Why You Should Think About Email Accessibility for Your Email Marketing Program

Illustration by Khushmeen Sidhu via Dribbble

If you think that email is dead, here’s a statistic that may surprise you:

In 2021, 4.03 billion people around the world used email every day. This number is set to grow to 4.6 billion in 2025. This translates to well over 50% of the global population of 8.2 billion. Clearly, email is not going anywhere.

So, if your organization has been ignoring this powerful channel for customer engagement and brand-building, you’re definitely missing out on a lot of opportunities to make some moolah.

But then, email marketing is not just about creating, sending, and tracking emails. To ensure that your campaigns reach all subscribers and provide value to them – your emails should also be accessible.

If they are not , many of your subscribers may not be able to view or interact with your messages – much less take some action that can benefit your brand.

A Hypothetical Situation to Consider

Alice is a 43-year-old woman living in New York City. She is well-educated and has a well-paying job as a radio producer. Alice loves wearing clothes that combine comfort with style, and is very keen on accessorizing every outfit with the right scarf, bag, and shoes.

Your brand specializes in clothing and accessories for urban, style-conscious women between 25 and 50 years of age. In short, your customer base consists of women just like Alice.

As part of your company’s 10th anniversary celebrations, your email marketing team has designed a special promotional campaign targeting 30-45-year-old women with white collar jobs and living in cities across America.

As part of this “drip” campaign, Alice will receive a series of 4 emails that will tell her about the promotion, list recommended products for purchase, and provide special discounts for specific products.

Alice is excited when she receives the first email. But when she opens it, she realizes that the product images and CTA buttons don’t have alt text. Consequently, she has no idea what your silk scarves, trench coats, or A-line dresses look like. She also can’t figure out where she should click to go to your online store.

Frustrated, Alice deletes the email – but not before marking it as “spam” and hitting the Unsubscribe button. Your 4-email drip campaign has quickly devolved into a 1-email drop campaign.

But why is all of this important?

Because Alice is visually-impaired and is using a screen reader to consume your emails.

Without alt text on images and CTA buttons, she cannot “see” your products, much less purchase them. Result – you’ve lost her sale. More importantly, you’ve lost her as a customer.

That’s why, if your customer base includes people like Alice, email accessibility should definitely be on your radar.

Email accessibility is important because it enables more people in your audience to access, view, and interact with your messages. This includes the differently-abled, the elderly, people using smaller screens or screen readers, and even subscribers with slow Internet connections.

In general, everyone can benefit from accessible emails. The rest of this article explains why. But first…

Why You Should Think About Email Accessibility for Your Email Marketing Program
Illustration by Khushmeen Sidhu via Dribbble

What is an “Accessible” Email?

An accessible email is an email designed and presented in a way that everyone can engage with, even if they are disabled, live in a low Internet speed area, or face some other challenges in consuming your email content.

An accessible email incorporates some or all of these features:

  • Alternative text in images and CTA buttons
  • A logical reading order
  • Descriptive subject lines
  • Meaningful text in links and buttons
  • Good contrast between text and background colors
  • Larger font size
  • A good balance between text and images
  • Tables and headers
  • Critical information presented in the text and not hidden in images

It’s important to incorporate these features into your emails, so all subscribers can easily view and engage with your emails – regardless of which device they use, where they live, and especially if they are visually-impaired and use screen readers or other assistive devices to consume digital content.

You should also create a plain-text version of all your emails. These emails don’t include any rich-text formatting, images, videos, or embedded links, but can still garner great results for your brand’s email marketing program simply because they are more accessible to a wider audience.

Who Benefits from Accessible Emails?

You should definitely create accessible emails if you have visually-impaired or elderly subscribers. However, accessible emails also help people with:

  • Color blindness (about 300 million people worldwide)
  • Dyslexia (about 30 million adults in the United States alone)
  • Neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease
  • Cognitive limitations
  • Auditory disabilities

To make life easier for these subscribers, your emails should include accessibility-friendly features like:

  • Video captions and transcripts
  • Simple presentations and clear instructions
  • Limited (distracting) animations
  • Easy to navigate
  • Text in small, easy-to-read sections
  • Compatible with screen readers and mouth sticks

But in fact, accessible emails are good for everyone! This is because they are more logical, easy to read and understand, and therefore more valuable – for them, and for you.

Why Your Emails Should Be Accessible

When your emails are accessible to all subscribers, you will reach more of them. You can reduce user friction and improve user experiences as they interact with your communications.

More people will engage with your email messaging through more opens, click-throughs, and purchases. Many will also click on that “Buy Now” button. Thus, high engagement can garner great results for your brand over time, including better recognition and recall, and higher sales and profits.

The bottomline: email accessibility increases subscriber engagement and retention – which can be really good for your business.

Further, by making this additional effort, you can show that your brand is “human”, and sees its subscribers as individual and unique human beings, rather than impersonal contacts in a database.

You can also prove that you understand your audience, and are willing to go the extra mile to meet their needs and address their pain points.

Accessibility also minimizes legal risk, and helps you avoid bad publicity and financial losses that may result from lawsuits and litigations.

In 2020, over 10,000 accessibility-related lawsuits were filed in the U.S. To avoid joining these dubious ranks, make all your emails accessible!

Free Email Accessibility Guide

The Email Uplers team has created a comprehensive, free resource called The Ultimate Email Accessibility Guidebook. Access it here to know more about the importance of email accessibility for businesses.

The guide will also show you a tried-and-tested approach and best practices to help your brand create accessible emails for your audience.

About the Author!

Kevin George is Head of Marketing at Email Uplers, one of the fastest growing custom email design and coding companies, and specializes in crafting professional email templates, PSD to HTML email conversion and free responsive HTML email templates in addition to providing email automation, campaign management, and data integration & migration services. He loves gadgets, bikes, jazz and eats and breathes email marketing. He enjoys sharing his insights and thoughts on email marketing best practices on his blog.

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