Interviews, insight & analysis on Ecommerce

Making marketing emails accessible

by Guy Hanson, VP of Customer Engagement at Validity

According to research from the World Health Organisation, more than two billion people around the
world suffer from a vision impairment alone. Therefore, it is essential for brands to craft marketing
emails with these individuals in mind. Whether because it is a legal requirement, social pressure, or
a strong best practice, accessibility should be front of mind for all marketing professionals.
Additionally, there is a strong chance the business will lose sales revenue if accessibility is not
properly addressed.

In today’s digital age, many consumers are accessing their emails through mobile phones or portable
devices such as smart speakers. Fortunately, society’s ever-growing reliance on technology has
resulted in more attention around accessibility than ever before. Therefore, many brands are
seeking effective tools and best practices which can be incorporated into email campaigns.
Important aspects to consider

There are a variety of best practices marketers can follow to enhance accessibility, such as using at
least a 14-point font, breaking dense paragraphs into bite-sized chunks, and using plenty of white
space within emails to ensure they stand out. This is particularly important in the US, where some of
these practices are legal requirements imposed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
legislation. Essentially, all email templates should provide readers with an easily navigable structure
by using headings, paragraphs, and tags that make content easy to follow

It is also important for marketers to consider consumers who may need more guidance with calls to
action. For example, a button which simply says “click here” may not be meaningful to a person
lacking full confidence in their ability to read email. Rather, senders could opt for buttons which say,
“explore Mother’s Day options” or “Donate now”, making next steps clear for the consumer. In
addition, brands should also try to avoid overloading messages with hyperlinks, make sure their
purpose is clear, and reinforce aspects which have already been covered within the copy.

Dark mode can significantly help those who suffer with photosensitivity, as it reduces eye strain.
Instead of the usual dark text against a light screen, dark mode displays a light colour text such as
white or grey against a dark or black screen. It is also particularly popular with dyslexic individuals,
who generally find this format easier to read. Senders can test if users have dark mode enabled on
their devices using a media query, and alter colours and text formatting, to show or hide content
appropriately. Dark mode is quickly gaining popularity, even among those who do not suffer with
accessibility challenges.

Another crucial aspect to consider for optimal email accessibility is good colour contrast for all text
elements. Marketers should keep readers with astigmatism in mind, as these individuals might find
light text on a dark background blurry. They can design for this condition by using a semi-transparent
layer behind the text, which provides contrast for both light and dark backgrounds.

Getting started

To make their programs more accessible, email marketers must first undergo a change of mindset. It
can be challenging to empathise with conditions that you do not personally struggle with, so
speaking to someone who does have a condition, such as dyslexia, is always a good place to start.
For example, a person dealing with dyslexia, could explain how full justified text is harder to read
because there is no obvious starting point.

Once senders have a better understanding, they can utilise a range of accessibility tools such as
design and content tools, which can help senders understand how their emails render across
multiple platforms and clients. Sophisticated technology such as predictive eye tracking can also help
marketers understand how subscribers navigate their emails.

In addition to this, they can use accelerated mobile pages (AMP), which enable marketers to embed
more web functionality directly into emails, making them easier to find, navigate, and use.
Embedding web functionality such as image carousels and interactive forms into emails makes
messages easier to navigate and engage with. These measures can also make subscribers more likely
to convert.

Ultimately, implementing accessibility measures allows brands to craft messages that all customers
can read and digest. Many accessibility tactics overlap with established email best practices, so it is
not only impaired subscribers who benefit. With a smarter use of accessibility, brands can enhance
their reputation, amplify ethical positioning, and increase ROI from the email channel.

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