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Why finance businesses must up their game online

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 11 Aug 2022

New analysis of FTSE 100 and 250 webpages shows that finance businesses rank mid-table for online performance, let down by slow homepages and poor general performance.

The findings were published by web experts Contensis as part of new research: Big players, slow web pages: FTSE website performance. Websites across all sectors were ranked by accessibility, speed and overall performance using Google’s Lighthouse measuring tool.

While finance businesses did well in terms of accessibility, the findings revealed that finance businesses’ online platforms were being let down by slow homepages and a poor general performance score. 

ICG Enterprise Trust, one of the largest investment trusts on the stock exchange, achieved the best results among its FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 counterparts in the sector. 

Despite encouraging findings on the sector’s accessibility scores, ranking on average around 86.7 [out of 100], the finance industry’s online portfolios are falling behind due to slow homepages, currently taking just under seven seconds to load, and weak performance scores, on average hitting 44.

Overall, the study also found that FTSE 250 companies are doing better than their FTSE 100 

counterparts, with webpages loading a whole second faster and achieving better scores for accessibility.

Richard Chivers, co-founder of Contensis, comments: “This research shows just how much the big players value their online presence. Industries that you’d expect to be doing really well, like travel, hospitality and leisure, are not performing as you might think. Other industries, like finance, could be doing much better – especially if each business aims to make its services stand out in what is already a crowded market.”

Surprisingly, industries that rely on their online presence, such as travel, hospitality and leisure and the retail and grocery sectors, all failed to make it into the top half of the table. Less surprisingly, media and publishing, a sector that relies heavily on its online presence to deliver news and information to readers, sits at the top of the league table. Exhibiting the importance of a reliable website, its immediacy, with readers able to access that information, on average, within four seconds, is strong.

Why your online presence matters

According to research by Black Sun, there was a “widening digital divide between the best and worst” FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 sites, with a large proportion of companies listed on each index falling short of the online basics.

And while even the basics can be hard to nail down, here are just a few reasons why accessibility, page speed and performance are so important:

  • Online is your operational hub: about 85% of customers conduct research before making an online purchase, with websites (74%) and social media (38%) among the most-used channels. If your website user experience lacks performance and accessibility features, you run the risk of deterring customers. You wouldn’t leave rubbish blocking aisles in your store, so don’t do it on your website.
  • Your homepage is the heart of what you do: astoundingly, research reveals that around a third of FTSE 100 companies do not share what their business does on their homepage. With customers cautious about how, and where, they spend their money, simple yet vital information about your services should be easy to find and definitely not hidden deep within an unnavigable page.
  • Speed is (almost) everything: as one of the core criteria of this research, the longer a webpage takes to load, the higher its bounce rate will be – according to research from The Aberdeen Group, a one-second delay reduces customer satisfaction by 16%.

Getting it right

With the cost of living reaching new heights, businesses must focus on improving and maintaining their website’s performance in order to stay fighting fit. Jack Taris, Director of digital development agency Lashmire, says: “Now more than ever a company’s website and how it performs is seen as an extension of how well that business operates, no matter the industry. For many customers it is the first point of contact to your business and can often influence their decision-making on whether to engage in your services or exit the page.” 

When it comes to improving page-loading, Taris advises using a content delivery network (CDN) such as Cloudflare. A CDN is a network of servers that distributes your website’s content across the globe and then delivers that content to the server closest to your user, improving page-loading times significantly. 

Next, concentrate on design and accessibility. Clear information such as taglines, call to action buttons and relevant images will help solve your users’ main questions when they first land on to your website, advises Taris. Who are they? What do they do? Who is this service for? How do I sign up? 

And you ignore your mobile site at your peril. “It’s a common issue we see in the financial sector,” says Taris. “More than 50% of website traffic comes from mobile, so having this information displayed effectively on both mobile and desktop will result in a higher conversion rate from your users.” 

Contensis also advises firms to test their website regularly to make sure users can access each avenue of its content, quickly and easily. Monitor your customers’ journeys, and fix any stumbling blocks – this will be hugely beneficial in the long run, enabling you to prepare in advance of new trends.

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