How much do inaccessible websites cost the UK’s economy?

Guest blog by Rick Williams

The results of Click-Away Pound Survey 2016 showed clear evidence that inaccessible websites and apps in the UK stop people with disabilities shopping online, and they deprive businesses with much needed sales. Has much changed since then? Rick Williams, who is a co-author of survey, looks at the current situation and announces the launch of the Click-Away Pound Survey 2019.

The news over the last few months has been full of the woes of the High Street. The failing fortunes of Debenhams, House of Fraser, Mothercare, Maplins and other familiar names have been front page news throughout 2018. Meanwhile, the proportion of retail spend online continues to grow.

The Black Friday weekend in November provided a microcosm of an accelerating trend, with the in-store frenzy of previous years replaced by the sound of websites crashing under consumer pressure.

Springboard, the retail monitor, reported footfall in shopping centres and retail parks down by 6%, while Argos said half of its orders on Friday morning had been made on a handset, up from 40% in 2017.

For shoppers, this trend is liberating. There is more choice, just about anything is available online, and increasing online competition means lower prices. All this while avoiding the queues and the dismal weather, with purchases delivered to your door. Truly liberating, but only if you can access the website.

Back in 2016, the Click-Away Pound Survey found more than six million disabled people in the UK had difficulty using online shops and services. For a variety of reasons, people may not be able to use a mouse, or read the words, or find their way round a busy screen.

  • 71% of those people simply left a site that they found hard to use – 4.2 million lost customers
  • For 81% of this group, ease of use was more important than price
  • £11.75 billion was spent by consumers in 2016 at sites that were easier to use

For business, online is no longer a useful offshoot of traditional sales, or the preserve of the speciality retailer, but has become an essential commercial battleground where every pound counts.

At a time of increasing competition and narrowing margins, it’s surprising that businesses still don’t try to accommodate every user by ensuring that their site is accessible.

Projected forward, £450 million would have been lost by businesses with hard-to-use websites over the Black Friday weekend unless businesses have got to grips with the accessibility question. So, has the picture changed?

Click-Away Pound 2016 showed that failing to address accessibility has a direct impact on the balance sheet. Since then, there have been signs of increasing business engagement with the issue, with many organisations saying they have listened.

As the online market becomes steadily more fundamental to the success of businesses, the Click-Away Pound Survey 2019 will tell us whether they have heard the message.

Go to now to take part in the survey and add your voice.

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