The £12bn opportunity UK retailers are missing

UK retailers are collectively losing out on £11.75 billion a year by ignoring online consumers with disabilities, according to new research.

Three in four disabled online consumers simply click away from websites that they find difficult to use, which represents 4.3 million online shoppers with a collective purchasing power of £11.75 billion – around 10 per cent of the nation’s total online spend.

The research comes from Freeney Williams, a European disability and diversity consultancy, which also found that three in four of these consumers face accessibility problems on more than a quarter of websites they visit for the first time.

Most businesses may be unaware that they are losing income, however, because only 7 per cent of disabled customers who have difficulty using a site will actually contact them, according to the research. 85 per cent of consumers with access needs reportedly limit their shopping to sites they know are accessible, choosing to pay more for a product from an accessible website rather than go through the hassle of interacting with a website that was harder to use.

With a greater focus on user experience and the customer journey, online retailers need to remember the power of the ‘purple pound’, also known as the spending power of people with disabilities, according to Rick Williams, managing director of Freeney Williams and chair of Age UK, Brighton and Hove.

More than half of the 362 disabled users interviewed said they shopped online at least once a week and 82 per cent said they would spend more if websites were more accessible. Analysis of UK online spend by CapGemini combined with demographic data from the Office of National Statistics suggests that the potential online spending power of disabled UK adults who have access needs when using the internet could be worth as much as £16.55 billion a year.

“After 20 years of legislation, most high street retailers in the UK understand they need to take disabled shoppers’ needs into account when designing ‘bricks and mortar’ shops. Although the same law applies to their online presence, many of those businesses seem oblivious to the need to make their websites accessible,” Williams said. Considering the UK’s ageing population, Williams believes the accessibility issues identified in the firm’s research will only increase over time.

The main reasons disabled users cited for ‘clicking-away’ from a website were because pages are crowded with too much content. Other reasons include poor link information and navigation, poorly-designed forms, distracting moving images and graphics, and poor legibility due to colour contrast and text layout.

There are a number of impairment types which may affect a disabled person’s ability to use the internet. These may include varying degrees of hearing and visual impairment, limited manual dexterity, and neuro-diversity issues such as dyslexia and Asperger syndrome amongst others, according to Freeney Williams.

“We assume that customers matter to the average business, so it’s only logical to assume that businesses will ensure it’s easy for as many people as possible to spend their money online. But apparently, this isn’t the case,” Susan Scott-Parker OBE, CEO of Business Disability International, said. According to Scott-Parker, the report’s findings shows that UK retailers have decided they can ignore the 15 to 20 per cent of people in the UK with disabilities. “Given the minimal costs associated with good website design, why would any business make it needlessly difficult for so many potential customers to spend their money? Any senior business leader now has even more reason to persuade the business to up its digital game, not just because the law requires it but because it makes commercial sense.”

See also: Why your website is your centre of operations

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

Related Topics