Accessible E-Commerce: The Key for Holiday Sales Success 

By: Sarah Roberts
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According to the National Retail Federation, online holiday spending this year will exceed $270 billion. With consumers eager to check off their gift lists, it’s the companies with user-friendly e-commerce sites that stand to attract more business.  

To create the best online shopping experiences, and benefit from the seasonal surge in spending, retailers need to prioritize accessibility. Not only will an accessible website accommodate people with disabilities, but it will also provide better, simpler shopping for everyone. Learn some compelling reasons and effective approaches for business leaders to elevate their online stores, providing a holiday shopping experience filled with cheer rather than frustration for everyone buying gifts for friends and loved ones. 

person shopping on a mobile phone with Christmas decorations in the background

Accessible Websites Bring Joy to All 

Web accessibility is a big topic year-round. However, during the holidays, glitchy or inaccessible websites can cost businesses billions because some consumers need accommodations, others want them, and legal complications can add further hardships for those companies whose sites fall short. Here are a few facts and stats for anyone in e-commerce to consider who still isn’t convinced that accessibility should truly be a priority for their site.  

People with disabilities are your customers 

Research predicts that people with disabilities will spend around $22 billion on holiday shopping this year alone. It also suggests that accessibility barriers on websites could cost businesses up to a collective $8 billion. That’s a lot of lost opportunity, made all the more upsetting by how preventable it is.  

Older buyers are big spenders 

A recent survey found that, on average, grandparents spend over $200 per grandchild on Christmas gifts. Baby boomers are, after all, the wealthiest generation in history, with control of over 70% of all disposable income in the US. They’re also big fans of e-commerce, with about 92% of the generation shopping online. While today’s aging population is more tech-savvy than any in the past, disabilities become more common as people grow older. Even without a diagnosed disability, aging can impact vision, hearing, memory and cognitive functioning. Easy, intuitive, accessible websites make shopping experiences better for these high-spending consumers.  

Accessibility lawsuits target e-commerce more often than in-store retailers 

Every year, the number of accessibility lawsuits in the US rises. Statistics show that 84% of those claims target the e-commerce sector. Also, given that 77% of those claims involve companies with under $25 million in revenue, it’s not just the major retail players that are facing scrutiny for inaccessible websites. In fact, large companies like Amazon and Target invest heavily in online accessibility. Smaller retailers should follow their lead to avoid costly legal consequences.  

In addition to all these facts, creating an accessible website is also the right thing to do. However, if that’s not enough, just consider the potential income losses and expensive litigation that could harm any business that overlooks the accessibility of its e-commerce site. On the other hand, companies with professional, inclusive websites can bask in the joy of better holiday earnings and happy customers. Fortunately, while online accessibility might seem complex, plenty of resources, not to mention accessibility partners like Verbit, can help business leaders create better, more user-friendly e-commerce sites. There are also a few common steps you can take today to improve the accessibility of your website. 

a couple doing holiday shopping online

Common Barriers on E-Commerce Sites (And Ways to Fix Them) 

When it comes to a comprehensive set of standards for web accessibility, the best place to look is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Many governments incorporate WCAG standards into their laws, as the US might soon do in a long-awaited update to the ADA. However, these are some of the common issues that cause problems for online retailers and make it harder for shoppers to make purchases.  

Keyboard navigation 

Not all shoppers use a mouse. Sometimes, people using assistive technology or those with mobility-related disabilities navigate using their keyboard. If a site doesn’t allow users to tab through a page, or if pop-ups only close when a person clicks on it with a mouse, many users could face barriers that prevent them from making a purchase.  

Readable text 

Confusing language can make shopping online more challenging. Rather than trying to be clever, be clear. However, accessible text is about more than what the page says, as the font and the colors can also create obstacles. Low contrast between text and backgrounds might create a barrier for people with color blindness. Certain fonts that may look fancy can also be challenging for many people to read. Common fonts like Calibri, Times New Roman, Verdana and Arial are just a few good choices for easy-to-read text. Also, it’s important to consider the size of the text that will appear. A tiny font will be difficult for many users to read.  

a person shopping on a laptop with holiday decorations in the background

Accessible forms 

Consumers often make it to the last step in the purchasing process only to find that the form is a barrier. Not only is this frustrating for a customer, but it also means that the business brought a prospective buyer all the way to the last step in the funnel just to drop the ball because of a bad form. Clear labels and instructions are a must. If there are errors, the form should highlight them and explain the issue in plain language so that the buyer can easily remedy the issue.  

CAPTCHAs 

A CAPTCHA is a security measure that helps to weed out bots. However, imagine the CAPTCHAs that ask users to click the boxes with images of a motorcycle or identify letters and numbers in odd fonts. How can a person who is blind get past those barriers? Sites should have alternative options that are accessible. 

Captions for videos 

Video ads might be a great way to attract customers. However, if they lack captions, they aren’t accessible for viewers who are Deaf or hard of hearing, and they won’t be effective for those watching without the sound. Considering that most people are viewing without the sound on much of the time, neglecting captions can quickly make a video advertisement ineffectual. 

Detailed alt text 

Alt text, or alternative text, describes an image for people using screen readers. Screen readers are a piece of equipment that people who are blind use. This tool reads the text on a page aloud, including the text attached to images. For e-commerce sites, detailed alt text is critical. Imagine a buyer using a screen reader shopping for boots. If each pair has alt text that says “boots,” they won’t have a good way of selecting the ones they want. The alt text should share so much more information in this case. What is the style? Are they snow boots? Do they have high heels? Are they leather? What color are they? Do they go to the ankle or the knee? A better description will help these shoppers make the right choice.  

Although this list isn’t exhaustive, it offers a great start for anyone looking to improve e-commerce experiences for their customers. For a more in-depth evaluation of a website, a full audit can identify more areas for improvement. When it comes to online accessibility, the process is one that requires a team and ongoing commitment to update whenever new problems or opportunities arise.  

Partnering with Experts for Better Customer Experiences Online  

In the spirit of the season, enhancing website accessibility not only invites and caters to a larger audience of holiday shoppers but also offers a more ethical approach to business operations. For more information about how Verbit champions corporate accessibility year-round, reach out and connect with a member of our team.