Online retail is booming, but is it accessible?

Online retail is booming but unless retailers make their websites accessible they'll exclude disabled people and miss out on millions in lost revenue. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to shopping online with digital giant Boohoo looking to snap up Debenhams and ASOS in the fray to pick up Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge.

The proportion of sales taking place online grew by over 10% due to the pandemic, according to the Office of National Statistics as consumers turn to the web to buy food, clothing and household goods. Online sales for groceries accounted for 10% of all sales, said the ONS.

Meanwhile, a supermarket report claimed that the number of UK consumers doing a weekly grocery shop online doubled during the lockdown

The report by Waitrose says one in four now buy food and essentials at least once a week.

How accessible are online retailers?

Image shows a credit card in someone's hand with the other hand poised over a laptop keyboardHowever, many websites are inaccessible limiting the options for disabled people looking to buy online, and the profits retailers could make.  Notably, the ClickAway Pound survey revealed that businesses could be losing out to the tune of £17 billion per year

Scope’s Big Hack says the Purple Pound is worth a potential £274 billion. 

It further claims that disabled people are over 50% more likely to face barriers to accessing digital and online services than non-disabled people.


How well are organisations complying with regulations?

Accessibility compliance is lacking across all sectors including supermarkets, transport companies and the public sector, according to Home Office Consultant George Rhodes.

Writing for AbilityNet in May Rhodes benchmarked a number of services against Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018 (PSBAR).

He saw increases in compliance against these standards across Universities and Local Government but found that NHS organisations were lagging behind. 

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Streaming services for disabled customers

Image shows the bottom of a computer screen with the logos for Netflix, BBC iPlayer and Prime VideoStreaming services have also seen a huge uplift during Covid, and related lockdowns.

Streaming increased by 20% during 2020 while 80% of music consumption was on streaming platforms

Scope’s Big Hack says the ability of these services to meet diverse needs varies by platform and has published a League Table of streaming services

However, many providers – notably BBC – are embracing the needs of disabled users through the use of closed captions and through building internal champions’ networks. 

While there’s still some way to go for online retailers, it’s clear that with consumers flocking online there’s never been a better time to ensure your services are accessible.

(Image courtesy of Amvia)

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