You: “Alexa, read my emails.”
Alexa: “:smiley: Happy :camel: day! Treat yourself with free shipping! :moneybag:”
You: “Alexa, delete.”
You might think this exchange with Alexa sounds a bit crazy and futuristic, but according to Amazon, the future is now. Before the holidays, Amazon announced an Alexa update where you can ask “her” to read your emails to you as well as respond to or delete the message.
Upon asking Alexa to read your emails to you, she starts by reading the total number of unread emails and those marked important from the last 24 hours. It will then prioritize emails marked as important first, reading aloud the sender’s name and subject line. From there, you can tell her to read the entire message, reply to it, archive it or delete it. You can’t yet ask Alexa to compose a new message or mark the email as spam, but those are features we might see in 2019. This feature currently only works with Gmail and Microsoft’s Outlook, Hotmail and Live.
We know what you’re thinking. Realistically, how many people will actually take advantage of this update? A recent report by NPR and Edison Research found 21 percent of people in the U.S. 18 and older, or around 53 million people, own a smart speaker and 53 percent of them use it at least every day if not several times a day.
(Source: The Smart Audio Report by NPR and Edison Research)
What does this mean for marketers sending promotional emails? It means if you don’t want your emails to be immediately deleted or skipped over, your subject lines need to be more compelling than ever, and those cute, clever emojis? They no longer bring the intended playful context to your recipient.
The design of marketing emails absolutely needs to be accessible for people with disabilities; it is no longer just a good idea. The World Health Organization estimates more than 1.3 billion people globally live with a visual impairment. That is nearly 17 percent of the world’s population. Imagine at least 17 percent of your email list is asking Alexa or a voice assistant to read the email you just sent them. When designing emails, marketers should ensure the campaign can be received and understood by everyone, regardless of impairment or whether they are using a voice assistant device.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when creating accessible emails to start an auditory dialogue between your marketing team and your customers.
Preheaders have the power
Utilize the power of the preheader. Both Alexa and Siri will read your preheader to help provide context to the email before reading the body of the message. The best part? This text can be hidden, so consider this your go-to space for audio-optimized email content. Make sure to include any calls-to-action that do not require a physical interaction and trade “Click here” for “visit our website dot com!”
How does your subject line sound?
When it comes to subject lines, consider not only what they look like to the human eye, but also how they will sound to the human ear. As always, keep subject lines direct, concise and catchy, but avoid relying on visual cues, excessive emojis or font tricks (censored words via stars, strikethrough, etc.) to make your point.
Images are not enough
You can no longer rely on images to tell your story. A well-designed, relevant image can do a lot for your email, but if your subject line does not immediately grab their attention, they will not save the email for later, and your images will never be seen. Voice assistant devices like Alexa struggle with reading and understanding image-heavy emails. Instead, make sure there is enough descriptive text within your email to make your point.
No more no-reply
Get rid of the no-reply email address. This is a legacy tactic marketers implemented to discourage recipients from replying to promotional emails and eliminate the need for actively monitoring a mailbox handling replies. Now that Alexa allows you to reply right away using nothing but voice, and mailbox providers view replying to messages as a positive engagement signal, ensure you’re using an email address that encourages recipients to reply and start a conversation with your brand.
Always test your emails
Continue to test your emails before sending them. If you’ve never used a robust preheader for the sake of audio presentation, you’ll want to test the email to make sure you’ve properly hidden it and the inbox preview looks good. Whenever you try something new, testing is key.
Due to consumers continuing to prefer all things video while turning away from leisurely reading, this technology will inevitably grow. Get ahead of the crowd (and your competitors) by making sure your emails are delivering the promotional content you want your subscribers to get in the way they want to get it.
About the Author: Anthony Chiulli is the director of product marketing at 250ok. With more than a decade of email experience, Anthony embraces educating and advising email marketers on the latest trends and insights within the email industry as director of product marketing. Before joining 250ok, Anthony’s prior roles included Marketing Practice Lead, Deliverability Services at Salesforce Marketing Cloud, and Senior Account Manager at Return Path.