The start of Q4 means one thing for retailers- the holiday shopping season. You’ve probably been working on catalogs, floor plans, displays, promotions, and other marketing materials for months. After COVID tanked much of the retail industry in Q2, it’s especially important that this holiday season regain sales momentum. The way to do that is by reaching every potential customer with a strong online presence that every shopper can benefit from. Achieving retail ADA compliance by making all of your digital material and eCommerce accessible ensures everyone can enjoy your products and services.
Do my customers have disabilities?
As many as 25% of the US population has a disability. Many people with disabilities may use assistive technology to help them access digital information. With a quarter of the population having a disability, chances are many of your current audience members have disabilities and may not be able to purchase your products and services no matter how much they want to.
Your eCommerce offerings, product catalogs, digital ads, and marketing emails might be appearing in lots of search results and inboxes. But if they’re not accessible for people who are using assistive technology, it’s not doing either of you any good. You’re missing out on a very large segment of the population.
How much do people with disabilities spend?
A 2019 study conducted in the UK called the Click-Away Pound Report reveals just how important it is to make your retail website accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities. People with disabilities have a combined spending power of £24.8 billion (roughly $30 billion). As many as 70% of people who are unable to access website features will click away from a website. They will choose instead to shop from an accessible website or company, even if the product isn’t quite what they want. Inaccessible websites cost companies £17 billion (over $21 million) in lost revenue in 2019 alone when visitors couldn’t view or purchase products, services, or information. Of the 7.15 million people with disabilities, 75% say that accessibility is more important than price when shopping online. Customers with disabilities are willing to pay more for an independent, accessible shopping experience. And that is just in the UK.
By comparison, 61 million people in the United States- 1 in 4 people- have disabilities. Americans with disabilities are just as likely to click away from websites they can’t access as people in the UK. Americans with disabilities have a combined spending power of $500 billion, and Canadians with disabilities have CAN$55 billion. If 70% of Americans with disabilities take their business elsewhere because they can’t access a website, that’s $350 billion in lost business annually. ADA compliance ensures that your website isn’t leaving money on the table.
Can’t a customer just tell me if my site is inaccessible?
If $350 billion isn’t enough to turn your head towards digital accessibility, consider the cost of ADA litigation. Customers have a few options they can take if they aren’t able to access your website. They can fill out a contact form if the contact form on your website is accessible. They can email you, but the email link might not be accessible either. Finally, they can call you, but are your customer support representatives trained to handle accessibility complaints? Do they know who to speak to about those complaints? Plus, if your hold times are long the visitor likely won’t want to wait, knowing their complaint may or may not even be taken seriously. Most commonly, they just leave your site in frustration. If they’re particularly frustrated, they know that one sure way to get your attention and have their needs met is to file a lawsuit against your company.
Retail ADA compliance affects every type of retailer
In 2019, retail ADA compliance accounted for 60% of all ADA digital accessibility lawsuits. ADA compliance impacts all kinds of retailers- from eCommerce giants like Amazon to luxury brands like Rolex to grocery stores like Winn-Dixie. Those companies all became aware that the ADA applied to their websites when they were hit with litigation. People who were unable to use those retailers’ inaccessible websites were frustrated. They felt discriminated against because people without disabilities could use those websites independently, while they were prevented from doing so because the websites weren’t compatible with their assistive technology.
Winn-Dixie was the first retailer to face litigation over ADA compliance for its digital services in 2017. Previously, ADA compliance for retail involved only physical settings. Companies installed automatic doors, elevators, curb cuts, and lower counters to make their stores accessible. However, Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores was the first case in which a website was considered a place of public accommodation. Winn-Dixie’s website offered services like online pharmacy management, digital coupons, and store locators that were inaccessible to the plaintiff. Circuit courts agreed with the plaintiff that websites and apps of physical places of public accommodation should be considered services offered by those places, and therefore must be ADA compliant.
Amazon has come a long way since its accessibility lawsuit in 2018. Cedric Bishop, an Amazon customer from New York who is blind, uses a screen reader to access the internet and shop online. Bishop was unable to shop on Amazon’ site because of two main accessibility issues- many images didn’t offer alt text descriptions and the site often used more untagged images as navigational elements.
Amazon stepped up; they immediately went to work creating an accessible searching, shopping, and checkout process for their customers. Amazon uses headers and landmarks so that assistive technology users can skip around to different relevant sections of the page without having to listen to each and every word in the myriad of departments on their website. Navigation buttons include clear, accessible labels “Buy Now” or “Add to Cart”. Labeled form fields clearly identify where shoppers should enter their billing and shipping information.
Luxury watch manufacturer Rolex faced a lawsuit for a lack of ADA compliance as well in 2018. Plaintiff Braulio Thorne was unable to shop, purchase items, and locate Rolex retailers because Rolex’s website failed to follow retail ADA compliance. It failed to include alt text for its images, and had empty links and linked images without alt text. That meant the reader had no idea where he was being directed. Rolex reached a settlement agreement and Thorne received court costs and legal fees. New York State Human and Civil Rights Laws allowed him to recover punitive, statutory, and compensatory damages as well.
More money, fewer lawsuits
Retail ADA compliance means more than just automatic doors and more space between fixtures. It means making sure every shopping method, either in-store or online, is accessible to every customer. Make the most of your marketing materials by making sure everyone can access the message they present. People with disabilities have disposable income like any other customer. Leaving them out of your target audience means leaving out as much as a quarter of your potential customers. It also leaves you vulnerable to ADA litigation when potential customers can’t shop with you because your website isn’t compatible with their assistive technology. Make up for the reduction in sales due to Covid and avoid retail ADA compliance litigation by making all of your products, services, and digital offerings accessible.
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Nina comes to Equidox with years of sales and marketing experience from a variety of industries and holds a BS in Language Arts Education. Nina has a passion for words, storytelling, and information, which she believes everyone should have access to regardless of ability. After spending time as a teacher with a blind student, she became much more aware of the limitations and abilities of web accessibility, and how essential it is to those experiencing disabilities. “Being able to access information equally ensures that everyone has an equal opportunity for education, employment, and success in life.”