Editors note: A version of this blog discussed retailers in 2019, we've updated with new data and insights to discuss topics relevant to e-commerce companies in 2022.
ADA web accessibility lawsuits hit record numbers in 2021, with over 4,000 ADA-based lawsuits filed in federal court and with the e-commerce companies making up the lion’s share of those suits — 74 percent.
Shoppers have settled into pandemic shopping habits and that means more e-commerce sales. Worldwide e-commerce sales grew to more than an estimated $4.9 trillion dollars in 2021. With rising e-commerce sales comes a rising demand for accessible e-commerce websites and apps.
Read on for more about how pandemic trends are impacting ADA lawsuits and what e-commerce companies can do to make more accessible and usable experiences for people of all abilities.
e-commerce in the Crosshairs
From Amazon to Etsy to Target, users were spending an increasing amount of their time shopping online, before the pandemic. But the conditions of 2020 have accelerated growth in online sales and significantly impacted the types of goods Americans are willing to buy online.
Reuters reported that online spending by US consumers will hit more than $1 trillion in 2022, making e-commerce is a top economic engine. Record-breaking e-commerce sales may explain why the industry tops the list of targets for web accessibility lawsuits:
- It’s no secret whether or not their sites are accessible. In days gone by, a person with a disability would have to travel to each retail outlet in order to assess whether it met standards for physical accessibility. Now, it takes just a few clicks of the mouse or taps on the phone to know if a retailer has met its obligations in the digital realm. In addition, large companies are assumed to have deep pockets, which makes them easy targets for plaintiffs and lawyers.
- The DOJ has indicated ADA applies to websites. The US Department of Justice web accessibility guidance issued in March 2022 leaves little doubt that e-commerce websites are expected to be accessible as part of the ADA.
- WCAG conformance isn’t easy. Large e-commerce companies have deep, complex websites and apps, which can pose real logistical and financial challenges to accessibility updates. In addition, WCAG was designed for a different era of the internet, one in which websites were static, HTML pages. This is a far cry from today’s fluid, algorithmic sites with up-to-the-minute content and personalized interfaces.
Welcome a Growing (and Vocal) Community
It’s no secret that the digital retail market is growing by leaps and bounds. It is projected that as many as over 2.4 billion people purchased goods online in 2021. Today, 1 in 4 adults have a disability. It's estimated that the disability community spends 1.2 billion dollars annually. A retailer that ignores accessibility leaves money on the table.
Savvy retailers know that changes in taste are par for the course and that they must adjust to meet them. So, too, with expectations of the user experience on their websites.
Before you tackle your own accessibility, it helps to know the landscape. Our 2021 ADA Year-End Report is a great place to start.
Boost Your SEO
When you clean your desk, it’s much easier to find what you need. So, too, with websites. Another tangible benefit to a fully accessible site is improved SEO.
An accessible online store is one that is also optimized for browser searches. When your structure is intuitive, your images have accurate descriptions, and your information has proper labels, search engines will respond accordingly with improved results.
Find an Accessibility Partner or Go It Alone?
Some retailers have the IT staff and infrastructure to upgrade their web accessibility in-house; others may not have the time or knowledge to even know where to begin.
If your internal team stands at the ready, you can begin to plan your digital accessibility initiative as a phased approach. Our new accessibility checklist can help guide you as plan and prioritize your digital accessibility initiative. Download the web accessibility checklist.
If you would like a technology partner to guide your journey toward accessibility, UsableNet can help you get started in this process. Contact us for a free consultation.
Learning to design while keeping accessibility in mind will make your website more accessible. Join us for our webinar 'Accessible Design for E-Commerce', Thursday, May 24th at 12 pm ET.