UK retailers could be missing out on online sales estimated at £11.75 billion a year because their web sites fail to take into account the needs of people with disabilities, according to research from BDF Associate Rick Williams.
Nearly three quarters of disabled online consumers (71%) will simply click away from web sites that they find difficult to use due to the effect of their disability. That represents 4.3 million online shoppers with a collective purchasing power of £11.75 billion, which is around 10% of the total UK online spend. The research also found that almost three quarters (73%) of survey participants with access needs experienced problems on more than a quarter of websites they visit for the first time. Most businesses will be unaware that they are losing income because only 7% of disabled customers who have difficulty using a site will contact them. In fact, 85% of participants with access needs limit their shopping to sites that they know are accessible and 81% have chosen to pay more for a product from an accessible website rather than buy the same product for less from a website that was harder to use. More than half (58%) of users with access needs said they shopped online at least once a week and 82% said they would spend more if websites were more accessible.
The main reasons disabled users cited for ‘clicking-away’ from a web site were because pages are crowded with too much content (67%), there is poor link information and navigation (61%), they need to fill in poorly-designed forms (58%), there are distracting moving images and graphics (44%), or poor legibility due to colour contrast and text layout (44%). There are a number of impairment types which may affect a disabled person’s ability to use the internet. These may include varying degrees of hearing and visual impairment, limited manual dexterity, and neuro-diversity issues such as dyslexia and Asperger syndrome amongst others.
Rick Williams, Managing Director of Freeney Williams and Chair of Age UK (Brighton and Hove), said: “Over the past 12 years we’ve been invited to review more than 120 sites from both the private and public sectors and have ranked more than 70% of these as ‘red’ on our traffic light system. This indicates that the organisations responsible for those sites are exposed to potential commercial loss, reputational damage and legal challenge because they’ve not taken account of people with disabilities. Yet only a handful of organisations did anything about these issues.
“After 20 years of legislation, most high street retailers in the UK understand they need to take disabled shoppers’ needs into account when designing ‘bricks and mortar’ shops. Although the same law applies to their online presence, many of those businesses seem oblivious to the need to make their websites accessible. The UK has an ageing population, and we believe the accessibility issues identified in our research will only increase over time.” David Goodchild, Joint Interim CEO of Business Disability Forum, said: “These findings further highlight the business case for becoming disability-smart and designing retail and customer services with accessibility in mind. “Research by Scope and the Extra Costs Commission put the total value of the Purple Pound at £212 billion. The financial severity of failing to harness this spending power should be a wake up call to businesses, but it also presents an opportunity. The work of our Technology Taskforce and successes among our Member and Partner organisations proves that accessibility can be fully embedded with the right approach without a total redesign of an organisation’s business model.”