The line between the real and the digital world has long eroded. What happens online does not just stay online. It can have an impact on daily life, even offline.
Moreover, almost everyone in the developed world now has access to the world wide web. People from all backgrounds use the internet to find information, connect with loved ones, be entertained, purchase goods and services, gain enrichment opportunities, and so much more.
That is why digital marketing has become more integral. Consumers are spending more time and a large percentage of their lives on the internet. Getting their attention and helping them make a purchasing decision meant brands and marketers also need to go online.
However, there is a huge gap in digital marketing. Far too often, brands and marketers fail to include certain consumers in their campaigns.
In one study conducted in the United Kingdom, even though 90 percent of all brands claim to prioritize diversity and inclusion, only 4 percent actually has a program that considers and addresses the needs of people living with disabilities.
About one billion people worldwide, or 15 percent of the entire human population, live with some form of disability.
More effort needs to be exerted to create inclusivity in digital marketing, not just for the sake of consumers who live with disabilities but also for the gain of the brand.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law passed in 1990 to protect the rights of individuals living with disabilities. It applies to all organizations with over 15 employees and/or public accommodations, including websites. If the organization fails to comply, it might face legal repercussions.
In the past, citizens have taken various organizations to court for violation of ADA. For example, a fan sued Parkwood Entertainment, the entertainment company founded by pop performer Beyonce, because its official website was not accessible to the visually impaired. To be accessible, photos should be coded with alt-text that can be read out loud by an assistive device.
However, avoiding litigation is not the only reason why brands should be more inclusive.
Embedded Into the Code
SEO (search engine optimization) uses various strategies to help a website climb up the ranks on the search engine results page. The main role of companies that offer SEO services is to help an organization be visible to its target market online.
But, by refusing to be inclusive, strategies will not be sufficient.
Marketing considers the user experience when navigating a website. If it is not accessible to everyone, including those who use assistive devices, it will turn away potential clients and customers. An organization that considers those who are often forgotten — people living with disabilities or minor impairments — gain an edge over their competitors because they cater to a larger audience.
Inclusivity means everyone receives equal chances. If a person without a disability can use a coupon code to make a purchase, so should everyone else. Technology is enabling more people to access the internet. Websites should therefore adapt by designing platforms that will be easy to use for all people.
Content Relatable to Anyone
The importance of representation in media, including in advertising, has never been clearer. People want to see themselves in different kinds of content in a meaningful way.
Inclusive businesses do not just gain respect from the public. They earn more. In a survey conducted in 2019 by Google, 64 percent of all respondents said they took some action after seeing an inclusive or diverse ad. The positive response was higher among Millennials, the age group most known for caring about social issues that affect them and their peers. Inclusive ads were also received better by black, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ consumers.
However, hiring a diverse set of models for an ad is not enough. There has to be depth in their inclusion.
One brand that gets it right every time is Dove. The brand regularly tells the story of people of all ages, races, sizes, and (dis)abilities. It does not hire professional models who only look a certain way for its ads, unlike its competitors.
Nearly two decades ago, the brand pledged to be inclusive and, to this day, remains to be an ally for all women.
Marketing connects a brand to its target customers. Yet, many choose to ignore a large percentage of consumers and, as a result, alienate them. However, there should be space for everyone, especially people living with disabilities, in marketing online and offline.