WITH more than 2.1 million investors, GE has sensibly developed a site with strong appeal to a mass audience. They’ve used a newspaper style format that has USA Today written all over it.
Colorful graphics and bold tabloid fonts give the site a vibrant and engaging feel. The entertainment factor is enhanced by cool tools, tightly-scripted slide shows and video presentations that drive home GE’s business strategy and investment proposition.
Strategically designed homepage
But the eye-candy isn’t just for show. Every item on GE’s IR homepage is strategically placed to reinforce the company’s attractiveness as a potential investment.
Clever use of ad-like graphics and colorful promos drive you to key parts of the site that help to reinforce the company’s investment argument. Prominently sign-posted items include videos of the company’s e-business initiative; a 100-year review of the company’s stock performance; a profile of the CEO; a five-slide presentation outlining GE’s growth drivers; and details the Honeywell acquisition.
Strong first impression
When the IR homepage first loads, the immediate subliminal message is of strong historical growth. This is achieved without words. Instead the two graphs in the top-middle of the page do all the talking.
The growth message is reinforced by two more graphics: GE time line – over 100 years of growth on the right halfway down the page; and, Key GE Growth Initiatives at bottom left.
GE is famous for its management strength and the site’s authors capitalize on this. CEO Jack Welch is presented in celebrity-like fashion at the bottom of the page.
The GE Timeline
GE makes the most of its illustrious history by providing this interactive tool. By dragging the green arrow through the decades, the tool highlights key corporate events and share performance from 1892 to 2000. The timeline is fun to use and will bring as much fascination to new visitors as it will to existing shareholders.
Rather than the usual bio and photo, GE gives executives celebrity treatment. A revolving promo on the IR homepage leads to a full page on each executive that includes links to media interviews, presentations and other material featuring the executive.
GE proves that less is more with two compact presentations, each five or less slides in length. Together, these two presentation provide quick and effective answers to the fundamental questions: “Where are you going?”; and, “How do I know you will get there?”
The first presentation is formatted in Flash and is called Key GE Growth Initiatives. It provides a concise overview of where the company sees its growth coming from.
The second presentation could use a better title. You’ll find it in the right-hand column under the label GE Chart Central. This is a standard HTML presentation which focuses on the company’s strong historical performance.
This simple yet effective tool consists of a graphic containing a statement that reinforces GE’s investment proposition. The eye-catching feature appears at the bottom right side of most pages and at the bottom of the IR homepage.
Attention to Soft Factors
Since financial performance alone doesn’t sell the company, GE provides useful detail on its management strength, corporate values and social responsibility. The Quick Fact feature is also used to reinforce GE as a good corporate citizen with this claim about its support of United Way.
GE builds credibility by avoiding “happy copy” or marketese. While the design is engaging, the content is factual and easy to read. Jargon is used sparingly, and links are provided to contextual information when it is used.
The tone is informal yet confident and most sections of the site are written in plain English. This casualness is reinforced by catchy section titles such as Stock Stats, Investor’s Briefcase and The Bottom Line, a section for financial reports and disclosure filings. For this reason alone, GE’s site should be studied closely.
While GE’s IR website ranks highly, navigation and usability could use some attention. One major issue is the tendency to link the IR homepage to other parts of the GE site or to the most recent annual report. This breaks down the user’s ability to always know where they are in the site’s hierarchy.