Today, almost everybody buys products in ecommerce stores, and COVID-19 only accelerated this trend. But not all consumers are the same. Inclusion & Humanity UK estimates that over 1 billion people have disabilities worldwide, meaning up to 15% of the global population might need assistive technology to use your eCommerce site. It would help to address their needs before they can confidently and conveniently shop for your products. In short, ecommerce web accessibility should be one of your highest business priorities.

Imagine how much business you could lose because this significant target audience finds it too challenging and inconvenient to use your site. After all, these consumers can always choose ecommerce platforms that abide by ADA requirements, guidelines you should also meet to avoid costly lawsuits. 

Fortunately, eCommerce accessibility concerning ADA compliance isn’t that different from other websites. But meeting compliance does fine-tune and improve conversion rates for online storefronts, making them considerably more user-friendly and accessible. So it’s better for your business, better from a legal perspective, and the best approach to selling online.

How Does Web Accessibility Look for Ecommerce Platforms?

The goal is to make your ecommerce platform accessible to everyone for online shopping. So, for example, a retailer might enhance its site with a screen-reading device for people with color blindness or other visual impairments.  It could also mean eliminating sudden flashes, for example, by advertising a ‘flash’ sale for those who suffer from seizures.

Users with disabilities also struggle to understand strikethrough prices that indicate a discount (i.e., $59.99- $39.99). Otherwise, screen readers announce two prices without showing the one that’s crossed out and cheaper or inactive. Pay special attention to the underlying code in these cases to ensure clarity and accessibility for all users. 

Shopify store owners can conveniently solve many of these issues by installing UserWay’s AI-Powered Accessibility Widget directly from the Shopify app store. In addition, many online retailers provide different accessible versions of their eCommerce sites in other languages, so why not accommodate those with disabilities? 

How Accessibility Can Impact an Ecommerce Online Storefront

Web accessibility is critical for eCommerce websites. It not only gives you a much more significant customer base but is also ethical. According to the US Census Bureau, 12.6% of all Americans and upwards of one billion people across the globe have some disability. Over 40 million Americans alone have a disability, and they deserve the same access to the digital world as everyone else.

If customers need help buying products from your ecommerce website, they could give up and move to another one. They may also never come back to your site. So, providing an accessible user interface is critical, which will help boost your conversion rates.

What’s more, having a website that’s accessible decreases bounce rates or the likelihood of consumers leaving without buying. Instead, they’re more likely to enter the sales funnel and complete the purchase. Of course, not all websites are ADA-compliant, but if customers with disabilities feel that your site has made a substantial effort to be more accessible, they’ll likely return. That’s because you’ve considered their needs and provided a service that not everyone offers.

From a business perspective, not offering accessible options could also mean being sued for not being compliant with the ADA. What’s more, lawsuits of this kind have only been increasing. A study from UsableNet found the number of digital accessibility cases in 2020 was 3,503. That’s a 21.2% increase from 2,890 in 2019. The report also stipulated that 77.6% of those lawsuits were against online retailers. Usually, the costs of such a lawsuit can be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Common Accessibility Errors for eCommerce

Making your website accessible is problematic because accessibility isn’t easily defined. For example, the U.S. Government doesn’t have guidelines, even though the law clearly states websites must be accessible by its decree. Therefore, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the most reliable.

This compliance ambiguity often leads to website errors. Below are some of the mistakes made by ecommerce retailers found by Practical eCommerce in 2016. The site used a web accessibility checker to locate common mistakes and collated some of the most frequent ones. What’s surprising is that large companies made errors, even with elaborate IT departments working on their sites. 

Here’s a brief overview of the most common mistakes:

  • Missing alt text for images: Some site users might be blind or visually impaired. Therefore, they need alt-text to have the image explained to them instead.
  • Empty links: A link without text is unclear to end users. That’s because you only have seconds to capture and retain your visitors’ attention. They’re more likely to leave your site if they can’t find products or complete purchases when they encounter an empty link.
  • Contrasted errors: A contrast error means certain people can’t read the text on your website. A lack of readability happens in website sections where the ratio between the text and the background color is less than 4.5:1. This creates an obstacle for visually impaired people.

5 Tips for eCommerce Website Accessibility

Making an eCommerce site compliant can be complex, but there are changes you can make right away to help safeguard your company.  

Here are a few accessibility features you can integrate right away:

1. Include captions for your videos

Captions let all users experience your videos, even if they have hearing impairments.

2. Offer text to accompany images

Use text to describe images on your site. For example, a download button might read ‘download content’ instead of having a download image.

3. Have audio description pages

Provide an audio button that thoroughly describes your page to end users, just like many news websites have audio recordings of articles.

4. Contrasting text

This is a simple one. Provide a high level of contrast between your text and foreground so visually impaired users can read it easily.

5. Don’t let color alone decide your design

According to Color Blind Awareness, nearly 300 million people across the globe are color blind. So, a site that uses color as its primary UX (User Experience) element can be impossible for people with color blindness to understand and use. A good rule of thumb? Provide features that help these end users distinguish between clickable links and informational text.   

You can implement these best practices cheaply and without much technical know-how. Plus, it makes it easier for your customers to access and use your site. However, other modifications require a specialist, which begins with conducting a compliance audit report. Consider using expert help for more complex websites and to access a greater depth of web accessibility.

Benefits of Accessibility for eCommerce Websites

There are numerous benefits to being compliant, specifically for eCommerce. eCommerce sites require a lot more functionality than ordinary sites. For example, they need to be more intuitive, work seamlessly, and make it easy for shoppers to find and pay for the products they want.

Most websites that merely display information (like Wikipedia) or host a service (Netflix) don’t require the same intuitiveness as eCommerce sites. However, making your site accessible is an excellent way to grow your traffic, increase sales, and make it reachable.

One of the most significant benefits is avoiding costly lawsuits could save you hundreds of thousands of dollars. Businesses should be compliant. Everyone should enjoy the Internet the same way.

UserWay: Your Go-To Ecommerce Solution

An excellent way to make users stay longer and decrease bounce rates is by installing UserWay’s AI-Powered Digital Accessibility Widget. It automates remediations at an affordable price to ensure compliance and accessibility. In addition, this advanced technology is easy to implement and helps your dev team effortlessly reach compliance with WCAG 2.1, ADA, ATAG 2.0, EN 301-549, and Section 508 regulations. 

Answers to Common FAQs

Why is Accessibility Crucial in eCommerce?

Web accessibility is critical for eCommerce websites. It not only gives you a much more significant customer base, but it’s also ethical. Unfortunately, according to the US Census Bureau, 12.6% of all Americans and upwards of one billion people across the globe are disabled in some way.

Does the ADA Require Website Accessibility?

Yes, the ADA does mandate that all websites provide accessibility to people with disabilities. For details that apply to your business, review Title III, which forbids bias against people with disabilities in public-facing facilities and private organizations.  

Does The ADA Only Penalize Bigger Companies? 

The ADA will pursue and penalize all-sized companies for non-compliance. It doesn’t matter if you only employ five people. Your business could still be susceptible to costly legal battles if your site doesn’t comply with ADA guidelines. Smaller companies are often more vulnerable because they lack the human resources and budget to develop a compliant, accessible website.

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