GUEST COMMENT Retailers Lose Billions to Unreachable Websites – Guest Commentary
Do you know how many people with disabilities visit your website?
Unless you sell wheelchairs or hearing aids, you probably wouldn’t even know where to start to answer this question. Tracking measurements for people with visual, hearing and mobility impairments is not something you will find in most analysis software.
The CDC estimates that one in four adults lives with a disability in the United States. Globally, it is estimated that more than one billion people suffer from some form of disability. So it’s likely that a large percentage of your website visitors don’t get the best experience. In fact, many of these users cannot access your website at all if it is not properly coded for assistive devices.
Making the Internet accessible benefits everyone, not just people with disabilities. Many disabilities progress slowly, such as hearing and visual loss with age. For example, a person with a mild hearing loss may not need hearing aids, but could benefit from video captioning.
It is also important to remember that not all disabilities are permanent. If you ever were to recover from eye surgery, you might find it helpful to temporarily use a screen reader to browse websites and place orders online.
Accessibility affects bounce rates
Many people have slowly progressing, age-related, or degenerative disabilities that require additional assistance with online accessibility. For example, according to SimilarWeb data released last August, the e-commerce sector’s rebound rates are on average 41.7%. While bounce rates can be linked to many reasons such as slow page load times or independent searches, accessibility barriers are undoubtedly a big factor.
For example, people with epilepsy and other types of seizure disorders are sensitive to animations; this includes carousels or sliders that loop continuously. If these types of visitors don’t have a way to pause the animation on your site, they are very likely to ‘bounce back’. But you will never know it from your analytics data because there is no way to track it.
Popular assistive technologies such as JAWS and NVDA screen readers also encounter problems on most e-commerce sites. It is not uncommon for these users to visit a site and the navigation menu cannot be found. It is impossible for them to visit another page of the site. Shopping carts and website pop-ups are problematic. Payment buttons throughout the purchase process aren’t properly marked or never appear, and many pop-ups don’t offer screen readers a way to exit them. Visitors have no choice but to leave and never come back.
Falling into the accessibility gap
The issues described here affect websites of all sizes, but the tides change quickly. Big retailers like Amazon and Target have hired teams of accessibility experts and invested millions to make their sites fully accessible. Large-scale online retailers have also become the target of lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which has led most to implement major initiatives to make their sites accessible.
The same cannot be said for small and medium-sized businesses. Not only are most unaware of the legal requirements for accessibility, they are not at all aware that this is an issue on their sites. This causes the loss of millions of SME customers to the big players and also puts them at risk of legal action. But there is a silver lining to this story. Once SME leaders realize that this is such a serious problem, it is not difficult to close the gap. Automated accessibility solutions can quickly make a site accessible – permanently.
Follow an invisible audience
Userway, the company I co-founded, specializes in AI-based solutions for website accessibility. Our widget works by correcting a site’s code before it gets passed to a user’s browser. The widget provides a way for all users to personalize sites, such as making the text larger or changing to a font suitable for dyslexia.
To help retailers understand the real cost of an inaccessible website, we looked at activation data for the 1.4 million websites our widget was installed on, and then combined it with the data posted on bounce rates and sales to create a white paper. Based on our findings, most retailers should expect at least 0.4% increase in sales conversions by making their sites fully accessible. Through our research, we were also able to determine the averages of how much money retailers lose each year and during the holidays due to inaccessible websites.
Estimates of lost sales due to inaccessibility
Statista reported that in 2020, more than two billion people purchased goods or services online, with e-commerce sales exceeding US $ 4.2 trillion worldwide. But when you factor in inaccessible websites, we estimate that over $ 16.8 billion in global e-commerce sales are lost each year.
Accessible websites could also make the holiday shopping season a little brighter. In Adobe Holiday Shopping Forecast 2021, total online holiday e-commerce spending is expected to reach $ 207 billion. But by removing barriers to digital accessibility, the total could rise by $ 828 million. And from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, roughly $ 113 million could have been added to retailers’ balance sheets.
Financial losses resulting from legal proceedings
You may be able to ignore the estimated lost sales due to inaccessibility, but there is no denying that companies prosecuted for web-related ADA violations are suffering financially. In 2014, only 18 lawsuits were filed on this ground. But, by 2021, that number has grown to over 5,000 lawsuits. The average cost for a business to defend itself in court is between $ 10,000 and $ 50,000, which does not factor in fines and website remediation. Most businesses are advised by their legal teams to settle because it costs less than trying to win their case.
Who should fix this problem?
It’s easy to want to blame web developers and website platforms like Wix, WordPress, and Squarespace for not making sites accessible from the start. Writing code for screen readers and other assistive technologies should be implemented from the start. However, this still does not guarantee that a site remains accessible.
Most of the people who add content to websites are not accessibility experts. They won’t know how to correctly write the labels for each button or how much alt text is needed for the photos.
Large website building platforms are also at a disadvantage because they typically don’t have control over the design patterns their users deploy. Independent designers and developers have created millions of themes for WordPress alone, so there is no way to guarantee that all of these templates are accessible.
Ultimately, every business has to decide how it will approach website accessibility.
How to make your site accessible
There are two basic methods of making a website accessible: hiring an accessibility expert to do corrections by hand Where use an automated solution. Automated tools are generally faster and cheaper, but the quality of their results varies greatly from company to company. UserWay uses a human-in-the-loop approach, which allows our customers and our team to make changes to the button labels and descriptions of the photos the AI writes. It’s the best of both worlds.
Whichever solution you choose, the first step is to determine what needs to be fixed. The easiest way is to use an accessibility scanner. Once you submit your website URL, it will analyze your site and create a detailed list of violations. Your team can then use the report as a roadmap to making your website accessible.