UK retailers lose out on £17 billion by ignoring the needs of disabled shoppers online

06 February 2020

UK retailers could be missing out on online sales estimated at £17.1 billion a year according to research from disability consultancy Freeney Williams.

£20 note, £10 note, £5 note, silver coins The new Click-Away Pound survey shows that nearly three-quarters of disabled online consumers (69%) will simply click away from websites that they find difficult to use due to the effect of their disability. That represents 4.9 million online shoppers with a collective purchasing power of £17.1 billion, which is around 10% of the total UK online spend.

In fact, 83% of participants with access needs limit their shopping to sites that they know are accessible and 86% have chosen to pay more for a product from an accessible website rather than buy the same product for less from a website that was harder to use.

Most businesses will be unaware that they are losing out because only 8% of disabled customers who have difficulty using a site will contact the site owner.

The 2019 survey also compared progress against the original 2016 survey results, and shows a distinct and disappointing lack of progress in removing barriers over the last three years.

In the most recent survey, 72% of participants with access needs said they experienced barriers on more than a quarter of websites they visit for the first time: this remains almost unchanged from the 2016 figure of 73%.

Rick Williams, co-author of the survey and Managing Director of Freeney Williams, said: "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. This is also very disappointing given the amount of guidance, publicity and information which has been made available since the last survey".

Rick went on to say: "We are coming to the conclusion that promoting the business case has not served disabled shoppers well and continues to fail them. Therefore, there seems little choice but to look to another approach which comes down to making the law more effective. There are provisions in the Equality Act about ensuring the accessibility of websites, but this has proved ineffective. We need now to introduce more specific regulations for all websites, as is now the case for public sector sites. Such sites are under a specific legal obligation to achieve international standards with associated monitoring and sanctions. We are now calling for similar legislation for all websites and apps otherwise, as performance to date indicates, disabled people will continue to be discriminated against online”.

The report of the Click-Away Pound 2019 survey can be downloaded from clickawaypound.com