Online Retailers: How Crucial and Feasible is Accessibility?

July 21, 2017

It is becoming more and more common for consumers to do their shopping strictly online. Amazon has lead the trend of "storeless" stores, in which consumers can only use the internet to make their purchases. Although most people view this as a liberating development, there are certain groups, such as the elderly and disabled, who can be limited by these online-only retailers.

It can be extremely helpful for both the elderly and disabled to do shopping from home, relieving the burden of transportation. But if sites are not accessible to these demographics, disabled consumers are essentially barred from being able to take advantage of what would otherwise be a convenience.

For online retailers to profit from the business of the disabled/elderly target market, it is essential that they work to make their websites accessible to these groups.

By creating the Amazon Access page and Fire Tablet/Kindle accessibility help, Amazon, one of the world’s largest online retailers and trendsetters, is a prime example of an entity that has made an effort to be accessible to the disabled and those using assistive technologies.

By making these efforts, Amazon is addressing the issue of Internet accessibility and entering dialogue on accessibility in online retail.

So how does an online retailer, with a budding online presence, get started in making their site more accessible? There are a myriad of ways to begin making websites more accessible. But there are some universal principles that can apply to any online store:

  1. Focus on intuitive placement: Regardless of disability, consumers will respond positively to an intuitive, user-friendly interface. Reduce the amount of time people take need to find buttons, complete the ordering process, and find resources when they need help, such as Live Chat and a contact phone number.
  2. Keep the formatting clean and consistent: Too many images and too much color distract the eye and actually take away from the efficiency of your sale. These distractions also distort the website for those using access technology, so keep unnecessary images and extra "fluff" to a minimum.
  3. Use alt-text: Adding alt text and titles to images is a helpful way to ensure those using access technology understand the images they cannot see. Regardless of whether you are aiming to reach a disabled demographic, alt text is also useful for your SEO optimization and should never be overlooked.

Incorporating accessible attributes into the overall format and feel of your store is the easiest place to start. The biggest goals for online retailers are to increase their reach in the marketplace and to make the shopping experience more convenient, and both of those point to increasing accessibility. It would be a shame if online retailers missed the opportunity to make their shopping experience accessible to those who are most in need of an alternative to brick and mortar stores.

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