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  • A Guide To Email Accessibility
    TriMark office space

By Michael Zembek, Graphic Designer

When it comes to email, the last thing a user might think of is how “usable” the message may be to them. But what if you get an email in your inbox from your favorite brand or store—a big sale, new products, or a coupon code—and it isn’t loading because the whole message was an image? On top of that, the CTA buttons were included in the image and the sender forgot to include alt text, so you have no idea where to click. 

This situation is upsetting enough for someone with unimpaired sight, but imagine that you have impaired vision and need to use a screen reader to visually translate the email.

As an email designer, it’s important to put yourself in the viewers’ shoes and picture how frustrating this experience would be. Not only would this person likely unsubscribe from future emails, but you may lose their business entirely. 

Luckily, there are tried-and-true methods to make sure your email designs are in tip-top shape! Here are some tips, tricks, and best practices to make your emails inclusive and accessible.

How Accessibility Supports Good Marketing Strategy

Marketing is the process of creating and delivering value to meet the needs of a target market—turning prospective buyers into paying customers. Having a good marketing strategy would offer the best results in that regard, which should include making accessibility a top priority. If your end products aren’t accessible, then your strategy may fall short of your goals. 

Here are some more reasons ‌accessibility is good for business:

  1. It improves usability for everyone, not just those with impairments.
  2. It helps you reach a wider audience.
  3. It increases engagement and customer retention.
  4. It sets you apart from other competitors who may not prioritize accessibility.
  5. It enhances your brand as one that thinks about its customers and subscribers.

Designing for Accessibility

When making your emails more accessible, there are many design choices to consider that can accommodate your audience’s needs. Here are just a few ways you can make your design as accessible as possible:

It’s helpful to think of how Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant reads emails.

Use accessible pre-headers and subject lines

Your subject line is the first impression the viewer will have of your email, especially when using a screen reader. This will set the stage and give context to the reader about what the email contains, so they will know right away if the content applies to them. Avoid confusing phrasing, overly technical terms, or anything else that may confuse the reader or be easily misunderstood when read by a screen reader. It’s helpful to think of how Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant reads emails. Typically, they will read the subject line first and then the pre-header text to give some background.

Pre-headers and subject lines example image
Example of how a subject line and pre-header text appears in your mobile inbox.

Avoid designing image-only emails

Though it may be easier to simply design an all-image email, it’s challenging to make them accessible. Screen readers cannot interpret the content of an image and instead rely solely on “live text.” Live text is any form of copy contained in the email’s HTML code, which is immediately available when the email loads.

It will also be difficult to describe an all-image email using “alt text.” Alt text is live text that is embedded in an image’s HTML code that, when the image doesn’t load or a screen reader is in use, will be visible and readable in place of the image. If a screen reader can’t discern your email, you will likely ‌see a decrease in engagement and subscriber retention.

Use acceptable color contrast

Contrast ratio is important for design of any kind. Contrast is the difference between a background color and a foreground color, which is vitally important to those with visual impairments.

To test this for yourself, run your color scheme through a contrast checker. A 1:1 ratio has little contrast, while black text on a white background has a 21:1 ratio—the highest possible result. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) recommend a minimum ratio of 4.5:1 for anything under 18pt, and 3:1 for text larger than 23pt.

Contrast checker preview
The results from the contrast checker will look similar to this, giving you an indicator that’s either green (good contrast) or red (bad contrast).

Make sure your text is readable

Small font sizes are hard to read, whether you’re partially blind or simply trying to read an email on your phone. To enhance readability, make sure your fonts are at least 14pt, though this recommendation may vary since not all fonts are a uniform size.

Consider your typography and general type layout as well—your font should be legible, spaced appropriately, and kept in a logical reading structure. Center-aligned paragraphs are ‌harder to read for those with dyslexia, so when in doubt, stick to left-aligned paragraphs.

Differentiate your links

If someone with colorblindness reads your email, it’s important to set your links apart from the main body copy. Make sure that the inline links stand out and look clickable. Consider color contrast in this situation as well, as this will make the link’s clickability apparent for people both with and without visual impairments.

High contrast CTA and link example
The above example shows an inline link and CTA button with bright, high-contrast colors that set them apart from the rest of the body copy.

Don’t forget about dark mode!

Dark mode is a display option that has been slowly creeping into the email design world for several years. Dark mode inverts the colors in an email—meaning dark text is converted to light and light backgrounds are converted to dark.

The above email shows how Gmail inverts email colors when dark mode is in use.

At first glance, this seems like a good way to reduce eye strain for viewers, but it also produces more problems when it comes to making sure the color contrast in your design is accessible. Email clients are also inconsistent in the way they transition an email to dark mode. This blog post from email marketing platform Litmus provides an overview of how different email clients handle dark mode.

Is there a simple way to solve for accessibility in dark mode? Unfortunately not. The best solution is to research your audience (such as what email clients they are primarily using) and extensively test the email you plan to send. Check it in your inbox on desktop and mobile, view it in dark mode, and test it in various clients.

Compassionate Marketing Is Important

While ROI is certainly critical to a good marketing strategy, it’s also important to walk in the shoes of your customers and subscribers. Providing the best possible design experience to your clients, regardless of ability, allows you to better connect with your audience and contribute to a more inclusive industry.

  • Top 5 Social Media Trends for Businesses in 2022
    TriMark office space

By Eugenia Hart, Social Media Strategist

Year after year, social media continues to expand the user experience and how we consume our favorite brands online. In its infancy, social media was primarily used to keep up with family and friends. It has since metamorphosed into an advertising candy shop.

Social media remains the ultimate playground to create engaged digital communities and the ideal space to convert fans into customers. Social app giants are ever-evolving as they find innovative ways to keep consumers engaged and scrolling for longer periods of time. It’s no surprise that brands are investing in this funnel to capture their audience’s attention.

So, what’s worth keeping your eye on in 2022? We’re sharing the top social media trends for businesses to pay attention to in the new year.

1. Influencers Run the World

OK, so maybe not the world. But it’s no surprise that the Creator economy is now worth over $100 billion and is projected to grow every year. Evidence of influencer value is seen in how social media leaders TikTok, Instagram, Pinterest and even LinkedIn are investing in Creator marketplaces. Creator marketplaces serve as a venue for creators and brands to discover one another and connect with ease. Millions have been allocated to creating these tools that cater to influencers.

2. Short-Form Video Is King

When we think about capturing the audience’s attention, short-form vertical video is king. The shorter the video length, the better. Being able to capture the attention of the viewer in the first 3 seconds and video view completion rate are two of the top metrics that differentiate a low-engagement post from one that skyrockets to virality.

Studies show that short-form videos on Instagram get more engagement—more than its competitor TikTok! Extra engagement points if the video production is less polished, spur-of-the-moment or incorporates unedited Live video feed content.

If you haven’t implemented video into your brand content strategy, now is a better time than any to jump on board.

3. Brand Transparency On Social Justice Issues

With the rise of highly publicized social justice concerns, many brands spoke out against racism with brand messaging declaring a want to listen, learn, and do better. The consumer demand to know a company’s stance on certain issues will only climb, forcing brands to rethink how they respond to social issues.

Additional topics that matter to consumers include body inclusivity in marketing, environmental activism and maternal and paternity leave. We shared our fave brands that took on social issues by navigating these worthy conversations. More and more customers are taking a harder look at where they spend their dollars and what brands decide to address issues that are central to their personal values.

4. Social Commerce Becomes the Norm

$1.2 trillion. Yup. It’s expected that social commerce will reach incredible heights in profit and popularity. Social media has become the one-stop-shop for a shopping experience. From product discovery to click-to-purchase and post-purchase support, everything is happening without ever having to leave the social platform. Evidence shows that over 70% of small businesses opt to sell on social media.

5. Continued Focus on Mental Health and Burnout

With lockdowns, working from home, and an increase in time spent online, mental health and burnout have affected everyone. Instagram is really leading the charge by displaying the importance of stepping away from screens via their Take a Break feature

This tool allows Instagram users the option to take a break from scrolling. It comes with expert-backed tips on how to limit screen time. Time will tell if other social platforms follow suit in the new year.

Social media remains a wild wave with new features to learn, new audiences to reach, and intriguing stories to tell. The opportunities are endless. If you’ve made it this far, you MUST want to read our take on marketing trends to follow in 2022.

  • How To Create A Strategic Influencer Program That Supports Your Marketing Goals
    TriMark office space

By Hannah Freyaldenhoven, Senior Content Strategist, Team Lead

In 2022, new privacy updates are forcing brands to think outside the box and look to influencers to reach their target audience. Social platforms are evolving, too. In-app shopping features on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok mean new opportunities for prospects to convert via influencer marketing.

Curious how you could create an influencer program that supports your marketing goals? We’ll start with the basics of influencer marketing and outline how it can expand your current strategies at every stage of the funnel.

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing uses key leaders and content creators—known as “influencers”—to share your brand’s message. By collaborating with an influencer, you can speak directly to their unique audience of followers. 

Influencers connect with their followers across many platforms in a variety of ways, serving as a subject matter expert for an interest group, geography, or life stage. When chosen intentionally, influencers share products and services that will fit into their followers’ lifestyles. They can “influence” their followers to consider your brand because it will actually resonate with their needs and interests.

This allows for a less transactional and more transformational conversation around your brand.

Microinfluencers: A great starting point

While your first instinct may be to partner with someone with as many followers as possible, we’ve found that micro- to mid-tier influencers are a great place to start – especially when creating an influencer marketing strategy for the first time.

Many micro- and mid-tier influencers would not consider themselves famous in an offline setting. Instead, they’ve gained the power to affect purchasing decisions of others because of their niche knowledge and relationship with their audience. Microinfluencers boast some of the strongest engagement rates per post because of this strong rapport they’ve built with their followers.

By partnering with influencers in the 10-70K followers range, you’ll reach highly qualified consumers without breaking the bank, allowing for a chance to test and learn. Microinfluencers tend to give us the best deal for the money invested, typically charging less than $500 per post. Plus, microinfluencers are often willing to negotiate in-kind trades, which can help stretch tight marketing budgets.

Why do we recommend influencer strategies?

Here are our top six reasons why influencer marketing could benefit your business and build on your current marketing strategies. Along the way, we’ll share examples from our client Closets by Liberty™, who launched their new closet organization systems using influencer marketing.

1. IMPROVE TRUST

When it comes to millennials, only 1% of them trust advertisements. And that makes sense—advertisements are self-promoting, the tone is often transactional, and the message is sales-y. The result? 42% of consumers use ad-blocking technology according to the Digital Marketing Institute

Influencer marketing can help fill this gap as a way to gather third-party reviews, which are considered more trustworthy than ads. Consumers are able to witness an influencer’s positive, real-world product experience and build enough trust to complete a purchase.

Consider these numbers:

  • 82% of customers surveyed by ExpertVoice said they would be very likely to follow a recommendation from a microinfluencer.
  • Around 40% of people surveyed by Annalect said that they purchased a product online after seeing it used by an influencer on YouTube, Instagram, or Twitter.
  • Forbes reports 33% of millennials trust blog reviews for their purchases.

When Closets by Liberty™ started its influencer program amidst its brand launch, the goal was to build reviews on both retailer sites and a new microsite. Influencer content directed highly qualified traffic to the microsite, helping the brand break into the crowded storage and organization market.

2. CREATE AUTHENTIC CONVERSATIONS

A common myth is that influencers aren’t seen as genuine. In reality, microinfluencers work to nurture their relationships with followers rather than simply posting a picture and caption. 71% of influencers believe that it’s an honest and authentic voice that keeps their audience engaged.

Choose influencers who are strict about representing products that truly fit their lifestyle and will resonate with their audience. It’s a good sign if they ask lots of questions about your product or service! You should also ask for their media kit and investigate past sponsored content to ensure the influencer is engaged and on-brand.

Closets by Liberty™ influencers answered questions and concerns from potential customers on behalf of the brand. You’ll see them respond in the comments and create an authentic conversation around the product. Because they were briefed on our marketing goals, they were able to follow up with more information and promote key selling points.

3. APPEAL TO DIVERSE AUDIENCES

Ensure your brand is relatable and inclusive by partnering with influencers that are diverse in location, age, race, style, and budget.

As you vet influencers for your brand, consider the way your product or experience works for different types of consumers:

  • What does this makeup look like on different skin tones?
  • What do these clothes look like on different heights and body types?
  • How does this couch look in different homes?
  • How does this resort cater to different family or group sizes?

A diverse program of influencers allows us to cast the widest net, appealing to everyone that fits within our target audience. This will also show the versatility of products as everyone will use the product in slightly different ways.

For Closets by Liberty™ we intentionally sought out different home types and design styles, from bohemian to traditional to contemporary. We also diversified by customer age, need, and use case, including a young business owner sprucing up her office, a busy mom making her closet a special sanctuary, a young child growing into his first closet, a design enthusiast in the middle of a home makeover, and more.

Photo credit: @brownskinbeautiful, @thecreativemom, @casawatkinslivingblog, @eyeinthedetail

4. GAIN NEW INSIGHTS

Because you will send your influencers product, they will gain practical, hands-on experience with your brand. Living with your product in their day-to-day life means they will likely get to know your product even better than you!

Similarly, if you are marketing an experience or service, these influencers will have a chance to critique your brand with fresh eyes and through a new perspective.

Use this as an opportunity to:

  • Get feedback on product improvements
  • Establish pro tips based on how they use the product
  • Send and test new items before they hit the shelf 
  • Create co-branded products that help shape the future of the brand

When Closets by Liberty™ released its new shoe storage accessory for its closet systems, we sent the product to our influencers before it was publicly available for purchase. This was important for two reasons. Our influencers already had the closet systems installed in their homes and could easily add the new accessory. They also could share their reviews and give us honest feedback on the function of the product. From there, we established key messages around the new accessory based on real experiences. Consider this a mini focus group and gather as many reviews as possible.

5. BUILD YOUR CREATIVE LIBRARY

Influencer content offers a distinct benefit from traditional user-generated content. Unlike UGC, you’ll have a hand in the overall look, setting the project up for success with brand guidelines and even mood boards. As a result, you get high-quality, styled creative that you can count on for future assets. 

Top benefits:

  • Save on production time and effort—you don’t have to execute a photoshoot, they do it!
  • Avoid set propping. Your influencer uses their own home and personal items.
  • Create more looks for less. Each influencer offers a new location.

Pro tip: You’ll negotiate rights to the content so that you can repurpose photography, video, and content in fresh ways across different platforms, amplifying their original message and supporting your content strategy.

Working with influencers is also a great way to test new platforms, like TikTok, that are more difficult to create organically in-house. You get their in-app video experience, plus the fact that they’ve already built a following on these new channels.

We tested influencer imagery in our Closets by Liberty™ display ads, which resulted in some of our top-performing creative yet.

6. TAILOR TO FIT YOUR MARKETING GOALS + BUSINESS OBJECTIVES.

Influencer marketing can fit seamlessly into your overall strategy and provide new opportunities at each stage of the funnel. While it is a powerful way to create awareness among key audiences, it can ultimately drive leads and sales.

From blogs to reviews, installation videos, social posts, Pinterest pins, and TikTok, the amount and type of content that you can create to support any stage of the funnel is endless. You’ll test and learn what converts best based on the purchase process and decision-making lifecycle of your product.

Social platforms are evolving, too. New in-app shopping features on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok mean new opportunities for prospects to convert and, in turn, new monetized touchpoints for your influencers to utilize.

Influencers will also have valuable insight on what marketing strategies perform best for their audience. For example, perhaps their followers are very responsive to Instagram stories with links.

One tactic that Closets by Liberty™ implemented in the “capture” phase was a design quiz. It featured influencer photography that matched a respondent’s design preferences, creating personalized assets.

How can I get started?

While influencer marketing is very popular for beauty and fashion e-commerce brands, it’s also an effective strategy for less tangible “products” like travel, experiences, and services. No matter your industry, there is someone representing your target audience and speaking directly to them. 

To get started you’ll need to set clear objectives for your program, whether that’s to build your creative library, grow product awareness through backlinks and social media impressions, create demand with product reviews, or drive sales with unique promo codes.

Stay tuned for more discussion on how to seek out high-quality partners, negotiate agreements, and track insights.