Research shows that over 79% of smartphone users read emails on their smartphone. And around 50% of marketing email newsletters are opened on mobile devices This has a big impact on how emails should be designed and formatted to be mobile friendly. But there is something every email marketer is forgetting to take into account….
The internet of things influencing inbox interaction
All indicators point towards a higher adoption of voice to inbox interaction. Apple has high expectations of connected devices, investing heavily in Apple Watch and Siri the voice activated advanced personal assistant that will let you perform activities on Apple iOS devices. This also allows Siri to completely go through your mail, without hardly touching the device.
First, let’s hear an example of a Siri-proof email we made, with a separate text for voice interaction that doesn’t show in the email.
Voice-ing your email
There is not really a name for voice-email interaction yet, because the only options we had to digest the mails was through reading or skimming. As this has little to do with reading, we coin the term Voice your email for the interaction, or in shorthand this is what we call voice-email (pronounced: voicey-mail) for all voice and speech-based interaction with email..
How voice-email works:
Voice recognition software like Siri allows you and your subscribers to:
- Open your inbox and go through the messages
- Scan your emails based on what for instance Apple VoiceOver reads to you.
- Take action like making a call, dictating a note, reply to an email or plan an agenda item
Here is an overview of the email specific commands that Siri understands.
These actions can be taken completely without any touch interaction once the voice recognition software is activated.
How Siri-proof is your newsletter?
We asked Siri to do some reading. This is one way to learn about the voice compatibility of your own email newsletters. If you don’t have an iPhone nearby, listen to the audio fragment below from the Washington Post. This recording makes it painfully clear that not all newsletters are read properly. Siri reads the link starting with HTTP:// (at 0:16) out loud.
Here is a recording based on an email from Amazon.
Web-guidelines and Accessibility
One of the reasons that this is a serious issue, with a diverse growth of devices and their own quirks we come back to an issue that has been troubling on the web for quite some time. Organisations that have fully adopted web-guidelines for sites are more easily navigated and understood, even for the visually impaired / through screen readers or other tools.
The inbox was lacking such a standard, until we developed a working version of Email Accessibility Standards based on the WCAG-standard for the Dutch government. This allows, for instance, visually impaired to through the aid of a screenreader quickly get an overview of the contents of the mail and be able to navigate it. This standard includes techniques like adding identifiable headers, navigation points and adding explanation for clickable links.
“Amazingly there was no Email Accessibility Standard, so we had to develop one.”
Don’t read, voice your email
The majority of recipients don’t voice their email yet, but this will most likely change in the future. The internet of things will most probably be a catalyst for voice interaction with our mailbox. New devices such as Apple Watch and CarPlay can be operated with Siri and these devices act somewhat differently than you would expect, in turn making the early adopters / email marketers finding out how far “watch-html” will stretch.
The number of devices connected to the internet is set to grow with equally impressive numbers to 26 Billion in 2020. That is over 400% growth from 2011.
How to make newsletters readable for Siri?
It is possible to let Siri read your newsletter properly. To achieve this, it’s important to keep in mind the following characteristics of Siri:
- Siri reads about 25 seconds of the first part of your newsletter.
- Not all HTML is parsed correctly by default. So it can be that your Apple device starts reading links and becomes largely incomprehensible for your subscribers and prospects.
- Siri can’t fast forward or skip certain parts of text and for instance start with the headlines in the middle of your newsletter.
The ‘Siri-text’ should give the recipient an overview of the information that can be found in the newsletter. Add a table of contents or summary in the 25 seconds text and let this text support the subject line and pre-header to encourage the recipient to actually read the newsletter.
Siri always reads the first part of the email, so the Siri-text needs to be placed even before the pre-header. Making the Siri-text invisible avoids that the text will be shown in the newsletter. Perform some tests to find out how long it takes for Siri to read the Siri-text and tune the length until Siri stops reading at the end of your table of contents or summary.
Make your newsletter Siri-proof by inserting this piece of HTML code before the preheader.
<span style="clip: rect(0px, 0px, 0px, 0px); height: 1px; max-height: 1px;
display: block; margin: -1px; overflow: hidden; padding: 0;position: absolute;
width: 1px; mso-hide: all;">
This is an example text to show that it is possible to optimize your newsletters
and other campaigns for Siri. This text is not visible in the email but Siri can read
it. Add a table of contents or summary in this text and let this text support
the subject line and pre-header to encourage the recipient to actually read the
newsletter. The majority of recipients don’t voice their email yet, but this will
most likely change in the future. This example has been made by Measuremail and
In this audio fragment, the technique is demonstrated, with Siri reading the exact text properly.
We can imagine that you would have several questions on developing Siri ready email or would like to check your email against Email Accessibility Standards. Feel free to shoot over an email and we will send you a two page explanation & short checklist on how to make your email voice proof.