How Inclusive Is Your Digital Marketing Strategy?

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By Shane Paladin, CEO of Siteimprove

According to this World Health Organization study, 15% of the world’s population has some form of disability and for many, this impacts how they can access the digital world. Too often, consumers with disabilities have been ignored by businesses. But brands are starting to realize that defining consumer demographics through an inclusive lens is not only a legal obligation – it is a business imperative in an evolving market. Here’s why.

  • A Growing Market
    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in the U.S. alone 1 in 4 adults are currently living with some form of disability. And the world’s population is aging. At some point in their lives, most people will experience a disability, including vision, hearing and cognitive disabilities. Add to this the broader audience of friends and family of this core market and businesses have a compelling reason to ensure their marketing is fully inclusive.
  • Exposure Issues
    Accessibility lawsuits are on the rise. Usablenet.com reports here that in 2020 there was a 23% increase in accessibility lawsuits over the previous year. That’s 3,550 cases or almost 10 lawsuits every business day. And that number continues to grow.
  • A Renewed Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
    Not only are there legal reasons for brands to ensure they have an inclusive digital marketing strategy but there are also potent emotional drivers. Today’s consumers are looking for a commitment to inclusivity from their brands. They want to see action, not just lip service, aimed at DEI efforts. And this starts with marketing. After all, if your marketing isn’t inclusive, your products won’t be either.

Start Building Your Inclusivity Now

March is Disability Awareness Month, which gives brands the perfect opportunity to walk the talk on building an inclusive digital strategy. Ensuring that your online presence is fully inclusive is a big job but there are plenty of tools and resources available to help. Here’s a checklist to get started:

1. Put an Accessibility Statement in Place. Showing your commitment to a more inclusive digital presence is a great first step. Here’s a free accessibility statement generator that can help you quickly create a statement for your website.

2. Check Your Stats and Remove Obstacles to provide a friction-free experience. An obstacle could take many forms, such as a slow-to-load page, broken links, confusing headlines, too many popups or not enough color contrast between background and text. Siteimprove offers several free tools to help you assess your inclusivity, including a website accessibility checker, an accessibility browser extension and a color contrast checker.

3. Get Familiar With Government Guidelines. Currently, there are three major pieces of legislation impacting global digital marketing and this list is likely to grow. So if your website is accessible to anyone living in or visiting these regions, it’s a good idea to stay up to speed:

    • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects people in the U.S. with disabilities from discrimination. To help marketers interpret how this applies to digital platforms, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has established a set of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
    • The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which gives more power and transparency to consumers, including “the right to be forgotten.”
    • Similarly, China has introduced the Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL), which is China’s first comprehensive law designed to regulate online data and protect personal information. Both GDPR and PIPL are having a huge impact on how data is collected, used and stored.

4. Make Sure Your Messaging is Simple, Consistent and Clear. Web content should be jargon-free and written for the widest possible audience (ideally at a lower-secondary education reading level, or 8th grade, for US audiences). Make sure a professional communicator has reviewed all content with an eye toward the accessibility guidelines outlined on the W3C website.

5. Seek Out a Partner. A web accessibility specialist can help you evaluate your interface, create an action plan for improvements and support your progress along the way.

6. Update Your SEO Strategy, to ensure that content is optimized to engage all users. The goals of SEO and accessibility are the same: with both, you want to provide your users with unique, concise content that is easy-to-find and navigate. It makes sense to think about SEO and accessibility together – it can reduce duplicate efforts, increase ROI and allow you to allocate valuable marketing and IT hours more efficiently.

7. Track Your Impact Using The Right Key Metrics and KPIs. Data analysis is critical to business growth but make sure you’re tracking what’s valuable to your organization. Data like page views or click throughs may be considered metrics but these might not be valuable for your organization. Make sure you’re collecting the right types of information. Your digital marketing strategy should be aligned with the overall business strategy and based on meaningful indicators that can help you assess progress toward your larger goals.

At some point, most consumers will interact with a brand online. And companies are realizing that people with disabilities and their allies deserve better access. With the convergence of three major drivers: an aging population, increased litigation and companies’ increased focus on DEI, leaders have the opportunity to re-examine their brands’ online inclusiveness from both a tactical and strategic perspective.

Using an inclusive lens for your digital marketing approach isn’t just a way to meet compliance needs, reach more consumers or improve the bottom line — though it will help you do all of these things. In an age when so many companies and individuals are looking to live by their values, it is also simply the right thing to do.

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