By Jeff Corbin
July 19, 2012
The proliferation of apps and mobile devices has changed how we do everything, including how publicly-traded companies communicate with the people who invest in them.
More people are doing more things with their mobile devices. For public companies without an investor relations app or mobile communications strategy, this has created a new problem to consider as well as a new opportunity. Companies have an investor section of their corporate website, but for the most part it is not optimized for viewing on the small screens of iPhones or Android devices. As a result, unless they are sitting at their desktop, investors are at a loss for consuming the information they require on an immediate basis from the companies in which they have invested their hard-earned dollars.
This no longer need be the case. Apps for investor relations are an emerging category and companies creating them are setting the tone for how apps can be used as part of an investor relations programs.
What’s happening in the investor relations app world is not unlike how other technologies shaped the investor relations communications over the past decades. Over the past 10 years we’ve watched companies meet regulations to provide all their investor relations material in an organized fashion in one discrete section of the corporate website. When social media emerged as a powerful communications tool, we watched (and are still watching) public companies grapple with and embrace strategies for harnessing these mediums. Apps now have our attention as they become a driving force in communications.
As Investor Relations (IR) apps join the ranks of offerings, there are a few things companies should consider as they map their new IR strategy.
Mobile communications strategy is critical
With investor relations, the numbers do not lie: nearly 116 million Americans will use a smartphone by the end of this year, up from 93.1 million in 2011 – and by 2016, nearly three out of every five consumers will have a smartphone, according to eMarketer, a resource on digital media, marketing and commerce.
According to a 2012 Compuware study, 57 percent of consumers will not recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site - the same is sure to hold true for investing in a public company.
To launch a true mobile strategy, public companies should optimize their IR content for mobile phones - not just simply try to squeeze their IR website onto a mobile screen. Browsing any website on mobile devices, including IR websites, can be a frustrating task as browsers hunt for information or where Internet connections are slow or non-existent. Companies should be prepared to make their app function on a variety of tablets and devices, not just Apple’s iOS, but also Google’s Android devices.
Apps will be a ‘need to have’
By 2013, more people will use mobile phones than PCs to get online, according to technology research firm Gartner Inc. That’s not a surprising prediction if you think about it this way: When was the last time you went to a meeting or a dinner and no one checked their iPhone? When was the last time you were sitting at a bar and didn’t see a mobile device on the counter top? Mobile devices have tethered us to content no matter where we are.
IR websites emerged more than 10 years ago and caused an incredible investor relations industry shift (as well as business opportunity for a select few technology companies). Who would have thought at the turn of the Millennium that the IR section of a corporate website would become an acceptable means to communicate and accomplish certain aspects of public company disclosure, according to the SEC. The same will hold true for IR apps.
The art of communications and investor relations
Investor relations is about communicating with investors - it is “the art of communicating value.” IR isn’t just what a public company has to say about its business that gives rise to a higher stock price, but how it delivers critical information to investors. Apps have inherent functions that can influence communications strategies and make the lives of investors easier. This includes the pushing of investor presentations as they are taking place at a conference, sharing video content and audiocast conference calls with those who require the information before they call to ask for it.
Any mobile strategy should be built around having an app that lets companies include alerts, social sharing and investor tracking features. By having an app, a public company now owns a very valuable piece of real estate on an investor’s very personal and oftentimes private mobile device. An investor relations app can deploy push notifications alerting investors when new information is available as well as offering investors the ability to sign up for company information, investor email opt-in, and, of course, sharing via social media channels and email. Investors want their app to deliver automated, real-time stock price information, and automated posting of newswire-released press releases and SEC filings.
Companies such as Nestle, BP, Unilever, Wal-Mart, SodaStream and Unilife Corp. have launched investor relations apps, notwithstanding the fact that they also have an IR section on their websites. They realize that by offering their current and prospective investors another way to consume their important information, not only will they further engage with this audience but also they will hopefully be able to retain them as shareholders.
Mobile devices have created a new paradigm in IR communications. Apps, by extension, should therefore be considered as a tool in every IR strategy since they make it easy for investors to secure information whenever they want and wherever they are.
Jeff Corbin is the co-founder of theIRapp (www.theIRapp.com). He has more than 15 years of investor relations consulting experience including development of financial communications programs for the American Stock Exchange and hundreds of companies listed on the NYSE and NASDAQ. He can be reached at [email protected].