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Is this the end for the traditional corporate website?

While great leaps have been made by brands in recent years in improving the ecommerce journey, the traditional corporate website has typically been left to languish in the shade.

It's not difficult to see why: corporate sites don't typically generate direct transactions or revenue (making it tricky to prove ROI) – and with the advent of professional networks such as LinkedIn, which features its own company page function and a direct communication channel, the perceived need for a content-rich, beautifully designed corporate website has dwindled even further.

So, what does this mean for brands? Historically it has meant static, rarely refreshed corporate website content, and dated 'web 1.0' design. However, as smart businesses increasingly recognise the value of loyalty and engagement, adopting content marketing as a way to build communities and start conversations with their consumers, could the corporate website be on the brink of a renaissance?

Recent research from corporate reporting communications specialists, Black Sun, indicates there's still some distance to go. Their review of FTSE 100 websites found that:

  • Just 5% clearly articulate their strategy, business model and KPIs

  • Less than 50% of sites were deemed to be "responsive and therefore deliver a quality mobile experience"

  • 1 in 3 sites don't state what the business does on the homepage

  • Less than 50% include a section within 'Careers' on why prospective employees might wish to work for the company

Richard Dixon, chief digital officer at Black Sun, commented: "This research shows many companies are failing to make the most of their websites, despite it being a first port of call for information. The website is one of the few channels through which a company can tell its corporate story, and should be seen as an opportunity to engage and influence their diverse stakeholder communities, to deepen their understanding of the business and to build trust and confidence in their brand."

It's a damning assessment, yet some brands are proving the exception to the rule – taking measures to earn readership and build ecosystems for consumers to drive readership and advocacy. One such example is Coca-Cola, which recently revamped its website to make it resemble a 'digital magazine' rather than a traditional corporate site.

The new site, styled Coca-Cola Journey, has a greater multimedia and storytelling focus, featuring both branded and non-branded editorial content, and an interactive Q&A section. Stanislas Magniant, digital communications director for Coca-Cola North West Europe, explained the strategy behind the redesign: "Through Journey we want to bring to life the stories about our company, our brands, our employees and our actions around the world. We also want to make our stories more appealing, relevant and engaging to people by using the right multimedia content to bring them to life."

Setting out its stall with the fizzy tagline 'Refreshing the world, one story at a time', the Journey site appears to tick all the boxes: strong social integration (across seven channels); responsive mobile-friendly design; sections for product, history, press, careers and CSR; and a compelling mix of text, visual and video content. However, it must be acknowledged that Coca-Cola is a giant, global brand with suitably giant budgets – and reported plans to increase media spending and brand-building initiatives by up to $1 billion by 2016. It's a privileged position, and few businesses could justify such major spend without a guarantee of return.

It remains to be seen whether Coca-Cola Journey will deliver on its bold engagement objectives to become a credible content destination, or whether it will prove an expensive folly. What this significant step forward for corporate websites already proves is that:

  • Intelligent authoring of content to support the company's narrative is key

  • A corporate site needs to act as the 'authority source' for the company’s owned media and messaging

  • Ensuring quality and consistency of content, including from external sources, is critical

  • Being able to manage all kinds of channels out of the 'mothership' website is crucial for brand consistency

  • A corporate site needs intelligent tools to deliver information to all channels efficiently

It will be interesting to see whether other global brands follow Coca-Cola's lead.