Baymard Institute reports that 94% of the largest eCommerce websites fail to meet the Level AA requirements of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, the consensus standards for digital accessibility. The most common accessibility failures included:
- Failure to provide text alternatives for images and other non-text content
- Failure to write descriptive link text
- Keyboard navigation issues
- Poor form field markup
For people with disabilities, these issues are frustrating — especially since most of the problems could be addressed easily and inexpensively. Worldwide, over a billion people live with some form of disability, and as the global population ages, digital accessibility will become even more important for e-retailers.
If your organization operates an eCommerce store — or if you’re thinking about offering products through any sort of digital portal — here are a few important statistics to keep in mind.
1. In the United States, eCommerce sales will cross $1 trillion in 2022
That’s a dramatic increase from historical expectations. According to Insider Intelligence, the U.S. market was not expected to reach the $1 trillion milestone until 2024.
Of course, the pandemic compelled many shoppers to head online for everything from essential purchases to luxury items — and many of those consumers aren’t headed back to physical retailers anytime soon. Worldwide eCommerce sales are expected to reach $5 trillion in 2022 and $6 trillion by 2024.
eCommerce is stronger than ever, and websites that deliver a pleasant, efficient shopping experience are well positioned to take advantage of that growth.
2. Nearly 70% of shoppers abandon their carts before checking out
According to Baymard Institute, the average documented online shopping cart abandonment rate is 69.82%.
Abandonment rates have always been an important eCommerce metric. In order to improve conversions, however, businesses need to understand the key factors at play. In Baymard Institute’s survey, 48% of respondents cited high “extra" costs such as shipping, tax, and fees.
Many businesses have little control over those costs — but stores can certainly control some of the other reasons for shopping cart abandonment:
- 24% of respondents abandoned their carts when asked to create an account
- 17% said that the checkout process took too long or was too complicated
- 13% said that the website had errors or crashed
The best practices of accessibility can address these concerns. For example, with accessible authentication methods, users aren’t required to remember passwords to place orders. Creating a checkout process that doesn’t require redundant entry enables customers to spend less time filling out forms, and clear form labels help all users — including those with disabilities affecting memory, vision, and cognition — place orders with confidence.
And since the best practices of accessibility overlap with the best practices of web design, accessible eCommerce sites have clean, manageable code. That means less money spent on development (and much less frustration for users).
3. The average eCommerce store has a conversion rate of less than 5%.
Conversion rate is the number of visitors who complete a goal (such as placing an order) divided by the total number of visitors.
Needless to say, your website’s conversion rate determines its profitability — and for most businesses, it’s not an impressive number. Per Invesp, the average conversion rate for all e-commerce websites was 4.31% in 2020. Conversion rates in the United States were even lower at about 2.63%.
While low conversion rates are common, they’re not unavoidable. Some of the accessibility practices that improve conversions include:
- Providing clear, consistent navigation mechanisms that enable consumers to find the products they want
- Adding descriptive image alternative text (also called alt text) to explain the purpose and function of visual content
- Using accessible authentication methods to make checkout processes quick and user-friendly
- Writing clear, concise content and use semantic HTML to structure your site
- Ensuring that your store provides equivalent access for every mobile device, browser, and assistive technology
4. eCommerce companies account for 74% of federal ADA lawsuits
Website accessibility isn’t optional. Numerous federal, state, and international laws require businesses to offer accessible services in places of public accommodation, and according to the Department of Justice, that requirement is applicable to websites and mobile apps.
The Wall Street Journal reports that lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act rose by 64% in the first half of 2021 from a year earlier. As we’ve noted in other articles, web accessibility lawsuits are expected to rise significantly in 2022 — and eCommerce websites are a major target.
Various factors have contributed to this trend, including the growth of eCommerce during the COVID-19 pandemic and consumers' rising awareness of the disabilities community. For businesses, a single ADA demand letter can result in thousands of dollars in legal expenses; conservatively, the average cost of a settlement is around $25,000.
For eCommerce businesses, accessibility should be a long-term priority
When websites are accessible, everyone benefits. Following WCAG benefits users who encounter temporary or situational disabilities — for example, accessing an e-store with a broken hand or reading product reviews in bright sunlight — along with users who have browsing habits or preferences that don’t align with the web designer’s vision of the “average" user.
Ultimately, if eCommerce is part of your business plan, you can’t afford to neglect accessibility. WCAG provides straightforward guidance for removing barriers that affect your users. To see how your site fares when tested against WCAG Level AA checkpoints, get started with a free, confidential automated audit.