With COVID-19 heavily impacting supply chains and distribution channels, e-commerce and online sales are increasingly crucial to an organization's success. As business-to-business (B2B) begins to rely more on e-commerce for sales, it’s beginning to look more and more like traditional B2C (business to customer). In this model, e-commerce has become the most popular way for customers to make purchases post-pandemic.
And as many B2C businesses can attest, site accessibility is crucial for operating a successful e-commerce business. As the B2B model evolves in that direction, it’s helpful to understand why site accessibility is essential for e-commerce success and learn some basic best practices for improving site accessibility.
The importance of accessibility in B2B e-commerce
According to the CDC, about 61 million Americans report having a disability. A website that fails to meet basic accessibility standards runs the risk of excluding roughly 24% of potential customers. If the possibility of neglecting a whole customer base isn’t enough to motivate accessibility efforts, there are other factors to consider.
Failing to meet a certain level of accessibility could leave a business open to legal action and a public perception that is less than favorable. Though some clients may be indifferent to accessibility, the end-users of a product or service certainly won't be.
When a company designs an e-commerce site with accessibility in mind, the natural result will be a site that is easier for people with disabilities to use. But a fantastic side effect of that is ending up with a site that is so simple and elegant that it’s easier for everyone to use. Accessibility benefits all users, not just those with disabilities.
Resources and tips
While the federal government has yet to prescribe accessibility standards for Title III entities, most have adopted the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG accessibility requirements fall into four categories of compliance: ensuring content is perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Admittedly, WCAG is a bit dense and jargony. To simplify, here are some practical tips based on the guidelines.
Text is your friend
The accessibility of content depends on the presentation of text, information, images, and videos. Present the text in simple fonts (such as sans-serif) with high color contrast. Captions should accompany any videos. Pictures and videos should be accompanied by alternative text (alt-text) and image descriptions so that customers using screen readers can access the information in the image.
Content should function with a variety of inputs and technologies
Special attention must be paid to site design so that users with screen readers and mobility issues can find and interact with actionable items. Site designers should consider enabling keyboard navigation and designing larger, more spaced-out buttons on screens to enhance user experience.
Websites should also be compatible with current and future assistive technology like screen readers. Consistent and frequent site testing is necessary to ensure compatibility as technology and tools advance.
Another vital tool is collecting customer feedback. Creating a space for customers to share their accessibility experience is crucial in understanding how real people experience accessibility efforts. It’s impossible to know what works and what doesn’t without the input of customers with disabilities who have real-world experience with the site and its functionality.
Find even more tips for improving accessibility and selecting accessibility vendors.