When it comes to getting financial advisors to tune into websites, asset managers are coming up short.

That’s the finding of a new study by data analytics company J.D. Power, released this week. The company says that asset managers who fail to engage advisors run the risk the advisors will go elsewhere for business.

“If you go to a website and it doesn’t look good, and it's not well organized and it’s really cumbersome and hard to use, you’re probably not going to go back there,” said Craig Martin, executive managing director and head of wealth and lending intelligence at J.D. Power.

An effective website must succeed on three levels, Martin said. First, it should have a good design. Second, its information should be easy to find and access. Finally, it must effectively deliver clear, valuable information and insights.

J.D. Power’s “2023 U.S. Advisor Online Experience Study” evaluated advisors’ interaction with asset manager websites, taking into account 2,500 advisor evaluations. Only 17% of advisors said that firms are achieving all three of the criteria that Martin laid out.

“[It] doesn’t matter how smart you were or how good your product is, if I can’t easily access it, the likelihood that I’m going to see value in it is really low,” Martin said. 

Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed said that they would be “extremely likely” to invest in new assets with a firm in the next three months if the firm’s website delivered on the three key elements, the study said. But if a firm doesn’t deliver clear and valuable information, only 31% said they were “extremely likely” to invest in that company in the next three months.

The advisor’s strong desire to bring future investments to an asset manager falls to just 20% when the manager’s site is difficult to navigate and lacks important details, the report found.

Overall advisor satisfaction scores with asset managers’ websites declined by three points over a similar evaluation last year, falling to 639 out of 1,000 points. 

Many firms saw more value in websites and digital marketing during the pandemic, but since then Martin said many asset managers have returned to their “old habits,” putting “product first.”

There is a significant opportunity for firms to improve their websites and make them an effective gateway for advisors to help establish long-term relationships.

“Digital is the first place that people turn, so you want to make sure that it’s really high quality, because anything that puts a barrier up to more business is problematic,” Martin said.

To help an advisor navigate a website, an asset management firm should provide a tour of the site and highlight how to best use it and list what it can offer. When it comes to design, Martin suggests keeping it clean and simple and use colors, as well as easily identifiable buttons, to allow them to navigate. 

The asset managers should also seek feedback about their sites from a wide range of users, not simply one or two like-minded individuals, Martin said.

“I think there’s a quality of technology and design that you want to have,” he added. “But there’s also that training up of encouragement, of promotion and education that is vital. … In the end, you want to make it easy and fast for [the client].”