How to be the best 'in the world'

The most effective ‘where we operate’ features are much more than online phone books; they are an opportunity to showcase a company’s global reach with flair and creativity, Jason Sumner says.

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SABMiller Statoil
Hydro Maersk

In the last couple of weeks I’ve had the chance to look at a number of ‘in the world’ features, the corporate website pages in which companies with global operations use a world map – or equivalent device – to explain where they operate and what they do.

The least effective of these are visually dull (using unengaging static maps, for example) or lacking in interesting content (little more than pop-up windows with street addresses, for instance). Some miss an opportunity to make the most of ‘in the world’ features, using them primarily as contacts directories, but leaving them in the ‘About’ section where visitors looking for deeper information will be disappointed.

There may well be contact information contained in ‘in the world’-type sections; and there almost certainly should be signposts to contact information if it is held elsewhere on the site. But ‘in the world’ features can be seen primarily as an opportunity to convey a sense of the scope of a global company’s offices, business lines, products, etc for jobseekers, the media, potential clients and other visitors.

It is worth remembering that content in the About section, as my colleague Scott Payton has pointed out in this space, should be used ‘to explain to multiple audience groups what the organization is, does and stands for’. The most effective ‘in the world’ features achieve this by combining the latest in multimedia capabilities with well-thought out content that focuses on what key audiences will want to know, but also makes an effort to tell them something noteworthy that they might not have expected.

Here are some of the best overall ‘In the world’ features we’ve seen from around the corporate web.

SABMiller’s ‘Where we operate’

The beverage giant’s ‘Where we operate’ feature is an impressive piece of web design, built to look good across devices and screen sizes. It features an at-a-glance world map of the company’s activities and multiple ways for users to hone in on information about specific regions or countries.

For example, focusing on ‘Africa’ brings up a page with a simple, concise and informative overview:

‘Our primary brewing and beverage operations in Africa cover 17 countries including Botswana, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. A further 21 are covered through our associate interests in the Castel group’s African beverage businesses and we also have an associated undertaking in Zimbabwe. In most of these countries we are the number one brewer by market share.’

The clarity of the above paragraph is a welcome contrast to the obscure ‘marketing-speak’ that plagues so many online ‘About’ sections, and will be appreciated by visitors who just want to find out in the simplest terms what a company actually does, and where it does it.

Scrolling down are ‘vital statistics’ – well-presented figures covering revenues, the number of breweries, bottling plants, employees, etc. There is deeper information on financial performance, sustainability performance and a timeline, but none of this feels cluttered because of the clever tabbed design. The entire feature is designed for scanning for a quick overview, with rewarding information deeper down for those with more time.


Hydro worldwide

Hydro, the Norway-based aluminium supplier, has an intuitive interactive directory that acts as a guide to its global locations. Hydro’s ‘About’ section includes a Hydro Worldwide page that represents its global presence as a stylised atlas constructed of circles, each representing one of the countries where the company has a presence. A key explains that the size of the circles reflects ‘loosely the size of our activities’ at each location. Filters on the left of the page allow certain types of location to be highlighted and identified; for example, sales offices.

Hydro’s is not only a clever visual variation on the theme, with its size-weighted projection of the globe, but combines that with ease of use and efficient delivery of information about locations. The smartly designed interactive diagram allows users to drill down quickly to varying types of information and degrees of detail; the tabbing brings browsing convenience.


Eni in the world

The ‘Eni in the world’ feature, built on the Google Earth platform (Google Maps in iPad), gives an intriguing way to view Eni’s reach. Nearly 80 of the company’s 85 countries are represented in the tool, offering a map-based overview of the company’s various operating sites around the world, with a brief summary and/or contact information for each location.

The approach is innovative but a drawback is that it will also likely frustrate time-pressed visitors who simply want a quick overview of what Eni does in its regions or countries around the world. No low-technology version is provided.


Statoil worldwide

Statoil worldwide, within About Statoil, starts with a map that shows where the Norwegian energy group’s activities are. Clicking a dot zooms in to a more detailed map, and a link to get to the country page. This is standardised, with country data and a summary of Statoil’s operations, with a link to more information.


Maersk markets

Maersk’s map of shipping routes, appearing in the ‘Markets’ section of its corporate website, probably does not qualify as an ‘in the world’ feature at all. But I highlight it here because of its effective use of the company’s unique market position, and the fact that it could easily appear in an ‘About’ section. A static, but visually impressive map simply highlights all of the global shipping routes Maersk runs. It is a neat visualisation of the slogan that appears at the top of the page: ‘Pick a point on the globe, any point, and Maersk won't be far away.’ In one glance the glowing web of interconnections show the breadth and importance of the company’s business to world commerce.


Rewarding a quick glance or a deeper look

The above examples use multimedia and focused editorial to optimise a standard feature of corporate websites. They go beyond mere contact directories, rewarding visitors who simply want to get an overall sense of a company’s operations, as well as those who have more time for research. These clear ‘In the world’ sections, which coherently represent complex global operations, also send the message to jobseekers, journalists and others that the company is well run.

First published 05 August, 2015
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