The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a surge in ecommerce growth across the U.S. retail industry, as many consumers now solely rely on online shopping. Ecommerce sales increased by almost 20% in just the first three months of 2020 according to McKinsey, escalating ecommerce trends by the equivalent of 10 years. In comparison, 14,454 brick-and-mortar store units will close this year.
This sudden shift might be convenient for some, but not for everyone. Today, around 26% of American adults are living with some form of disability — a number that will continue to increase as our population ages. Yet, the vast majority of online stores fail to meet minimum standards for digital accessibility.
While companies have taken extra measures to accommodate customers during the pandemic, like curbside pickup (BOPIS) or prolonged sales, they’re limiting their pool of customers by not meeting basic accessibility standards for their websites and digital content. For example, BOPIS grew 259% year-over-year by August 2020, while meeting digital accessibility standards have remained stagnant.
Addressing digital accessibility is more important now than ever. Nearly one in five retailers were dependent on 2020’s holiday sales, and many of those sales came from online rather than in-store. This trend is only continuing in 2021, with 75% of buyers and sellers now preferring digital options over face-to-face due to safety, speed and convenience. This article will address why and how businesses should be thinking about digital accessibility.
Accessibility impacts your bottom line. We all know the pandemic has been tough for businesses, especially small businesses — Yelp reported that almost 100,000 businesses have permanently closed since April 2020. Yet many businesses are still not thinking about web accessibility, at a time when digital access may be the only way consumers can access their business. While retail ecommerce sales grew 27.6% in 2020, total global retail sales declined 3%, meaning digital access is vital to a business’ bottom line. Further, 98% of the million most popular websites have accessibility barriers for the 61 million Americans living with a disability.
Making your site user-friendly for those with disabilities requires adding features like keyboard-based navigation, search by voice, video transcripts, captions and more. These factors streamline your flow, which helps everyone, not just those with disabilities. For example, video transcripts and captions allow people who are deaf or hard of hearing to enjoy your videos, and also provide SEO benefits. Additionally, according to a recent report, only 12% of people watch Instapage videos with the sound on. The average reach of a captioned video is 16% higher than one without, and CTA clicks drop by 26% when captions are removed.
As retailers are engineering a COVID-friendly shopping strategy to serve the increasing number of individuals reliant upon digital connectivity, making sure digital content is accessible to everyone should also be a top priority. Increasing the number of individuals who can interact with your content increases your customer base, and more shoppers equates to more sales.
Building for everyone protects your business. Prioritizing web accessibility helps businesses ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), in accordance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) guidelines. This is one of the most direct benefits of being accessible: avoiding discrimination and accessibility lawsuits. Ignoring your legal risk is costly, time consuming, and can damage your brand reputation, so it’s just as important as expanding your market reach. Alongside the rise in online shopping, we continue to see a rise in the number of ADA-related accessibility lawsuits filed in U.S. Federal Courts, with 2,258 cases in 2018, 2,446 in 2019 and 1,662 through September 2020. In 2020, 69% of lawsuits were against retail companies, up 11% since 2019.
Digital accessibility is foundational in creating an inclusive business. Not only is creating an accessible and inclusive digital strategy good from a business bottom line perspective, we believe positioning your brand as one that supports inclusion is the right thing to do. Inclusion matters. We know 52% of customers actively consider company values when making purchases, and one in five customers prioritize values over price and convenience. Not only that, but when a brand takes a wrong stance on a social issue, 47% of its customers are likely to walk away, with 17% never coming back. We wouldn’t consider designing a building without wheelchair access; we need to be as inclusively minded in the digital space as well.
The even better news is that making your digital content accessible to everyone does not need to be a daunting task. There are numerous technologies, tools and service providers that can help you meet accessibility compliance quickly and cost-effectively. The key is taking the first step by committing to a more inclusive digital strategy.
David Moradi is the CEO of AudioEye. An entrepreneur, investor, and advisor to numerous market-leading technology companies, Moradi is the Founder and CEO of Sero Capital, a private investment firm focused on growth opportunities in the technology sector. Moradi is also Co-founder and Executive Chairman of virtual reality (VR) video game development studio First Contact Entertainment Inc. Moradi previously spent 10 years as CEO of Anthion Management, a technology-focused fund that he helped grow to over $1B in assets. Prior to founding Anthion, Moradi was a portfolio manager at Pequot Capital Management and an analyst and portfolio manager for Soros Fund Management. Moradi launched his career as a special situations analyst for Imperial Capital. Moradi graduated with a B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. He is founder and chairman of the David Moradi Foundation, a charitable foundation supporting education and American military veterans.