How Retailers can improve Online Accessibility


MARCH, 2023

There are online retailers that are still struggling to make websites truly accessible to people with certain disabilities and as a consequence, missing out on connecting with a large consumer base and associated revenue. Here's how retailers can improve online accessibility...

Disability is increasingly acknowledged as a spectrum, rather something that's binary. There are people with physical, sensory, behavioural and cognitive traits who don’t identify as disabled, yet they still face significant barriers when trying to access websites and apps.

That also includes those with permanent, temporary, or situational impairments. 

Retailers need to consider accessibility in their digital framework & design. Catering for everyone improves usability, subsequently resulting in a more intuitive user experience for all. Ultimately, retailers must ensure that their digital websites or applications are easy for everyone to use. 

22% of UK consumers have disabilities.

Family Resources Survey, GOV.UK

How can retailers improve online accessibility?

Retailers can improve online accessibility by implementing assistive technology like text-to-speech, increase/decrease of font size, reading aid, and colour adjustments. These options will help customers with visual impairments navigate the site seamlessly. Retailers should also have a set plan in place to provide equal access for all consumers.

Online retail accessibility is important not only from a legal perspective but also from an enhanced user-experience and business perspective. Retailers who make online retail accessibility their priority will expand their reach to customers with disabilities and enhance overall user-experience.

  • Digital retailers should follow basic web accessibility guidelines that encompass everything from design and colour usage to word choice of headings and link text.

  • Webpages should be accessible to all users regardless of whether they have visual or hearing impairments or use voice to navigate.

  • Proper contrast in colours and text descriptions of images and videos should be used.

  • CAPTCHA phrases designed to block spammers can hamper those with visual impairments if no audio alternative is available.

  • Link text should be specific about where it will navigate the user.

Retailers need to prioritise digital accessibility because consumers' reliance on digital experiences has increased, making the need for digital accessibility more visible.

Companies that do not prioritise digital accessibility risk excluding a large subset of potential consumers, which could lead to lawsuits over their lack of online accessibility for individuals with disabilities.

Accessibility is an ongoing process that requires frequent audits and integrated accessibility software.

Why is website accessibility important?

Accessibility is essential for developers and organisations that want to create high-quality websites and web tools, and not exclude people from purchasing or using their products and services.

By making your website accessible, you are ensuring that all of your potential users, including people with disabilities, have a satisfactory user experience and can easily access what they need.

Accessibility is a lawful requirement in many instances. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) endeavours to ensure people with a broad variety of disabilities can access and use sites, apps, and other digital mediums.

Accessibility is part of digital inclusivity and provides equal access to everyone, especially people with disabilities. It eliminates barriers that restrict a person's access to jobs, housing, civic engagement and retail.

Where do retailers struggle to be accessible?

Unfortunately for impaired consumers, there are retailers that are still struggling to be accessible in key areas.

Two of the main areas are poor item descriptions and website navigation. Retailers do not consider all the factors that people with disabilities require when buying products, or when it comes to large-scale websites that purely focus on aesthetics.

Overly complex or poorly constructed websites are difficult to navigate, and customers with a disability may encounter obstacles when trying to access them. These obstacles can potentially be minor inconveniences, but others will make navigating the site difficult or nigh-on impossible without assistance.

Online retailers tend to struggle with keeping their website functionality entirely accessible to all consumers, and the pandemic highlighted how exactly reliant customers with disabilities & impairments are on digital accessibility.

Retailers should prioritise digital accessibility because it expands their reach to customers who have disabilities. If online presence is not accessible to those with impairments, retailers exclude a large section of potential consumers.

Additionally, it’s no longer socially acceptable - Inclusivity is a big social topic, and customers recognise how brands treat people with disabilities and judge accordingly.

How to make your website accessible

Here's a few simple guidelines that retailers should be following in order to have a digitally inclusive, accessible website:

  • Enables keyboard navigation and use high-contrast colours.

  • Provide alt text for images and use heading hierarchies to structure content.

  • Consider contrast sensitivity in the website design process.

  • Evaluate digital accessibility opportunities in any framework revisions and scale up throughout the development process to fix them earlier and easier.

  • Add captions or transcripts for audio and video content on your website.

Creating an accessible website doesn't have to be difficult or time-consuming. By taking some simple steps, retailers can significantly improve digital accessibility, and ultimately, broaden their audience, profitability, and online presence.