5 public companies with fantastic digital annual reports


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.


3. L’Oreal

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.



4. Walmart

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.





How Warby Parker built a powerhouse brand

warby parker 2


Why is an eyeglass retailer attracting so many eyeballs? 

On the surface, Warby Parker doesn’t seem different than any other company. They sell a product—eyeglasses—mostly online. They have a website where you can shop. They have a blog. They create year-in-review reports.

But what’s truly brilliant about Warby Parker is how they’ve managed to transform every ‘normal’ aspect of a company and its website into a brand worth salivating over. The company is rooted in rebellion, founded by four friends in 2010 who were sick of a few large firms controlling the eyewear industry. This iconoclasm contributes to the fresh young vibes coursing through their brand, as well as the non-profit ‘buy one, give one’ mission that’s a cornerstone of their company.

We’ve taken five ‘normal’ business elements such as a company’s website and year-in-review and examined how Warby Parker has turned each one into something consumers look forward to experiencing.

1. Their blog: a lifestyle teacher

Warby Parker’s frequently updated blog is an organized chaos of staff book recommendations, music playlists for fall, and ’39 things to do before summer ends’. Though they also publish articles about new glasses styles and share their collaborations with various brands, they know that promoting their brand means more than pushing product. They’re not just selling the glasses they create, but the edgy lifestyle that comes with wearing their glasses.




2. The website: function and a lot of fashion

As an e-commerce company, Warby Parker knows that their website drives their business. It can’t just look nice, but must work supremely well for consumers shopping online. When we browsed Warby Parker’s website, the first thing we noticed was how easy it was to get around. Dropdowns offer options to shop the entire collection, but also offer featured selections like their fall 2015, original, and circuit wear collections Every detail of the site has been examined, down to the email signup button asking you to ‘stay in the loop’ and the sketched paper airplanes that zoom by in the corner of your screen.




3. Their tone: not down with being uppity

Warby Parker’s colloquial tone creates a perfect separation from the ‘hoity-toity’ atmosphere often associated with luxury eyewear companies. They poke fun at themselves on their website (like teasing the fact that, yes, they do actually sell monocles) and their blog sounds like real people are offering you style and lifestyle advice. While some companies keep their blog tone conversational but stick to formalities and the hard-sell on their corporate site, with Warby Parker it’s what you see is what you get. As they say on their website, they were “founded with a rebellious spirit and a lofty objective: to offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price”. 




4. Their stores: like the libraries of your imagination

Warby Parker started as an online retailer, but have since opened numerous locations throughout the U.S. It was important for the company that their stores had a homey vibe: they’re promoted as “featuring glasses, books, along with other surprising treats”. Some locations, however, are more ‘party’ than ‘homey’. A writer from FastCompany describes his visit to Warby Parker’s Los Angeles store as “the space is decked out like a 1950’s beach club…servers offer martinis and champagne flutes and trays of crackers topped with avocado hummus…guests gravitate to the full-length mirrors and the glasses, which are sticked invitingly on open wood shelves”.  It’s a brilliant maneuver. Warby Parker stores include the luxurious feeling of buying designer glasses without the part everyone hates: the high prices of the glasses themselves. Anyone visiting their brick and mortar stores can feel expensive and pampered, while still leaving feeling like they made the right choice going with the Warby Parker rather than a monopolizing corporate brand.

warby parker


5. Their 2014 Year in Review: something you actually want to read

So this is the coolest. To promote their 2014 Year-in-Review, something all companies put out but barely anyone reads, Warby Parker created a fun online generator called ‘Make Your Own Annual Report’. The generator asks you questions like your favourite colour, your average mood, and the emoji that most describes you. Once you’re done they create a nicely designed and hilarious ‘report’ of your own year. At the bottom of your report, you can share on social media as well as  (aha!) view the Year-In-Review that Warby Parker made for themselves. You can still play around with the generator here. Try it out!


Warby Parker annual report


Stunning data visualization for digital annual reports

While data visualization is nothing new, some companies are beginning to see its benefits in creating their annual reports. From highlighting important yearly numbers to encouraging audiences to share the visual experience, infographics and other forms of data visualization are the perfect match for any company’s Year in Review. See below for some of our favourites of the past few years.

1: General Electric – interactive visualization of 120 years

General Electric created an interactive visual experience with the annual reports of all 120 years they’ve been in business. A user can now browse every report from the years 1892-2011. GE writes how they “trac[e] the company’s evolution in the words of its participants…keywords provide navigation through thousands of scanned pages”. Choose a keyword such as ‘aviation’, ‘manufacturing’, ‘technology’ or ‘global’ and see every mention of these words in their annual reports. Clicking on a specific year brings up the exact scanned page and a highlighted paragraph.

GE Annual report

BONUS: General Electric also has an entire blog full of data visualizations for website visitors to peruse. The blog is broken up into four sections: powering, curing, building and, moving, based on the areas that GE is involved in.  Explore different data visualizations they’ve created for every industry they assist. Cool! (We’ve probably made it obvious by now that we have a crush on GE. Stay tuned to the blog in the following weeks for a more detailed breakdown of their social media brilliance).



2. UStream – 2013 annual report

UStream, an HD video streaming platform, won many awards for the stunning visualization of their 2013 annual report. At the end of 2013, nobody was really thinking of annual reports as thrilling reading material or engaging visual experiences. UStream was one of those early adopters doing it right. Their interactive website animates every important number, graph, and chart to keep users interested. Check out the full thing for yourself here.

UStream annual report

3. Warby Parker – ‘Make-Your-Own’ annual report 

Warby Parker, the New York eyeglasses startup, decided that the way to attract audiences to their 2014 Year in Review was to allow people first to create a ‘choose your own adventure’ type annual report of their own to share. Go to their ‘Make-Your-Own Annual Report’ website and answer some goofy questions like ‘what is your preferred reading position?’ and ‘what nicknames do you have?’ Warby Parker then generates a wonderfully visualized annual report for you. Cue goofy words like ‘canoodling’ and ‘puttering’. At the end of your annual report, you have the option to see the Year in Review that Warby Parker made for themselves (very sly). Their method worked. Their annual report went viral on social media, shared almost 2,000 times. I mean, who doesn’t want to find out what their ‘Spirt Animal of 2014’ was? Our Senior Digital Designer tried it out below:



Can’t get enough? Why don’t you check out some ways you can keep your investor marketing hot over the summer.