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It may sound far-fetched but the reality is clear: ignoring web accessibility is like playing with fire for ecommerce retailers. It’s a financial disaster waiting to happen. Imagine this: millions of dollars in lost sales, a flood of legal issues, and a damaged reputation. Think this sounds exaggerated? Hardly – it’s the current state of affairs.

Legal nightmares and lost revenue
Online shopping has revolutionized the way we live and do business. Yet, despite its booming growth, many retailers are neglecting one critical aspect: web accessibility. Unlike physical stores mandated to provide ramps and braille signage, many online retailers are dropping the ball on making their digital storefronts user-friendly for everyone. This negligence isn’t just bad form; it’s costing them millions.

Take this scenario: You’re trying to complete a simple online purchase, but checkout buttons are mislabeled or completely absent. For people with disabilities, this is a frustrating reality. Pop-ups without a screen reader-friendly exit option are just the beginning. Discount displays that rely on visual cues leave assistive technology users in the dark. It’s no wonder that consumers with visual impairments abandon nearly two-thirds of their online transactions each month.

A market ignored: the $13 trillion oversight
In total, 1.3 billion people live with disabilities, wielding an astounding $13 trillion in spending power. Yet, retailers are shockingly unprepared to accommodate this vast market. With projections showing that 23% of all retail purchases will be made online by 2027, ignoring web accessibility isn’t just a minor oversight—it’s a colossal mistake that could lead to an annual loss of up to $16 billion in sales.

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The message is clear: neglect web accessibility, and you’re making a huge and costly business mistake. And, as if the financial implications weren’t enough, the clock is ticking for retailers to comply with new global standards.

Accessibility against the clock: the countdown to compliance
Globally, a tightening web of legal standards is closing in on all digital assets, including e-commerce sites and mobile apps.

The European Accessibility Act (EAA) will enforce compliance by 2025. This act mandates easy access for people with disabilities and older individuals to services and products. Any e-commerce business serving European customers must comply, regardless of location.

In the US, there’s been a spike in ADA lawsuits and fines due to non-compliance. In the first half of 2023 alone, 414 federal ADA cases were filed. The DOJ is cracking down on inaccessible websites under the ADA, releasing a final rule mandating that digital content comply with its updated accessibility regulations.

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With evolving laws and increasing penalties, the pressure is on for retailers to comply.

Accessibility barriers are costing retailers millions
UserWay’s report, “The Economic Impact of Inaccessibility” reveals that accessibility barriers lead to higher bounce rates and declining sales. These barriers may not be directly linked to revenue, but they significantly affect the bottom line by deterring purchases and increasing cart abandonment rates.

Here’s a closer look at the common accessibility issues that online shoppers with disabilities encounter:

  • Lack of alt text on product images: Without descriptive alt text, visually impaired shoppers struggle to identify products, resulting in missed purchases.
  • Poor navigation: Confusing layouts and missing landmarks make it difficult for assistive tech users to navigate, leading to higher cart abandonment rates.
  • Unlabeled form fields: Unlabeled or improperly labeled checkout fields prevent screen readers from clearly communicating information, complicating the buying process.
  • Non-keyboard-friendly design: Many users rely on keyboard navigation, and websites that don’t fully support it limit access to key features like filters, categories, and checkout.

Retailers might see these adjustments as burdensome but the number of people with visual impairments in the U.S. is expected to double by 2050, making accessibility a measure of ecommerce success.

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How retailers can get accessibility in the bag
Retailers, your ecommerce sites are under scrutiny – how will you make them accessible?

The market is flooded with accessibility tools, including plug-ins and widgets that make pinpointing website flaws easier than ever. Some of these tools offer user-triggered personalization, while others work behind the scenes, fixing accessibility issues in the code itself.

The question is, which tool should you add to your cart?

The fast-track to web accessibility
Retailers can fast-track their web accessibility efforts by using tools that incorporate a holistic approach to accessibility. This is where the power of AI is used to automatically scan and correct accessibility errors in website code, instantly making sites more user-friendly.

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It’s also important to pick solutions that adapt to different disabilities, so that every page load is accessible, even as products and content get updated.

Look for tools that offer user-triggered options to make shopping easier for people with visual impairments or those who use assistive technologies. Millions of businesses around the world, for example, are seeing great results with UserWay’s Accessibility Widget. However, it’s important to realize that while using advanced accessibility tools is a great step forward, it’s just the start.

Why retailers must go beyond basic tools for compliance
The tricky part is that accessibility is a moving target, always evolving laws and guidelines. Basic tools alone aren’t enough to keep up. That’s why, for ongoing compliance, retailers must combine technology with human expertise.

Regular audits by certified accessibility experts, educational initiatives, and consultations with legal teams specializing in accessibility law are essential strategies for maintaining compliance and meeting the needs of all consumers.

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UserWay’s Allon Mason told Digital Commerce 360, “With over 200,000 new sites launching daily and over 90% remaining inaccessible, ecommerce businesses end up paying a high price. Even the biggest brands miss the mark. Using a holistic approach, accessibility can push ecommerce to new levels of usability and compliance.”

As accessibility laws advance, and retail purchases rise, retailers can take advantage of market-leading solutions to get accessibility in the bag and make sure their compliance checks out.

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