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£120 billion in online sales at stake: UK retailers ignoring accessibility risk losing out

  • Ignoring online accessibility is costing UK retailers billions beyond the purple pound, new statistics show 
  • Over half of Brits surveyed say they have discarded a purchase because of accessibility issues

 

New statistics* released today reveal UK retailers are missing out on a potential £120bn in online sales alone, simply because they’re ignoring the true scope of accessibility.

In the survey – commissioned by ecommerce agency Quickfire Digital – the majority of UK consumers (54%) said they have faced accessibility issues shopping online. With online retail sales in the UK valued at £224 billion pounds in 2022, a potential loss of £120 billion is at stake; and that’s just online. The survey also revealed that 55% have discarded a purchase at point of sale – either online or instore – again because of accessibility issues.

 

The latest estimates from the Department for Work and Pensions’ Family Resources Survey indicate that 16 million people in the UK had a disability in the 2021/22 financial year, representing 24% of the total population and a combined spending power of £274 billion – otherwise known as the Purple Pound.

However, in surveying the average UK adult, Quickfire Digital’s results suggest the problem of accessibility in retail spans far beyond this, with over double the percentage of disabled people saying they’ve faced accessibility issues while shopping on ecommerce sites. Challenges highlighted by respondents included:

  • finding the design journey illogical and complicated, and being confused about how to pay (17%);
  • having trouble with the fonts and the colours used (16%)
  • lack of personalisation, sites fail to recognise specific needs and adapt (12%)
  • lack of audible information (9%)
  • videos missing captions, so trouble understanding what’s happening (7%)

 

Nathan Lomax, co-founder and director at Quickfire Digital, comments on the results: “We’ve known for a while that the retail market is struggling as it is, with inflation contributing to a sharp decline in online retail sales in 2022. We’ve also known for a while that estimates from Purple (a UK-based disability organisation) show there are 4.3 million disabled online shoppers who click away from inaccessible websites; equalting to a combined spending power of £11.75 billion in the UK. But the results from our survey – which show that 54% of the average consumer has expressed accessibility issues – reveal that there is an untold cost of ignoring the accessibility market that is well in excess of Purple’s already shocking stats. Disabled-friendly retail organisations do exist, and the disabled community is fiercely loyal to them, but retailers must do more. It’s time to redefine the accessibility market and broaden its reach to make online retail accessible to all. If not, they risk alienating a huge proportion of UK consumers and losing out on billions.”

 

The survey also asked what retailers can do to help create an inclusive digital experience for all users. 51% said they thought retailers should ensure sites are tested by ‘shoppers’ with various disabilities before the sites go live, while 43% said they thought retailers should employ more people with disabilities to work on these sites, as they will be aware of issues others may not.

Over a third (37%) of those surveyed would also welcome a universal, legally and government-mandated web accessibility standard that all online retailers must adhere to. At the moment, a kitemark of any kind like this does not exist and any regulations that are in place typically apply to specific sectors or types of organisations. The requirements can also hugely vary. In the EU, for example, the Web Accessibility Directive requires only certain public sector websites and mobile apps to meet specific accessibility standards based on WCAG.

 

“Based on our results, it’s clear there’s work to be done. Many that don’t consider themselves to be or fit into the definition of being disabled** still struggle with accessibility issues both instore and online, from problematic access to, and within, shops, to some of the less obvious issues, such as colour contrasts, font sizes and flashing images on websites. Simple changes can make retail websites more accessible and can help everyone, not just users with disabilities,” Lomax adds.

References

*  Independent survey research was carried out by Research Without Barriers – RWB
 between 1st September 2023 and 6th September 2023
, based on a sample of 2,002 UK adults.

** The Government Statistical Service (GSS)’s harmonised definition of a disabled person is someone with a physical or mental health condition or illness lasting or expected to last for 12 months or more that restricts their daily activities.