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guidance, Research

What do disabled consumers choose to buy and why?

Business Disability Forum

Companies spend a lot of time and money exploring the purchasing habits of their consumers gathering insights 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. 

A cobbled street with shops.

This week we published extensive new research about disabled consumers’ purchasing habits of products, services, and activities such as leisure pursuits and days out. We found some great examples of companies getting things right and others who still have a way to go. 

With the spending power of disabled people in the UK estimated at 274 billion, businesses just cannot afford to overlook the needs and spending habits of disabled consumers. We found that too often, disabled people face limited choice, increased costs, or even difficulty finding the goods and services they want and need in the first place.  

Our research (in association with Open Inclusion and sponsored by Microsoft), which heard from disabled people and businesses, shines a light on purchasing experiences across the areas of retail, hospitality, utilities, days out and leisure, holiday accommodation, banking and insurance, and technology and provides some recommendations for business to consider around user involvement, accessibility, communication, customer service and training.  

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 because of a lack of information, inaccessible communication or customer support channels and a lack of confidence in the brand. Comments from the research present a picture of limited choice and feelings of disempowerment. 

Disabled consumers want more detailed information about the accessibility and usability of products and services they purchase and good customer service with a choice of channels by which to access the support is also welcomed. This also means staff knowing their products and services well including any accessibility features. However, a helpful attitude combined with good service can go a long way in engendering goodwill, even when the service isn’t as accessible as it might be. 

Even where businesses are accessible and will make adjustments, disabled consumers don’t always know this, so businesses need to more to communicate this. A banking customer told us he “took a punt” and called the disability helpline because he couldn’t wait in a queue because he hadn’t realised it was exactly for people like him. 

But it wasn’t all negative, Just over half (54 per cent) agreed that they have noticed a positive change in how they were treated which is encouraging. 

“It’s little things that can make a really big difference. They show that the business is thinking about the customer journey of everybody… I am more likely to want to continue that relationship in the future.” A disabled consumer 

With many disabled people facing additional costs associated with having a disability and living costs rising, it is more important than ever that disabled consumers have the information they need to make informed purchasing decisions and to get the best deals possible. 

Our research shows that there is plenty of good practice out there, but it can be patchy, and it varies from sector to sector. 

In the coming months we’ll be developing new content on our Knowledge Hub for Members and Partners to support businesses in offering more inclusive experiences for disabled consumers. 

Read ‘What disabled consumers choose to buy and why’ research 

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