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The Benefits of Accessible E-commerce

Jun 16, 2023

Learn how a more inclusive shopping experience can benefit your business and get an introduction to the European Accessibility Act.

Imagine you were about to buy a birthday present for a friend. You had spent hours researching and finding just the right product. But when you try to make the purchase, the online shopping cart is incompatible with your device, there is just no possibility to proceed, no matter how hard you try. Quite an annoying scenario and a terrible user experience! But this is unfortunately very common today for people with disabilities. For many, content and functionality on e-commerce sites are not made accessible, meaning they are excluded from making purchases. 

Inaccessible E-commerce Is Leaving Out a Big Customer Group

Are there really that many people affected by web accessibility issues? Why should we invest in this? Our customers don’t have any disabilities. These are all common questions and misperceptions around accessibility. 

In fact, one out of four adults in the EU has some sort of disability. In Sweden, that figure is roughly one out of five. Disabilities are more common than you might think, and many disabilities are hidden, such as dyslexia, deafness, and ADHD. Disabilities can also be temporary. For example, a broken arm or people might have situational limitations, such as bright sunlight. Furthermore, as we grow older, most of us will live part of our lives with a disability. Having an inaccessible e-commerce solution means limiting your customer base and shutting out many people from buying your products.

A Better Shopping Experience for Everyone

Having a more inclusive shopping experience will open up your e-commerce to a wider range of customers and improve usability for everyone. A positive side effect of accessibility is in fact that it creates better UX for all your users. In addition, good accessibility also improves SEO and can boost your brand's public perception. It’s a win-win!

To be successful in this, accessibility must be considered throughout a project or implementation and cover all areas: design, code, and content creation. This is not something to be done once, but an ongoing effort to be implemented throughout the development life cycle.

Okay, this all sounds good in theory. But why should this be prioritized right now? Because inclusive shopping experiences will soon be not only good practice, but also regulated by a common EU law.

Say Hello to the European Accessibility Act

The EU has identified several digital products and services, and e-commerce is one of them, that will fall under the new standardized accessibility law, the European Accessibility Act (EAA). This legislation aims to create a more inclusive society and ensure that everyone has access to the same opportunities.

The EAA should be in place in all member states and enforced from June 28, 2025. This means that by that date, e-commerce sites within the EU will have to comply with the new standards. National authorities will perform inspections and spot checks to make sure businesses comply. Consumers can also file complaints of sites violating the standards to the same authorities. If e-commerce solutions are not accessible, and detected issues are not rectified, this will lead to fines according to the severity of the issue.

There are some exceptions to the EAA. Businesses classed as microenterprises and pure B2B solutions don’t have to comply. However, it’s of course never a bad thing to include accessibility in the development of a digital product, even if it's not fully compliant with the standards.

The core of the act is really about making a positive change for millions of people with some sort of disability and standing up for human rights and non-discrimination.

How Can This Benefit Your Brand?

Let’s think about how many of us would act if we had a bad experience making online purchases. We abandon our shopping cart, we turn to competitors instead, and we are prone to share our bad experiences with friends and family, even in extended communities and on social media. Inaccessible brands are at risk of getting a lot of negative reviews. On the other hand, accessible and inclusive brands are likely to be promoted and recommended. Here is an opportunity to enhance your brand and its values!

What Should You Do Now?

Get acquainted with the topic. Find out more about what this means for you and your e-commerce solution. And then start to plan for the necessary changes in time. If you wait too long, the risk is that you will be outrun by your more accessible competitors. Also, delaying your accessibility initiatives too long might get you caught in the pre-law development rush that is likely to happen just before summer 2025.

And remember that this law is, at its core, about equality and taking a step toward creating a more inclusive society.

The EU directive is available in several languages:

Statistical sources: