What’s worth engaging with

Interactivity is a web-given way to make corporate content more attractive and useful, as its surprisingly rare users can demonstrate, Scott Payton says.

It’s perhaps surprising how few corporate sites take advantage of the web’s potential to deliver interactive tools and features – rather than merely words, pictures and, increasingly, videos. After all, such interactivity is one of the key factors that set the web apart from other communications channels.

Here are 11 effective exceptions that demonstrate how interactive features can make a corporate site more useful and engaging.

Careers choosers

Goldman Sachs, Repsol

Helping jobseekers – especially recent graduates – to match their qualifications and aspirations with suitable company positions is an obvious area in which interactive tools can enhance a corporate site.

Goldman Sachs – which puts attracting the best jobseekers at the heart of its online communications strategy – offers arguably the most impressive interactive careers chooser.

The Careers Quiz on the investment bank’s global website invites users to enter details about their university, area of study, qualifications and preferred working location. The quiz then poses a series of 14 scenario-based questions. For example

Your PR firm has been hired to promote the reopening of a historic luxury hotel in your town. In addition to producing the opening night gala event, your team will be creating a theme for the evening. Would you rather:

Discover more about the hotel’s history to develop the theme

Plan the gala event

Research how the renovation team preserved the building’s original details for inclusion in the event’s press kit

I’d prefer to contribute to each of these projects.

Once users have answered a few of these questions, the site displays a list of the Goldman Sachs divisions most likely to suit them.

Tailored links to relevant employee profiles and other information are also provided, along with useful facts and figures, including how many people with a similar academic background work in particular Goldman Sachs divisions. In addition, the quiz provides clear signposts to ‘how to apply’ details for relevant departments.

The fact that users are presented with useful tailored information before they have answered all 14 questions is a thoughtful touch for which jobseekers short of time will be thankful.

The entire process is slick, intuitive, engaging, compatible with non-Flash devices such as iPads – and far more powerful than a standard set of career information pages.

Repsol, the Spanish oil and gas company, also provides a careers chooser on its corporate site, with dropdown menus and check-boxes for answering questions about qualifications, professional experience, languages spoken and so on. The twist is that this happens within a video hosted by two young employees who ask these questions – rendering the process a ‘virtual interview’. The feature works surprisingly well – and is sufficiently short to avoid irritating jobseekers in a hurry.

Charting tools

BP, Unilever, BASF

Performance data is another area where interactive tools can be put to effective use. Consumer goods company Unilever and energy group BP both offer non-financial performance data charting tools that allow users to

view data in a variety of different table and chart formats

tailor which categories of data are displayed at any given time (for example, specific types of emissions)

view data by different metrics and parameters (for example, average, median, incremental percentage change)

export selected data into Excel

download tailored charts.

Sophisticated, detailed charting tools like these and using historical data are likely to be particularly useful for professional analysts and researchers – and convey the message to a broader audience that the company works hard to be open and transparent about its performance.

Unilever’s interactive charting tool is compatible with iPads, BP’s is not (because it is built using Flash), though users are provided with static charts and tables instead.

Germany based chemicals company BASF provides a similar charting tool – also iPad-friendly – within its integrated online annual report. Non-financial performance data is included along with financial, which makes life easier for analysts looking for a rounded picture of ‘value creation’ over time. BASF’s tool is visually more elegant than Unilever and BP’s offerings – though the functionality is broadly the same.

Product and service selectors

SAP, Texas Instruments

Interactive tools can also help customers to make relevant selections from complex ranges of products and services. 
Software company SAP, for example, has a Solution Explorer on its global site that allows users to find products and services by industry, area of responsibility (for example, procurement or marketing) and technology (including Cloud Solutions and Real Time Analytics). As users drill down through the selection process, links to relevant customer case studies, brochures and other supporting materials are displayed. It is a neat format for organising information in a way that is focused on customer’s requirements, rather than on how SAPhappens to categorise its products and services internally.

Similarly, semiconductor maker Texas Instruments has a sophisticated but cleanly presented ‘parametric selection tool’ to help design engineers find the right semiconductor or other part from a large range of criteria. Sensibly, first-time users are presented with a simple diagram that illustrates how the tool works. Links to all information related to a particular product, including technical data sheets, supporting software and online order forms, are available via pop-up boxes within the selection tool. Like SAP, Texas Instruments is using interactive features to help customers find products by criteria that make sense to them – not just by those that makes sense to the company.

Interactive maps

Total, Statoil

Total has a clear global map on its corporate Worldwide presence page. Users can click on six toggles to select which type of information about the energy company’s operations is displayed on the map – number of service stations, employees, gross capital expenditure and so on. The tool is simple but informative.

Another energy company, Statoil, also makes good use of an interactive map for browsing of information about its operations in different global locations. By clicking on icons on an atlas visitors to the Statoil corporate site’s Worldwide page can zoom in to a close-up showing local operations, along with a short description of country specific activities and a link to pages containing further detail. A ‘zoom out’ button returns users to the full map. A traditional left-column menu lets users bypass the map and go directly to information pages for specific countries. Again, not overly elaborate, but intuitive and effective.

Educational tools

Google, Hera

Interactive features can be engaging tools for explaining how things work. Google, for instance, has an elegantly produced Story of Send animation that allows visitors to follow the journey of an e-mail from sender to recipient. Users click on icons throughout the journey to view videos, photo galleries and text captions explaining specific processes in more detail. School children are likely to be intrigued as well as informed.

Italian energy and water utility Hera has a simpler interactive animation explaining how its waste-to-energy plants work. Interactivity is limited to controlling which stage of the process is displayed – but this forces users to pay attention and allows them to move through the animation at their own pace. Again, particularly appropriate for younger users.

First published 07 May, 2014
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