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Retailers, Take Note: Putting a Price Tag on Lack of Digital Accessibility

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Written by: Mark Vomend

The Click-Away Pound Survey studied online shopping in the United Kingdom by customers with disabilities. The 2016 report revealed some startling numbers:

  • 71% of shoppers with disabilities will click away from your website if it is too difficult to use.
  • The majority (82%) of these consumers will pay more money for the same item on a competitor’s website if that site is more accessible.
  • These “click-away” customers accounted for around 10% of UK online shopping revenue in 2016—roughly £75 billion in the UK alone.

Bringing your websites and apps into compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 is the easiest way to bring these customers back to your business.

The full text of the Click-Away Pound Report for 2016 can be found on their website if you’d like to read it in full. Here’s the quick summary of the report for those who don’t have 60+ pages worth of free time on their hands.

Section 1: Introduction and Background

There is a perception among retailers that digital accessibility barriers only account for a sliver of lost revenue, but Freeney Williams Ltd estimates that “6.1 million internet users with disabilities in the UK have access needs.” For example: a blind user that relies on a screen reader or a user with a limited mobility that uses speech-to-text software or cannot use a mouse.

How much money are you leaving on the table or sending to your competitors? Quite a bit, it turns out! Only a small percentage of these potential customers will call or email to report problems; it’s easier to just buy the item from a more accessible website.

The UK’s Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) lists the following statistics in the 2014-2015 report:

  • Visual impairment: 1.8 million
  • Hearing impairment: 1.9 million
  • Manual dexterity: 3.8 million
  • Neurodiversity: 2.4 million

The Click-Away Pound survey sought to put a price tag on those missed customers as well as shine a light on the difficulties that shoppers with disabilities encounter online.

Section 2: Survey Findings

The report covers all the various types of disabilities mentioned above for users who need assistive technology (AT), those with access needs that do not use AT, and those with a disability that does not affect their use of the Internet.

Assistive Technology Users

  • Over half (53%) of those surveyed use assistive technology, such as a screen reader, screen magnifier, or speech-to-text software.
  • Most users with disabilities (75%) report that their desktop or laptop computer is their most-used device for shopping online.
  • While many tablets have AT built into them, users with disabilities cited accessibility barriers such as sites that do not allow pinch-to-zoom and sites without properly-coded description labels.
  • The most often-cited problem was crowded pages with too much content, followed by poor link information and navigation.

Users with Disabilities that Do Not Use Assistive Technology

  • In this category are customers with mild neurological disabilities (e.g., dyslexia) and disabilities such as color blindness or limited hearing.
  • Again, the top issue for these users was crowded pages with too much content.
  • This was followed by poor legibility (color contrast, text layout, etc.) and poor link information and navigation.

Users with Disabilities Without Specific Digital Access Needs

  • While these users were not directly impacted by the same issues as the other two groups, they stated a clear preference for websites that were easy to use.

Bye, Bye, Customer!

Since consumers know they have many choices when shopping online, 71% said that they would rather leave a website than try to navigate through accessibility barriers or call customer service for help.

Those who did call customer service found that representatives often had no idea how to help those using assistive technologies.

83% of those with access needs preferred to shop at sites they know to be accessible, even if the prices on those sites are higher.

The moral of the story? There is brand loyalty due to accessibility!

Section 3: Conclusions

There is an online market in the UK worth £16.55 billion. This “purple pound,” as it is nicknamed, is no insignificant amount, yet many businesses continue to put off making their online shopping websites accessible to those with disabilities.

Who owns accessibility in your organization?

Lack of clear policy about accessibility is a main driver of this continuing problem. In this report, only 25% of businesses say they have “robust governance” of accessibility. This number directly relates to the sites that are the most easily accessible.

Who is trained in accessibility issues?

A knowledge gap also exists in many organizations. From HR to procurement to IT, it’s a case of “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

Shouldn’t developers know/do this?

Yes and no. While many developers claim to understand accessibility and the WCAG 2.0 guidelines, they often misuse ALT attributes or build systems that are not compatible with screen readers.

Will automated testing help?

While automatic testing tools are a great place to start, they only get your site around 70% accessible. The other 20-30% needs to be addressed through testing by users of assistive technology.

Shouldn’t customers flag problems?

According to the survey, “only 7% of users with disabilities who came up against accessibility barriers said they would contact a helpline.” Of those 7%, many run into roadblocks with untrained customer service representatives.

“The silent customer,” says the report, “cannot be assumed to be a satisfied customer.”

Now what?

The report concludes with actions for internal stakeholders, including executive leaders, IT leaders, and customer care leaders. If you do download the full report, we recommend going to page 47 and starting with the end in mind.


Want to Learn More?

Access the resources from our free, on-demand webinar:

Less Risk, More Revenue: Accessibility for Retailers

Presented by Tim Springer (CEO of Level Access) and Minh Vu (Partner, Seyfarth Shaw LLP), the webinar will explore the current requirements, expected changes, recent lawsuits and settlements, and outline a phased approach to mitigating legal risk, enhancing users experience, and monitoring ongoing compliance.

Access the webinar resources now!

We can help!

Level Access has been helping online retailers achieve and maintain accessibility for nearly two decades. Contact us today for a free consultation with an accessibility expert. We would love to help you reach more customers.

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