networks.
2. Home Depot
Why it’s great: super visual, super easy-to-use
The Home Depot 2014 annual report functions on its own separate website, homedepotar.com, so navigating through it is already intuitive for the user. Each piece of the report, from the letter to shareholders, to financial highlights, to board of directors, each gets its own design feel. The Associates section features an embedded ‘Road trip with the CEO’ video, as well as individual stories and pictures of store employees who make all the difference. Although Home Depot is big on personal stories, they also understand the main reason for this report: the numbers. As a user goes through each page of the site, bold orange statistics and numbers stay true to the annual report style.
Why it’s great: it’s so ‘on brand’
Not many digital annual reports begin with a giant photo of actress Lupita Nyong’o, but L’Oreal is all about sticking to their brand and brand advocates. Although all the important performance statistics and financials are there, L’Oreal’s 2014 annual report stuns with bold colours and giant fullscreen images, and almost reads more like an online fashion magazine. While in some cases brand dumping everywhere can be overwhelming, L’Oreal does it with just the right amount of taste. Instead of the typical ‘Letter from the CEO’, L’Oreal’s digital annual report features an ‘Interview with Jean-Paul Agon’. Their worldwide performance map and key 2014 figures are featured in different shades of pink, purple, and brown (the same as their signature lip colours). Even when investors are studying L’Oreal’s net profit increase in a line graph, they’re doing so on one that’s pink.
Why it’s great: you hear from everyone
Even though Walmart is a giant company, their 2014 digital annual report makes them feel small (in all the right ways). Three embedded videos within their Walmart U.S. section feature words from the CEO, words from everyday customers, and words from Walmart employees. With these videos, Walmart shows their shareholders that the company has a good handle on the three main pillars of what makes them function so well. Similar to the BT Group above, Walmart also offers this ‘2014 Enhanced Digital Annual Report’ as an option for their investors, along with the normal downloads.
5. General Electric
Why it’s great: interactivity in all the right places
General Electric is used to leading the pack when it comes to digital innovation, and their 2014 annual report is no exception. Seriously, it just about blew us out of the water. Fullscreen background video gives shareholders a visual taste of what the company does, and an intuitive side navigation bar allows users to easily see what point they’re on while reading. Our favourite part, however, is the subtle interactivity that adds so much to an annual report that you just don’t get with those static PDFs. For example, GE announces their 2014 executive team with a static picture of the whole group. However, hovering over each member offers up the name and bio of the individual. An interactive table allows the user to easily flip back and forth between the ‘Major Product Launches in 2014’. GE’s report showcases how the digital space creates so many new opportunities when it comes to mandated financial reporting.
BONUS: Baby steps
We get it. Some of these reports are maybe too big and too beautiful for your company to enact right now. We think it’s important to show you the best of the best so you can see what’s being done already (and not get left behind in 2016!). During our research, however, we found an example of a big, innovative company who might not be at the full digital experience yet when it comes to their annual reports, but are still changing the way these reports are presented all the same. NIKE’s 2015 annual report can still only be downloaded in PDF format, but the landing page to navigate through these reports is still striking and visual.
The 2015 financials are featured above a prominent slideshow of NIKE athletes from all over the world with the tagline, ‘NIKE is a growth company’. They might not be at the background video animation level, but they’ve still found a way to move past the black and white IR section with ‘Download PDF Here’ hyperlink.