Accessibility and Retail - More Important than Ever

Posted / 02 December, 2020

Author / Enginess

Accessibility and Retail - More Important Than Ever

Accessibility has long been near and dear to our heart here at Enginess. But the overall message is this: accessibility is important not only from a legal perspective (in Canada and the US, anyway) but from an ethical, user experience, and business perspective as well. In short, accessibility is just a good idea. But even with that framework, some stand to gain even more than others. Today, we’re going to hone in on retail — and why accessibility is mission-critical right now.

**Caveat** - we’re going to focus exclusively on web accessibility. There are tons of accessibility considerations around physical retail spaces and we’re not going to look at these here.

Accessible Sites are Better for Business

Before we get into the specific reasons why retailers need to care about accessibility right now, let’s just outline our position. 


Accessibility is good for business.

  • It makes your digital presence better, more discoverable, and convert at a higher rate.
  • It expands your reach to new markets, given that 12% (at least) of the US population reports a disability of some kind. 
  • It aligns your brand with the values with inclusion, diversity, and customer centricity — all things that consumers have been proven to prioritize when making buying decisions. 

We could go on, but the reality is that businesses should be accessible anyways. And right now, retail businesses in particular should be hyper focused on this objective if they want to boost their bottom line.

Here are 5 reasons why.

1. More (or most) of Revenue is Now Made Online

Everyone is experiencing the move to online shopping differently, but the numbers don’t lie.  

E-commerce and online retail is (naturally) experiencing a huge surge right now due to COVID-19. If you want more evidence, just look at Shopify’s rising share price as companies move their operations online.

With that in mind, it only makes sense that retail companies invest as heavily as they can into making their new primary location (website and app) as good as possible for as many people as possible.

Accessible design is among the easiest ways to do that and it provides a framework that has spillover perks and benefits, like SEO, conversion rate optimization, market expansion, and more.

2. There's a huge market to capture

 Alongside social behaviour, like not shaking hands and never leaving home without a mask, the COVID pandemic has changed how we work, shop, and buy — potentially forever.

For example, there was a 107% increase between February and April this year in online grocery shopping in Canada. 

That means that a lot of Canadians who had never purchased food online before are now doing that. 

Dollars to donuts (pun intended), not all of those Canadians are going to stop once the pandemic is over. 

The point is that our lives have been shaken up like an etch-a-sketch. Some old habits will come back, others will not. So for retail brands, there’s a huge opportunity to capture previously habit-locked consumers.

New habits will form fast, and retail brands should put their best foot forward to capture them. And that means making their storefront as easy, accessible, and open as possible.

3. Increased Usage Will Decrease Legal Pressure for Compliance

3. Increased usage will increase legal pressure for compliance
We’ve all too happy to help companies reach ADA / AODA compliance but we always hope that companies and retail brands will strive to meet the spirit of the regulations rather than just what’s required in ink.

That said, we can expect to see an uptick in ADA compliance lawsuits as websites and apps become even more core to how retail brands go to market.

So for retail brands, who can face massive fines at a time when they can ill-afford them, accessibility should just be part of a standard risk management discussion.

4. Increased Usage Pushed Accessibility into the Forefront of Consumers' Minds

4. Increased usage pushed accessibility into the forefront of consumers’ minds
Consumers are increasingly ethical buyers, especially Gen Z. There are more eyes (and more wallet share) on how companies treat their customers. And in our current COVID reality, that ethical focus has shifted along with our shopping patterns to digital properties.

Retail brands will increasingly be judged on how well their sites reflect the diversity of their consumers and how well they cater to equally diverse abilities.

Those who do this well can potentially capture market share against incumbents more readily than normal since this moment of change is disrupting how people buy in a major way, and weakening the power of habitual purchases

5. Customer Experience Correlates with Increased Revenue

It’s no secret that customers will shop around for the experience they want, and the companies who can provide it stand to make a lot more revenue. 

Accessibility enhancements to websites and ecommerce stores naturally improves your user and customer experience (CX / UX) by designing for the most restricted use case. For instance, if your website is navigable with a screen reader, it’ll be even easier to get around for fully-sighted individuals.

What’s more, this correlation isn’t only manifesting as the nebulous concept of customer experience. Google and other search engines use UX metrics like time-on-site, how easy a website is to navigate, and even how accessible it is to rank sites for organic search results. 

In other words, if you want to be the top result for your product, making your retail site accessible might be the best way to get there.

Wrap Up 

Accessibility should always be a priority for retail providers, to improve their inclusion of differently-abled consumers. That said, the stakes are even higher right now — and with those stakes comes massive potential for upside.

By creating an accessible retail experience, brands can improve their top-line revenue in the short term with both increased web traffic and conversion rates, improve their mid-term equity by fuelling their brand value, and improve their long term business outlook by capturing and forging new habits in consumers.

In a rare moment of good fortune, accessibility for retail brands is a win / win / win right now.


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