Last reviewed: 29 June 2022
In 2021, we commissioned research by Open Inclusion (supported by Microsoft) into what disabled consumers choose to buy and why.
Most consumer-facing companies conduct regular customer research. This gathers insight into drivers of buying behaviours and customer experiences, purchasing journeys, consumer confidence, brand affiliation, consumer engagement and empowerment through the process. However, very little research is conducted, let alone shared publicly, on the pre-purchase experiences of disabled consumers. This research report aims to address this large and valuable gap.
Our research findings are presented as a main report (downloadable from the sidebar) and seven sector-specific reports covering retail, hospitality, utilities, days out and leisure, holiday accommodation, banking and insurance, and technology.
The main report is divided in to eight sections:
- Research objectives and methodology
- Key statistics
- Barriers to buying
- Customer service
- Inclusive communication
- Discussing disability and access needs
- Disabled consumers’ confidence in business.
These can be downloaded from the sidebar on this page.
Top level research findings
Our research finds that disabled consumers across the UK experience limited choice and feelings of disempowerment when purchasing products, services, and activities, resulting in over 43 per cent abandoning shopping tasks without purchasing. Of the 698 disabled consumers who participated in the research:
- 90 per cent were affected at the decision-making stage of purchases by either; limitations of design, limitations in available information, or how information was presented.
- 65 per cent agreed that ‘I feel like my choices of what to buy are limited on a daily basis due to barriers’.
- 27 per cent disagreed with the statement that ‘I am able to request adjustments or identify my preferences or needs when I try to buy a product or service’.
- Over half were likely to feel limited by choice, specifically because of their access needs, when booking holiday accommodation (59 per cent) or in relation to leisure activities (56 per cent).
- Over 4 in 10 were limited to some extent when booking a new place to eat (45 per cent), finding a new provider – electricity, gas or broadband (41 per cent) and opening or changing a personal bank account or renewing or changing insurance provider (40 per cent).
Businesses that participated in the research recognised the need to:
- Create opportunities for consumers to ask questions
- Train customer facing staff
- Increase representation of disabled people in the workforce
- Offer alternative contact options for consumers
- Develop targeted services at a local level.
Why is it important to know what disabled consumers buy and why?
- To be more consistently valued as a product or service provider, brands need to consider all customer needs across all channels and brand touchpoints.
- Some organisations are starting to research experiences of their current disabled customers, but a gap in evidence exists about the pre-purchase experience amongst potential, as well as current customers or users of consumer goods and services.
- Obtaining information to compare options against needs and preferences, understanding the choices, building confidence in a brand, and making a decision to purchase is complex for everyone. For many disabled people, this part of the customer journey can be very difficult to navigate. Specific disabilities or conditions may necessitate a higher level of research and understanding of certain product or design features. Alternatives or adaptions to standard offerings may be desired or needed.
- Purchase channels may be more, or less, easy to access and use effectively.
- Certain purchases, or decisions to use services, may require more detailed and transparent communication up-front and perhaps a more in-depth conversation with the product or service supplier to work around barriers.
- Disabled customers or those with access needs may require sales information and service that considers diverse customer needs and supports them with respect, awareness and confidence.
The UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy previously reported (read here) that when barriers to consumer confidence exist, the least engaged groups tend to miss out on the best deals, the best experiences or indeed, they may overpay. They report that for a market to flourish, it needs empowered, active and informed consumers.
What disabled consumers choose to buy and why includes some ideas for businesses to improve customer engagement for disabled consumers.
Find out more
Our research findings are presented as a main report and seven sector-specific reports. The seven sector-specific reports focus on:
- Banking and insurance
- Days out and leisure
- Holiday accommodation
We are incredibly grateful to our longstanding friend and Partner, Microsoft, for making this report possible, and to all the disabled consumers and organisations that took part in the research.
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