Email accessibility is a requirement, not a choice: how to level up your campaigns
The European Accessibility Act comes into effect on 28th June 2025. Not aware of it? The European Commission calls it a “directive that aims to improve the functioning of the internal market for accessible products and services, by removing barriers created by divergent rules in Member States.”
Essentially, it is a new accessibility standard bringing a suite of benefits to both businesses and consumers.
For people with disabilities and elderly people, it means more accessible services and content across markets, fewer barriers to interacting with brand assets, and more competitive pricing for accessible services, products, and experiences.
For brands, it means wider market opportunities for their accessible offerings with a more diverse range of audiences, greater brand consistency and cost savings as a result of common EU rules, and easier cross-border trading and communications.
If you’re a brand in the European experience sector, this has transformative impacts that take hold in less than two years. It’s worth noting that the law applies based on the location of your customers, not your organization - and all existing digital products will need to meet these requirements.
One business area where the difference will be strongly felt is email marketing. If brands aren’t preparing now for the new standard of email marketing they will risk being left behind, alienating customers with accessibility needs, and, frankly, scoring an own goal with their wider audience who, more than ever, expect brands to be inclusive and compassionate. Is your brand ready?
Email marketing: the evergreen experience tool
It has been almost 50 years since the first email marketing campaigns. In 1978, a marketing manager at Digital Equipment Corporation sent a marketing email to around 400 potential customers, which is thought to have generated around $13 million in sales. Since then, marketing tools have come and gone, but email remains an evergreen and effective channel for engagement.
Today, almost 350 billion emails are sent every day. Marketing revenue from emails hit $10 billion last year, and more than 80% of marketers say they use email as part of their marketing strategy. What’s more, it continues to produce results. A survey has shown that for every dollar invested in email marketing, brands get $36 in return - and 73% of companies say the return on investment in email marketing is either good or excellent, compared to just 35% when it comes to display advertising.
With its universal reach, it’s safe to say email marketing is a pillar of experience business. As a trustworthy channel of communication, email can enable direct, one-to-one communication with audiences which can be highly personalized using tools like Adobe Journey Optimizer and Adobe Campaign.
With email marketing about to undergo a seismic shift, what are the key trends impacting this tried-and-tested channel and how can brands take advantage?
Email marketing trends into 2025 and beyond
Hyper-personalized emails can improve email marketing ROI by increasing customer engagement and conversion rates. When recipients feel that brands understand their individual needs and preferences, brand trust and loyalty are generated. In fact, hyper-personalization makes customers 110% more likely to add additional items to their baskets and spend 40% more than planned. Expectations for personalization are high as it becomes the default: 72% of consumers will now engage only with brand emails that are tailored to them. This could look like: the use of their name, an awareness of their previous interactions with the brand, acknowledgement of their location, and location-based offers. So brands must prioritize real-time data stitching from across the customer lifecycle, and use that to drive highly tailored email content that adds value and makes customers feel seen rather than sold to.
2. AI intelligent marketing
More and more brands are taking advantage of AI to make their email marketing more intelligent. For instance, Adobe Sensei can help determine the best send-time for every single recipient and Adobe Campaign can apply AI to help marketers filter our customers from send groups that are predicted to opt out of communications, based on learnings from previous behavior patterns. Generative AI can even craft emails based on simple prompts and rules, building in personalization at scale.
Brands are also increasingly including a feedback option or ‘sentiment poll’ at the end of their emails - asking whether their customers found the email helpful, to learn more about customer preferences and further optimize in the future.
How to prepare for the European Accessibility Act
Some brands fall into the trap of seeing accessibility initiatives as a niche with limited business impact. Accessible email marketing campaigns are no longer an optional speciality, they are a business requirement.
Obviously, compliance with the European Accessibility Act will be a legal mandate. Still, CMOs should see this as a broader opportunity to boost customer satisfaction, include more people in their audience pool, develop their brand identity as inclusive and empathetic, and build clarity at every stage of the customer lifecycle. When you include everyone, you create opportunity.
So how can marketers ensure their digital products meet the requirements?
1. Test accessibility
99.97% of HTML emails tested contain accessibility issues categorized as “serious” or “critical”. Marketers can aim for accessibility, but inclusivity isn’t a given until it has been tested for blindspots. At Cognizant Netcentric we have state-of-the-art tools to test how accessible an email is, identifying areas for improvement. Fully accessible content must be fully readable for those using assistive technologies and screen readers, so testing on those technologies is key.
2. Check for alt text on images
Alternate text (otherwise known as alt text) is used to explain the visual content of an image to those who might not be able to see it for a variety of reasons. Ensuring alt attribute is always included when using images in your marketing campaigns can increase the size of the audience that can engage with it substantially.
3. Color contrast
Lower color contrasts in marketing emails can lead to accessibility issues for those with visual impairments and those using assistive tools to read. Make sure your contrast ratio for your emails is sufficient to allow the text to be legible over background images or color. Common color codes can be helpful too, such as adding a red icon for exiting a page and a green one for ticking a box.
4. Hierarchy in emails
Those who use a screen reader or keyboard navigation tools rely on headline hierarchy to read. So make sure you are using heading tags in your email code to allow the syntax of your content to be carried over onto these devices, meaning the structure of your campaigns can be followed by a range of audiences.
5. Discernible text on links
It’s crucial for any links in the body of the email to have text explaining to the user where the link is taking them. Adding discernible text inside the link will instantly improve the accessibility of that email.
The barriers to accessibility
So what is standing in the way of truly accessible email campaigns?
Firstly, brands thinking in silos and thinking these changes don’t affect the majority of their audiences. However, better headings, feedback surveys, and responsive design will improve the customer experience for all users, not just those with unique needs, leading to increased brand loyalty and in turn, more audiences converting into customers.
Secondly, brands don’t prioritize accessibility because they believe it will prove costly in both money and time. However, with inclusive content becoming a European legal requirement in 2025, now is the time to invest in an approach to email marketing that is fit for purpose and has future regulatory compliance built in.
Thirdly, brands don’t have the expertise to know where to begin when it comes to boosting their inclusivity and meeting the regulatory standards for accessibility. At Cognizant Netcentric, we have worked with leading brands to optimize their email marketing to ensure maximum engagement. Our experts in Adobe Campaign can help pull cross-channel data into a single view and then use it to create personalized and inclusive personalized campaigns across touchpoints.
Get in touch today to explore how you could optimize your email marketing for better accessibility and engagement into 2025 and beyond.