December 18, 2018

Alexa, read me my newest email.

The time has come, the future is now. Amazon recently announced an update to their popular Alexa voice assistant allowing you to ask “her” to read your emails to you. Here’s the big part: You can now ask her to respond or delete the message.

When you ask Alexa to read email for you, she starts by reading its subject line. You can then tell her to read the full message, delete it, reply to it, or archive it. You can’t ask Alexa to compose a new message or mark as spam yet, but hey, let’s see what 2019 has in store. This feature currently works exclusively with Gmail and Microsoft’s Outlook, Hotmail, and Live.

For marketers sending promotional emails, this news is bittersweet. We’re now facing the realization that subject lines should be more compelling than ever, and those cute, well-thought out emojis? They might not bring the playful context to your recipient any more.

It’s no longer just a good idea to design marketing email with accessibility in mind—it’s a necessity. It is estimated more than 1.3 billion people globally live with a visual impairment. That’s nearly 17 percent of the world’s population.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when creating accessible emails that help create an auditory dialogue between you and your customer.

    • From a subject line perspective, consider what it might sound like to the human ear, not necessarily what it will look like to the eye. As always, keep your subject line concise, direct, and catchy, but try to avoid relying on visual cues or font tricks (strikethrough, censored words via stars, etc.) to make your point.
  • Harness the power of the preheader. Siri and Alexa will use your preheader text first when reading emails. This text can be conveniently hidden, so consider this your primary space for audio-optimized email content. Include calls-to-action that do not require physical interaction. Trade “click here” for “visit 250ok dot com!”

    • Ditch the no-reply from address. Now that Alexa lets you reply right away using nothing but voice, the legacy tactic no-reply from address gets even worse. Make sure you’re using an email address encouraging recipients to reply and is monitored, supporting true one-to-one interaction.
    • Don’t rely on images to tell your story. A well-designed, relevant photo can do a lot of for your email, but if your subject line didn’t grab the reader enough for them to save the message to be truly viewed later, the image won’t ever be seen. Make sure there’s enough text within the email to get your point across.
    • Continue to test your emails before deploying. If you’re not used to having a robust pre-header for audio presentation, you’ll want to test your email to make sure you’ve properly hidden it, the preview in the inbox looks good, and so on. Whenever you try something new, testing is key.

With a growing reliance on video and a shift away from reading on any kind of medium, from newspaper to mobile devices, this technology will inevitably grow. Get ahead of the curve and make sure your emails are delivering the promotional content you want your subscribers to get in the way they want to get it.

Author: Anthony Chiulli

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.

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