Web Accessibility and Its Impact on Online Shopping

The number of people buying stuff online in 2021 alone is estimated to be 2.14 billion – almost 28% of the world’s population. In the US, the number of digital buyers in the U.S. is over 230 million. There are a lot of benefits to online shopping, such as time-saving, convenience, and lower prices. Having an accessible website makes the process easier for people with disabilities to purchase goods online.

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Online shopping has been part of our lives for quite some time. According to The Marist Poll in 2018, nearly seven out of ten Americans have purchased something online.

People can buy much-needed goods, all while sitting in the comfort of their own homes—far away from the dangers of COVID-19. With the continued rise of E-commerce, it has become even more essential for companies to ensure that their websites are accessible to all consumers.  

Pros of doing online shopping

The number of online shoppers continues to increase day by day. In fact, the number of people buying stuff online in 2021 alone is estimated to be 2.14 billion – almost 28% of the world’s population. In the US, the number of digital buyers is estimated to be over 230 million. And it’s easy to see why. There are a lot of benefits to online shopping.

1. Time-saving

One thing everyone knows for certain is that online shopping is incredibly convenient. There’s no need to get yourself ready to take a trip to one or more stores just to get the stuff you need. You don’t have to worry about spending too much time outside doing these chores after a hard day at work.

You don’t have to trouble yourself looking for a parking spot during peak shopping hours or waiting in line to get all your stuff checked out. More importantly, you won’t have to worry about crowds and your safety amid this pandemic. 

With online shopping, all you need to do is visit the store website or use their app, add all the items you need in your cart, and check out. You can get everything done within half an hour or less. Additionally, if you need to return anything you bought, there’s no need to make time to stop by the store to process a replacement or refund. You can do this without leaving your home. Even better, some companies offer to pick up the product from your home free of charge as long as you meet the requirements of their return policy.

2. More product options

One of the best perks of online shopping is that there are more product options available. You don’t have to stick to one physical store that has limited stock. When you buy online, you are able to see the entire stock of the company, which means you can easily find and purchase your products of choice instead of having to make do with what’s stocked on the shelf.

Not only that, online shopping allows you to easily shop from a variety of stores. Items that are not readily available in your local Walmart or Target are now easily purchased at a click of a button.  

3. Compare various products

Aside from being able to find rare items, online shopping also allows you to easily compare products and prices. Instead of trying to remember how much a product costs in one store, shoppers can check out multiple stores at a time to compare prices.

In fact, there are websites that allow shoppers to see product price comparisons. In addition, online stores post customer reviews of products which enable consumers to make smarter decisions regarding their purchases. In fact, a survey conducted by Dimensional Research found that almost 90% of their respondents stated that their buying decisions were influenced by reading online reviews

4. Lower prices

We’ve already mentioned that online shopping makes it easy for consumers to compare products side-by-side, whether it’s a comparison based on features or prices. But one added benefit of online shopping is that e-retailers are able to offer much lower prices compared to physical stores. This is because the cost of operating a physical store is much higher  – rent, electricity, fixtures, payroll, etc. 

The overhead of doing business can cut into their profit which is why many retailers put a higher price on their products. Online retailers, on the other hand, do not have the same overhead costs to worry about. While there are still some operational costs, it’s not as high as a physical store’s. This allows them to lower their margins, passing on their savings to the consumers. 

Having an accessible website makes the process easier  

The shift towards online shopping became much more pronounced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But there never was a question that this was a direction that we were moving towards. That being said, a lot of E-commerce websites are inaccessible to more than one billion people around the world—that’s 15% of the world’s population. 

Who are these people? These are individuals who live with a disability that prevents them from buying goods and services online. Not only are they unable to purchase the same goods and services that most of the population can access online, but many e-retailers are also missing out on a huge consumer base with a disposable income of $490 billion in the U.S. alone. 

Here’s an example: not all websites are navigable by keyboard, but not all consumers can use a mouse. If a customer is unable to navigate the website, they’ll get frustrated and leave. According to Web FX, 88% of users are less likely to come back to your website if they have a bad experience with it. Here’s another statistic: 71% of consumers with disabilities will leave a website if it has poor accessibility. 

Below, we discuss how you can meet the requirements of web accessibility laws and help you make sure that your website is accessible to all and ensure that your customer’s journey is not only possible but smoother as well.

Actions to meet web accessibility:

The list below is by no means a complete one. You can learn all about web accessibility standards by reading the WCAG 2.1. The tips we provide below should help you get started in creating a more accessible website and a smoother customer experience for consumers.

Have an easily navigable website

One of the most important features of a website is navigation. Your customers want to be able to easily find what they need in the shortest amount of time possible. However, not everyone uses a website the same way. While many use a mouse to navigate between pages, others are unable to do so. 

Ensuring that your website is navigable by keyboard or alternative input devices such as a mouth stick enables them to explore your website just like every other consumer. Structuring and organizing the content on your website in a logical manner also helps make navigating your website much easier. Headers allow consumers to easily locate sections that they are interested in reading or looking at. In addition, all buttons and links should be clickable to ensure a smooth customer experience. 

Provide full product descriptions  

The Nielsen Norman Group published a report stating that 20% of abandoned carts are due to “incomplete or unclear” product information. Customers want to purchase products with confidence. Unclear product descriptions can be especially frustrating to people with disabilities. 

Many people with disabilities can have motor issues or problems with texture. Some may need to know that the clothes feature a fastener or a zip which is easier for them to use. Others need to know the type and texture of a material. If the product description lacks details such as these, disabled people become more hesitant to shop in that store.

Present customer reviews

This is because customer reviews are social proof—they tell consumers what others have experienced when using a particular product. They provide credibility. This is especially important for people with disabilities. It helps them know whether a product is accessible and can meet their specific needs. 

Let’s use the same example—clothes. Online reviews can help disabled customers to better determine how accessible the design is. It can provide them with information on the texture of a material. Reading the real-life experience of other people, particularly the ones with the same disability, can empower a customer and create a better shopping experience.

Even without the pandemic, online shopping should be accessible to all. For people with disabilities, being able to shop online can be empowering, providing them with the independence that they might not be able to enjoy if they had to visit a store.

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