A new survey is sending a clear message to retailers: prioritise accessibility or risk billions in online sales, potentially alienating a significant share of British consumers.

The results from the survey of more than 2,000 adults – commissioned by e-commerce agency Quickfire Digital – reveal that 55% of UK consumers say they have discarded a purchase due to accessibility issues either online or in-store.

This abandonment translates to a significant financial blow for UK retailers, extending well beyond the confines of the ‘purple pound’, which is the estimated spending power of disabled households (disabled people and their families) in the UK.

More than half (51%) also believe retailers should include people of various disabilities when testing their e-commerce websites.

Many consumers who don’t consider themselves to be or fit into the definition of disabled still struggle with less obvious accessibility issues. Online 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 failing to recognise specific needs and adapt (12%)
  • Lack of audible information (9%)
  • Videos missing captions, causing struggles with comprehension (7%)

How can retailers address accessibility?

For the retailer ignoring these challenges, there is not only a moral obligation missed but also a significant loss of sales involved.

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With the UK’s online retail market valued at £83.6bn ($101.5bn) in 2022 and more than half of those surveyed facing accessibility issues shopping online, UK retailers ignoring digital accessibility risk forfeiting a potential £41.8bn.

UK-based disability organisation Purple finds that 4.3 million disabled online shoppers click away from inaccessible websites, equating to a combined spending power of £17.1bn in the UK.

Quickfire Digital co-founder and director Nathan Lomax commented: “Disabled-friendly retail organisations do exist – and experts agree that 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.”

Further key findings that support the call to action for accessibility include:

  • 43% think retailers should employ more people with disabilities to work on these sites, as they will be aware of issues others may not
  • 37% (cutting across all demographics) welcome the idea of the introduction of a universal, legally and government-mandated web accessibility standard that all online retailers must adhere to, which may also be necessary to ensure retailers prioritise inclusivity.

At the moment, such standards do not exist and any regulations that are in place typically apply to specific sectors or types of organisations. The requirements can also vary hugely. 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.