If you operate a business-to-business (B2B) website, you might not prioritize web accessibility. After all, your target audience isn’t end users; you’re writing content for business leaders and decision makers. While inclusive web design might be helpful, it’s not truly essential — is it?
The quick answer: Yes, accessibility needs to be a fundamental priority. Of course, you’d expect the Bureau of Internet Accessibility to take that position, but we’ve seen how B2B organizations benefit from an inclusive approach.
Below, we’ll explain exactly why the best practices of accessible design are crucial for B2B success.
Most businesses must offer accessible digital products to comply with the ADA
The advantages of accessible design are profound, and if you’re making the case for accessibility to your leadership team, you may not need to mention compliance. However, compliance is certainly an ongoing concern for B2B organizations, and that’s unlikely to change in the future.
Under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, all “places of public accommodation" have a responsibility to offer accessible digital resources to people with disabilities. While eCommerce websites and other retailers are the most common targets for lawsuits under the ADA, B2B businesses aren’t always exempt.
You may not think that your business qualifies as a “place of public accommodation,” but chances are, you’d rather not make that case in court — and depending on where you’re located, you may need to comply with other non-discrimination laws.
For example, B2B businesses that operate in the public sector may need to comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to accommodate end users. Section 508 requires conformance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), widely considered the international standards for accessibility.
Other laws that require accessible digital products include the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and the European Accessibility Act (EAA). Navigating compliance isn’t always easy, but following WCAG’s Level AA guidelines can demonstrate compliance with all of these regulations.
Your target audience is much larger than you might think
Every B2B marketing team understands the importance of branding. Your buyers might find your services in hundreds of different ways; some might search online, some might ask colleagues for a recommendation, and some might survey end users before making a decision. A strong brand allows you to make the most out of every connection, regardless of the buyer’s journey.
Needless to say, your website experience is a key part of your brand. If you’re not optimizing that experience for every user, some will fall through the cracks, and they may not contact you to tell you about the issues they encountered.
Some of those barriers might be extremely frustrating. For example:
- A person visits your website while using a keyboard for navigation. Your lead capture form has keyboard accessibility issues that prevent the user from submitting their contact info.
- A person has color vision deficiency (sometimes referred to as color blindness). Your website has low-contrast text on a red background, and the user cannot read your sales copy without changing their browser settings.
- You promote your products with demonstration videos. However, you don’t provide captions, and users with hearing disabilities cannot understand the content.
Digital accessibility benefits everyone, regardless of their abilities
It’s also important to note that accessible design removes barriers for every user, not just people with disabilities. Your prospective buyer might browse your website with their sound turned off, or they might use a small touchscreen to fill out a web form. Some prospects may have arthritis, and they might prefer using a keyboard for navigation. Others might have low vision, so they might magnify their screen when browsing.
Is your website optimized for all of these users? If not, you’re missing an opportunity to showcase your business — and your brand will suffer as a result.
Web accessibility provides a return on investment
In the long term, accessible digital products are much less expensive than the alternative. If you’ve taken the time to structure your website with appropriate HTML, you can implement updates or make changes without rebuilding the entire website from scratch — and without overloading your development team with trouble tickets and bug reports.
Many businesses ignore accessibility in development in order to save money, but the data doesn’t support that approach. One study presented at the American Society of Engineering Management found that fixing a usability issue can consume 100 times the development resources as compared to fixing the issue before the product release.
Put simply, accessibility pays dividends by reducing long-term expenses. An accessible product also supports positive brand sentiment and can reduce other expenses (for example, by limiting customer service requests and streamlining communications with leads). Accessibility can also improve search engine optimization (SEO) and provide a competitive advantage over other businesses in your industry.
If you’re not paying attention to accessibility, you’re missing out on these benefits. That’s applicable to websites, smartphone apps, mobile kiosks, and any other product that your company needs for marketing. Ultimately, accessibility is the right thing to do, but it’s also a savvy investment — particularly for B2B organizations that rely on positive first impressions.