Why Your Retail Mobile Strategy Needs an Accessibility Review

Why Your Retail Mobile Strategy Needs an Accessibility Review

I recently visited the mall with a retail executive team that was working to get a grasp on how mobile has really influenced their brand. Shoppers visiting brick-and-mortar stores use their mobile devices to get more information on products, look at reviews, and price compare. At the same time, retailers are leveraging mobile to get better data on their shoppers by collecting in-store information, sharing advertising alerts, and more via mobile devices.

The percentage of people purchasing from brands on mobile devices without ever visiting a store has never been higher, and retailers are racing to develop easy-to-use, engaging applications for the mobile channel. Digiday reports that by 2020, 45% of all commerce will be mobile.

However, in their rush to go mobile, major brands often overlook the accessibility of their digital portals, and many have already been sued for failing to meet current legal standards. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that one in five Americans—or 47 million people—are living with a disability. The number of potential customers for brands that are active globally or in multiple countries is even higher. As such, brands must be proactive about determining their current status for mobile accessibility. Conducting an effective accessibility review can help you put your company on the path to a successful digital transformation.

Understanding the Range of User Experiences

A small change in site design can make a mobile app unnavigable for disabled individuals. For example, a product page that lists multiple products for purchase might feature individual purchase buttons next to each product. If the labeling protocol used on the buttons is simply “buy,” users won’t know which ones they’re purchasing if they are viewing the site through a screen reading device for visually impaired users.

Similarly, individual users with cognitive impairments—conditions that lead them to process information differently than the average user—may struggle with complex text, a busy layout, or confusing navigation. Design and text revisions can simplify the user experience and make the most important elements easily discoverable.

While different sources such as the Web Accessibility Movement and Apple’s Accessibility Programming Guide have provided some guidelines, there are no universal protocols for mobile accessibility. As such, mobile developers and retailers looking to optimize their mobile experience must familiarize themselves with the full range of potential user experiences to develop an optimal inclusive strategy for all.

Developing a Multi-Level Mobile Accessibility Strategy

Even after you’ve conducted an accessibility review, it’s important to make inclusivity a key component of your mobile strategy. Accessibility reviews typically yield a range of different recommendations, including remediation steps for what should be fixed immediately, ongoing considerations for upcoming projects, and foundational strategies for long-term compliance.

A clear strategy will provide guidelines and training for your development team, a checklist of issues to evaluate future projects, and specific points to consider with ongoing web design projects, from information architecture to writing standards. A mobile accessibility strategy can help ensure that each time your team tackles a mobile development project, your company’s focus on accessibility is embedded in the DNA of the project.

Create a Mobile Accessibility Policy

Brands should have a mobile accessibility policy that governs content creation, designs, and software development. Accessibility will be an increasingly important consideration over time as regulatory oversight and customer advocacy increases.

During a recent high-profile case, a retailer in Australia worked with a visually impaired expert to optimize their site for usability for several years. Then, in 2013, the retailer released an update that made vast parts of the site suddenly unnavigable by the devices blind consumers use. A lawsuit followed, with expensive penalties and fines. Accessibility is an ongoing process and must remain a top priority; one small change or update can undo significant amounts of progress.

Choose the Right Partner to Conduct Your Accessibility Review

Accessibility reviews are typically conducted by outside partners who can bridge an understanding of users’ needs, technology options, and business goals. Accessibility is rarely as straightforward as deploying a single tool. Instead, it’s important that retailers are prepared to answer questions about what they’re trying to accomplish, and implement strategies that help deliver that customer experience in the most inclusive way possible. An accessibility consulting partner helps ensure that reviews yield the best results possible by:

  • Understanding the full range of potential user experience needs and impairments—and how they impact the mobile retail experience;
  • Leveraging a knowledge of the tools, platforms, and solutions that can help deliver an optimum customer experience for all users;
  • Implementing tried-and-true frameworks for analyzing a mobile experience’s current state, ideal state, and developing a roadmap for implementing those changes;
  • Ensuring that you’re considering the full range of potential state, local, federal and industry compliance requirements for your mobile application or program;
  • Doing the legwork needed to complete the assessment, which can be difficult for your team to complete on top of their existing responsibilities.

As mobile becomes an increasingly critical channel for retailers, consider hiring an accessibility partner with experience working on mobile channels and integrating that into your overall digital infrastructure. Improving your mobile accessibility can allow you to better serve a full range of customers, as well as proactively stay in compliance with forthcoming state and federal accessibility laws. Reach out to us today to learn more about solving these important issues.

Kevin Moos, January 2017