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The business impact of neglecting digital accessibility: Non-inclusive design becomes another factor that will chase consumers to a competing brand

by | May 24, 2024 | Public Relations

A brand’s digital experience offering is so meaningful in building trust and loyalty with consumers, but that experience must be a positive one for all, which certainly includes the significant proportion of e-commerce site users who identify as having a disability. And the cost of not embracing accessibility is going up, according to new research from digital experience software firm Acquia, which reveals that a large majority of these consumers will move on to another brand if they consistently run into this issue on your site.

The firm’s 2024 Survey Report: Consumer Perspectives on Digital Accessibility, based on a survey conducted by Researchscape, examines how website users with disabilities perceive the state of digital accessibility and how their experiences impact brand reputation and loyalty. Critically, the report found that 89 percent of participants say they encounter accessibility issues that make it challenging to interact with websites or other digital experiences offered by brands, leading more than half (62 percent) to say that they would consider switching to a competitor with better accessibility features.

Q: How often do you encounter accessibility issues that make it challenging to interact with websites or other digital experiences offered by brands?

digital accessibility

“It’s clear that digital experiences are not meeting the accessibility expectations of those who need them. This is a critical business issue that requires more attention,” said Jennifer Griffin Smith, chief market officer at Acquia, in a news release. “Digital accessibility is an essential pillar of digital experience design and management that should not be overlooked or shortchanged. Creating equal, accessible opportunities for all is a value all marketers and organizations should strive for.”

Q: What emotions do you feel toward a brand when you encounter accessibility challenges on their website?

digital accessibility

Brands are paying the price for digital accessibility deficiencies

The survey found that not only are disability issues widespread, but so are the impacts:

  • Nearly half of respondents (45 percent) rate their level of frustration when encountering accessibility issues on digital platforms as either “very” or “extremely” frustrating.
  • Brand reputation is negatively impacted when users encounter digital accessibility challenges. Aligned to the above, survey participants most commonly reported feeling frustration toward a brand (71 percent), while 58% said they feel disappointed and 24 percent feel angry. Nearly 1 in 5 (18 percent) say they feel excluded.

When asked what steps they are most likely to take when experiencing these issues:

  • About a third (34 percent) said they would complain directly to the brand.
  • Nearly one-third (31 percent) of respondents said they would talk about the accessibility issue with their family and friends, while 20 percent would share their experience on social media—creating a ripple effect of negative brand perception that extends far beyond the disabled individuals who experience these problems first-hand.
  • Showing a direct impact to companies’ bottom lines, 51 percent respondents stated they would most likely seek alternative accessible options and 42 percent said that they would discontinue use of the brand’s services.

Q: Would you consider switching to a competitor with better accessibility features if you constantly faced accessibility challenges with a particular brand’s digital platforms?

digital accessibility

Making digital accessibility a priority will grow confidence and trust

The survey participants’ experiences clearly show that more work needs to be done to improve digital accessibility, and brands would be rewarded for taking decisive action. Indeed, 93 percent of consumers surveyed say that it is important that the brands they engage with prioritize digital accessibility. However, consumers want progress instead of platitudes and many respondents reported skepticism about companies’ true intentions. In the past year:

  • Only 27 percent believe that companies are taking accessibility seriously and making meaningful improvements.
  • 33 percent believe companies do the basics to check the regulatory compliance box.
  • 28 percent believe that while companies talk about accessibility as a marketing tactic, not much action has been taken.
  • 12 percent believe that companies aren’t thinking about or doing anything to improve digital accessibility.

“Ultimately, we’re talking about a large proportion of the population who would like to access, enjoy, and get value from digital experiences,” Smith added. “As digital marketers, we should not be excluding anyone from engaging with or participating in our digital content. This is an enormous opportunity to grow your customer base, increase revenue and, above all else, improve customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.”

Read the full report here.

The online survey was fielded in April 2024 by Researchscape and collected responses from 1,265 adults across the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia who identified as having a disability.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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