Siri in Email

Siri and Email: How Digital Assistants Can Play a Role in Email Marketing


Siri, one of the first major personal voice assistants, has been helping us quickly navigate our iOS devices for years. Siri is also one of the primary accessibility functions on an iPhone, allowing us to use our devices hands-free. Digital assistants are also used all over the world by users who rely on voice as their only way of communicating with their phones. With that in mind, it’s surprising that we haven’t thought about how this digital assistant can be used for email marketing.

With the rising popularity of competing stand-alone devices, such as the Google Home or Amazon Echo, Siri usage has dropped in recent years. Nevertheless, Siri is still the most popular digital assistant.

Have you stopped to consider how Siri reads the emails you send?

How Does Siri Read Emails?

You may not know that Siri can be used as a voice inbox (for want of a better term). If you have an iOS device with Siri enabled, simply ask: “Siri, could you please read me my latest email?” and Siri will recite back the newest email in your inbox.

It’s important to know what, and how, Siri is going to read your email.

  1. Your sender name. Siri will follow this with “…sent you an email.”
  2. Your subject line. Siri will precede this with “about…”
  3. Your preheader. Siri will precede this with “it says…”

So, the formula for Siri’s audio is:

(Sender name) sent you an email about (subject line). It says (preheader). Would you like to reply?

Siri is fairly static with what she reads and always follows the above formula. The one variable is the preheader. Interestingly enough, Siri will read the first 499 characters of your email. For most people, this will include their email preheader followed by the first few lines of the email body.

Does Siri Read Hidden Preheaders?

By now, we’ve all heard the importance of including a preheader in your email. Preheaders can help increase engagement with your email and provide context alongside your subject line to encourage subscribers to open and interact with your email.

Hiding preheaders is a very common tactic with email marketers. This means that the preheader text does not show up in the body of the email. Hiding preheaders enables us to create that extra engagement without using any valuable screen real estate once the email is opened. Win, win, right?

However, because preheaders fall into the first 499 characters of your email, Siri will read them out loud regardless of whether they are hidden. This means we should craft our preheaders with Siri’s reading in mind.

How Do Emails Sound When Read by Siri?

Before Optimization

Because current email best practices suggest using shorter, snappier preheaders, we end up adversely affecting how Siri reads our emails. Listen to the example below for how Siri will read one of our regular (short) preheaders.

You’ll notice that we didn’t go anywhere near the 499 character limit for Siri, so Siri ended up reading on to the next part of the email. As you can hear, this sounds terrible.

Here is the preheader code from the above example:

<div id="preview_text" style="display:none;font-size:1px;color:#ffffff;line-height:1px;max-height:0px;max-width:0px;opacity:0;overflow:hidden;">Learn which email marketing tricks drive us bonkers. Plus, Google email news and a guide to using emojis.</div>

After Optimization

Luckily, optimizing for Siri is not a complex task. All we need to do is extend our preheader like so:

Extending the preheader gives us complete control over what Siri will read. You’ll see from the code snippet below that all we did was write more content:

<div id="preview_text" style="display:none;font-size:1px;color:#ffffff;line-height:1px;max-height:0px;max-width:0px;opacity:0;overflow:hidden;"> Find out which common email marketing tricks drive us bonkers. Plus, learn about Google’s email news, and read a practical guide to using emojis in your email campaigns. This is the latest installment of our monthly newsletter, containing only the best in email news. We love hearing from our subscribers, so, if you have any feedback about this email, or our service in general, please feel free to reply to this email with your thoughts and feedback – we really would love to discuss them with you!</div>

This means that optimizing your emails for Siri is not locked behind complicated code or complex systems.

Considerations and Opportunities with Siri and Email

In researching and experimenting with how Siri reads email we found a few things to consider.

Siri Doesn’t Like Acronyms

Here at Email on Acid, we sometimes like to refer to ourselves as “EOA.” This proved to be a bit of a sticking point with Siri, who likes to pronounce acronyms very, very fast. Instead of clearly speaking each individual letter of the acronym, Siri instead pronounced it like one word, making it sound more like “Eeohay.”

Optimize for Hearing, Not Reading

What looks good written doesn’t always read back as well. It’s important to remember that Siri is built to read just like a real human. When optimizing your preheader for Siri’s audio, ensure you use proper punctuation and grammar. Just like a person, Siri sounds a bit haggard after reading four sentences without a period.

Siri Reads Fast

In one of our Siri experiments, we added an auditory call to action (CTA) to the email preheader. The CTA encouraged users to reply to the email with “I love email” to be entered into a prize drawing.

When we began testing this, we found that because of the speed Siri reads at, “I love email” came out as “Iluvemail,” and it was very hard to understand. By adding commas to each word and making it “I, Love, Email” we were able to slow down the sentence and make it discernible.

Could Siri Be a Built-in CTA?

Another interesting tidbit we found was that Siri finishes an email with, “Would you like to reply?”

So, if we set the end of our preheader as a question, Siri naturally follows up and asks the user if he/she would like to reply. This can be used several different ways, encouraging email engagement before a user has even clicked in your email. In the example above, we used Siri to generate feedback on our emails and product. We could also pose a question, such as “We love hearing from our subscribers, so, if you have any feedback about this email or our service in general, please feel free to reply to this email with your thoughts and feedback – we really would love to discuss them with you!” and instantly after, Siri asks the user if they would like to reply.

There Are No Negative Side Effects

Because we are using the preheader technology that is already present in a majority of emails, optimizing preheader content for Siri will not negatively impact the email. This won’t hurt your deliverability or make your emails look bad on a specific client. Nevertheless, it is still important to test your emails with a tool like Email on Acid, to make sure all elements of your email display correctly.

The Future of Voice Assistants

Although Siri was one of the first, there are several other digital assistants on the market. With the rise in popularity of devices such as Google Home and Amazon Echo, it’s only a matter of time before this technology significantly affects email opens. In fact, email developers and marketers are already asking these questions and thinking about the future.

Have you used Siri to read an email to you? Are you eagerly awaiting an email application on your Google Home that can read your emails to you? Or, do you think that digital assistants will have no impact on email marketing? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below or shoot us a message on Facebook or Twitter.

You Still Need to Test Your Emails!

Optimizing your preheader text for Siri shouldn’t affect how your email displays. But that doesn’t mean you should send your email without testing it first. Will the rest of your email render correctly? With the Email on Acid platform, you can see how your email will look on more than 70 clients and devices. Try us free for seven days and see for yourself.

TEST TODAY!

1 thought on “Siri and Email: How Digital Assistants Can Play a Role in Email Marketing”

  1. Super helpful article Alex. Thanks for posting. All the little details in an email do make a difference since you never know what the application or use of them will be. It will be interesting to know what is the size of the audience using Siri to read their emails? Maybe if you or a friend had a contact within apple we could find out. I doubt that they just have it floating out on the interweb, but we will check as well.

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