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eCommerce Tips: 5 Reasons to Think About Accessibility

Jan 2, 2024

 

According to Shopify, the global eCommerce market is expected to total $6.3 trillion in 2023. Retailers have enormous opportunities to carve out a piece of that market — but if your website doesn’t provide an excellent, personalized shopping experience, you’ll have trouble making your mark. 

The principles of web accessibility can help. Accessible design focuses on improving online experiences for people with disabilities, and the best practices make your website better for everyone. When websites are truly inclusive, eCommerce metrics improve; bounce rates and shopping cart abandonment rates plummet, while customer retention and social media engagement soar. 

But if you’re considering an accessibility initiative, you’ll need to make your case to key stakeholders. Here are five excellent reasons to make inclusivity part of your eCommerce marketing plan.

 

1. eCommerce websites are frequent targets for web accessibility lawsuits 

 

As we’ll discuss throughout this article, web accessibility has huge advantages for competitive businesses — digital compliance shouldn’t be the driving force behind your web design strategy.

With that said, compliance is certainly important, and it’s often an excellent tool for starting digital accessibility conversations. That’s particularly true in the eCommerce space:  

 

  • The total number of ADA web accessibility lawsuits continues to increase each year. An analysis from Accessibility.com found that at least 2,387 web accessibility lawsuits were filed in 2022; businesses in the consumer goods, services, and retail industries received 1,378 of those lawsuits.
  • In 2022, eCommerce websites were far more likely to encounter lawsuits filed under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or California’s Unruh Act than other types of businesses.
  • Businesses can receive multiple ADA lawsuits at the same time, and 2022 saw a 143% year-over-year increase in the number of companies that received multiple lawsuits.

 

Retailers must comply with Title III of the ADA, and the Justice Department has declared that Title III applies to digital content. And for online retailers that operate internationally, digital compliance is an even greater concern: Numerous international non-discrimination laws require web accessibility.

Related: The State of eCommerce Web Accessibility in 2023: 4 Takeaways

 

2. The best practices of web accessibility make your website more useful for real people

 

There’s a strong link between inclusive design and accessible design. The goal of inclusive design is to make your website more useful for everyone, regardless of the technologies they use to access your eStore; the goal of accessibility is to improve those experiences for folks with disabilities.

But by actively thinking about people with disabilities, you take a huge step towards more inclusive experiences:

 

  • Accessible color contrast makes content more useful for people with color vision deficiencies. It also helps users who browse your website in bright ambient light — and can help everyone navigate your eStore.
  • Providing alternative text (alt text) for images helps screen reader users understand visual content. It’s also helpful for search engine optimization (SEO) and for users who browse on slow connections.
  • A streamlined checkout process can make your store more intuitive for users with cognitive disabilities and attention disorders. It’s also a great way to keep shoppers engaged and decrease cart abandonment rates.

 

For more examples, read: 4 Digital Accessibility Features That Benefit Everyone

 

3. People with disabilities are part of your audience

 

As you start your accessibility initiative, you might hear a common argument: “We don’t have users with disabilities.”

That’s probably not true. About 1 in 4 U.S. adults live with some form of disability, and due to demographic trends, the size of the disabilities community is expected to increase over the next decade. 

If your website truly doesn’t have users with disabilities, you need to ask why. What are you doing that’s locking out 25% of U.S. consumers — and their $500 billion in discretionary spending?

 

Related: Every Website Has Users with Disabilities — Make Sure You're Aware of Them

4. Accessibility is less expensive when it’s part of your eStore’s design

 

Like every aspect of web development, accessibility has a cost. However, it’s an investment that pays off, particularly if you focus on users with disabilities at an early stage in your store’s development. 

Many accessibility improvements cost little or nothing to implement. Adding alt text takes a few seconds. Choosing an accessible color scheme takes exactly as much time as choosing an inaccessible color scheme. 

And while no website is perfectly accessible for every user, there’s a rulebook: The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) explains simple ways to test your content to optimize online experiences for users with conditions that affect their vision, hearing, cognition, and mobility.

To see how your website stacks up against WCAG, get started with a free automated web accessibility analysis. Or if you’re ready to learn more, download our free eBook: The Ultimate Guide to Web Accessibility.

Use our free Website Accessibility Checker to scan your site for ADA and WCAG compliance.

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