How to Create Accessible Conversational Marketing Tools

Aaron Marco Arias
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Optimize your website
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14.11.2022

Conversational marketing and web accessibility are very unlikely enemies. For instance, it's well known that using a conversational tone can make your copy incredibly accessible. 

But, what about the tools we use to enable users to engage with our brands in a conversational way? Specifically, what about chatbots? How can you guarantee that functionally diverse users can enjoy your chatbots?

In this post, we’ll take a look at conversational marketing, how and why it works, and how it often fails to engage disabled users. We’ll also explore the technical barriers that stand between conversational marketing efforts and functionally diverse people. Finally, we’ll share some key accessibility recommendations.

Ready? Let’s get started!

What's Conversational Marketing?

In the last two decades, marketing has evolved past television commercials and magazine ads, and into algorithmically optimized paid ads, influencers, and omnichannel content marketing campaigns.

Marketing is no longer about faceless corporations erecting billboards and composing radio jingles. Brands now aim to create (and sometimes emulate) one-on-one interactions with customers, at scale.

This conversational approach to marketing has been reasonably named “Conversational Marketing”. And today, it mostly relies on:

  • Chatbots
  • Automated emails
  • Strategically implemented messaging platforms

In short, conversational marketing is the use of chatbots or other conversational interfaces to interact with customers or users. 

Why & How Conversational Marketing Works

Conversational marketing stats from Drift's 2020 report.

According to Drift’s 2020 State of Conversational Marketing report, when interacting with brands online:

  • 53.2% of customers see themselves bombarded by irrelevant targeted ads and emails
  • 35.3% find digital services noticeably impersonal
  • 34% of customers are frustrated by the inability to get answers to simple questions
  • 29% have to engage with a brand through repetitive online forms

Conversational marketing in general (and chatbots in particular) enter the picture as a great solution to these pains. And it’s not hard to see why. Chatbots seem easy to implement and affordable to scale. 

Chatbots are great for:

  • Gathering zero-party data (that is, information about our users that they give us voluntarily)
  • Addressing common user questions or concerns
  • Qualifying and capturing leads

According to stats compiled by ThriveMyWay, 80% of US-based companies with a digital presence plan to implement a chatbot by the end of 2022

Conversational Marketing's Most Common Web Accessibility Challenges

Conversational marketing is quite effective in attracting or keeping clients within our reach. But sometimes, those potential clients have physical or cognitive impairments that make it difficult to access this type of experience. 

For instance, it’s not uncommon for chatbots to lack support for assistive technology.

Most commonly, chatbots:

  • Are inaccessible to screen readers
  • Can’t be operated through voice 
  • Can’t be navigated with a keyboard

But, how can you guarantee that isn’t the case with your bot?

How to Create an Accessible Chatbot

There are three ways to make sure your chatbot is accessible. 

You can:

  • Rely on a SaaS platform that provides extensive documentation about accessibility, instead of building the bot from scratch.
  • Ask accessibility-oriented developers in your team to analyze the chatbot/build an accessible chatbot component themselves. 
  • Conduct testing through assistive technology.

Additionally, regardless of which option you choose, you should always write your chatbot’s logical tree with accessibility in mind. 

Let's take a closer look!

Chatbot as a Service

The easiest way to make sure your chatbot’s accessible from a technical standpoint is by setting it up through a third party that has built accessibility into their product. Beware, this is not the case for all SaaS companies providing chatbots as a service. For example, Intercom’s chatbots are accessible, but Tidio’s are not

Work with Accessibility-Oriented Developers

If you have to build your chatbot in-house, invest in making it accessible.

However, this is far easier said than done. You’ll probably need to either go out of your way to find developers with accessibility experience or train your existing team.

This discussion begs a more general question: How can we make sure the digital experiences we craft are accessible? 

These common accessibility rules are a great starting point:

  • Establish clear content hierarchies and organize on-screen information intuitively. 
  • Use semantic tags to delimit your content. The use of and tags can greatly improve navigation for screen reader users.
  • Add alt tags to all important images. Screen readers use it to explain your images to visually impaired users.
  • As an exercise, try removing your stylesheet and see if your site still reads correctly. This helps to detect structure issues and gives us a view of what a screen reader sees.
  • Use contrast to maximize legibility. Make sure your text and background have a contrast ratio of at least 500:1. 
  • Use free tools such as Google Lighthouse to measure accessibility and other important metrics. This might be a good place to start if you’re just beginning to pay attention to accessibility.

Invite functionally diverse people to test your chatbot

You should always have an ICP, and it’s important to prioritize certain user segments. But these segments shouldn’t be determined by ability. Include functionally diverse people in all your user research. Especially if you’re testing features that may result in complex accessibility issues. 

A great example of understanding the needs of functionally diverse people is Orange’s internal guide to developing accessible chatbots.

Here’s an interesting snippet:

“The presence of a button to access the chatbot, in the lower right, is enough to make some users understand that a chatbot is available on the page. But, for blind or visually impaired users who are navigating with a screen reader, this may pose difficulties. Indeed, to hear this button, often placed at the end of the code, it is necessary for the user to listen to the entire page to the last line. Thus, they should listen to the whole footer generally containing many links. In reality, it is not what users do. In this case, a visually impaired user is not aware of this button, so they are not able to access the chat.”

Write accessible chatbot copy

Benefits of conversational copy.

As we mentioned earlier in this post, the term “conversational marketing” is often associated with using a “conversational” tone. While these terms aren’t necessarily related, a conversational tone can be the key to making your conversational marketing a little more accessible.

Using a conversational tone consists of:

  • Writing in short, one-directional sentences 
  • Using short paragraphs
  • Explaining things in “plain language”
  • Using contractions and as few connecting words as possible
  • Predominantly using the active voice 
  • Using lists to make your texts more scannable

Adopt this type of writing for your chatbot’s messages. A conversational tone will make your chatbots messages accessible to:

  • Users with language-related impairments 
  • Second-language learners

 And, at the end of the day, you want to have a conversation with your user, not lecture or overwhelm them. So, adopting a conversational tone is only natural.

Additionally, we recommend you:

  • Capitalize every word in your hashtags. For example, the hashtag #sunnyday might be rendered weirdly by a reader. But if we write it as #sunnyDay the reader can pick up each word individually and read it correctly.
  • Try not to use emojis excessively. Screen readers will try to read your emoji’s alt text, which can result in a cumbersome experience. 
  • Use abbreviations as little as possible. Abbreviations will be read literally, which can result in a confusing message. 

Need help building an accessible inbound funnel?

How about you? Are you using conversational marketing to connect to your users? Have you ever considered it in terms of accessibility? 

At Postdigitalist, we help B2B startups to build & optimize inbound conversion funnels. We collaborate with some of the most promising bootstrapped and venture-backed startups from all around the globe. 

Build long-term organic growth, simplify your messaging, and foster user loyalty. Partner up with us today. Interested? Let’s connect!