If your organization has an e-commerce platform and you haven’t yet thought about web accessibility, then you’re doing your own brand a major disservice. That’s especially true if you make 100 percent of your sales online. But it’s also true if, like most retailers, you have an online store or downloadable shopping app – or both – to supplement your physical bricks-and-mortar locations and draw more customers.
If your websites and app aren’t designed to follow universal web accessibility guidelines, then they aren’t being used to their full potential – and they aren’t helping your retail business as much as they could be. Over 1.6 billion people purchased goods online in 2016, according to Consumers International1. You could be losing a significant part of the online market without even realizing it.
Accessible means barrier-free. When it’s applied to online shopping, web accessibility means that a series of common web barriers to people with disabilities – like order forms they can’t fill out, or product descriptions they can’t read – have been removed or replaced with better options. This is achieved by following certain technical requirements for accessibility, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. Guidelines like these are meant to improve online access for people who have disabilities because otherwise they can’t make a purchase (and you don’t make a sale). But web accessibility also helps many other customers.
Not long ago, we posted an article demonstrating that web accessibility can get you more customers. Not only does it expand your reach into the disability market – that’s over 62 million people in the U.S. – but you’ll also attract many other groups of customers. You can read more on these points here.
Here, in part two, we want to talk about 3 more ways that web accessibility can help your retail business. Read on:
1. Your store will come up in more online searches.
What’s not to love about search engine optimization? When your website follows the technical requirements for accessibility, you’ll find yourself with an online store that’s also better optimized for browser searching. The organized structure, the properly labelled information and the accurate product image descriptions – all of which your website will have after you make accessibility improvements – will enable your store and your products to come up in more online searches.
2. You’ll attract a more diverse audience.
Previously, in part one, we talked about web accessibility for customers who develop a disability they didn’t have before, or get a temporary injury, or start having trouble seeing smaller print. Web accessibility also helps people who have no disabilities or injuries at all, but nevertheless have needs that are more likely to be met when online barriers are removed. One group is people for whom English is not a first language. Certain technical requirements for accessibility, such as captioning a product demonstration video (for people who can’t hear), also make it easier for people who aren’t fluent in the language to understand the video. Using clear language and avoiding jargon works better for people who don’t know much about your industry.
3. Your site will appeal to customers in a time crunch.
Everyone’s in a rush these days, zipping from one appointment to the next and juggling multiple tasks. When your website is designed to be accessible, you’re more likely to make sales with customers who are short on time or distracted. For instance, transcripts allow people to skim the product information quickly instead of watching a full-length promotional video. Features like navigation menus that are easily identified will help customers find their way around your site quickly. Web accessibility can actually speed up the process of information-gathering for your customers, and it can mean a faster, hassle-free purchase.
Don’t Make Empty Claims
Want to provide your customers with a truly accessible website? Be sure to go the distance. Don’t make empty claims about the importance of serving people with disabilities, and then fail to remove barriers adequately. Last year, the U.K. digital consulting firm E-consultancy evaluated the web accessibility of six prominent retail companies. “Most retailers had reassuring text on their sites describing their dedication to making their online offerings accessible,” noted Chris Rourke, managing director of user vision. “Most had also implemented some accessible features on their sites… yet shortcomings were readily found.2” Be sure your web properties are checked thoroughly for barriers and adhere to all accessibility requirements, not just a few.
Being thorough with web accessibility, by the way, also protects retailers from litigation. Discrimination against people with disabilities is prohibited under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Target Corporation, for example, was forced to settle and make accessibility improvements to website after the National Federation of the Blind led a class-action lawsuit complaining that people who were blind could not shop on the retailer’s website.
One last tip: ask for feedback. Add a simple tool on your site that customers with disabilities can use to report accessibility problems or suggestions. You can also solicit their opinions by email after they make a purchase. This kind of feedback can be invaluable, as hands-on user testing is one of the most important components to evaluating web accessibility. Help your business be the best it can be, both in store and online.
An Innovative Solution
eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY has developed a comprehensive accessibility solution to help organizations follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and achieve and maintain compliance with standards and regulations. This includes integrating web compliance evaluation and remediation services with assistive technology to deliver a transformative experience for people with disabilities. Learn more about eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY’s innovative solution.
- World Consumer Rights Day 2018 Briefing: E-Commerce Backgrounder Consumers International, 2018
- Study: Americans Don’t Want Targeted Advertising Econsultancy, 2009