A common argument against the business case for accessibility is that calculating the return on investment (ROI) is either too difficult or impossible. In reality, there are many business opportunities to be had in making your websites, apps and services inclusive.
This article provides examples to strengthen the case that investment in accessibility is good for business. It includes everything from boosting sales by increasing market reach to enhancing SEO strategy.
Building accessibility into your online services and apps offers the following business benefits:
1. Accessibility can improve Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of increasing the visibility of a webpage to search engines like Google or Bing. Higher Google rankings mean a larger number and better quality of visitors are likely to click on your website.
Best practice techniques for web accessibility complement SEO strategy. Having a semantic heading structure (correct use of H1, H2s), using descriptive alt-text for images, link text and adding captions to videos all help in search optimisation.
For digital marketers with a passion for SEO, the opportunities presented by website accessibility practices are numerous.
Case Study: The NHS
The NHS underwent a massive digital overhaul to its platforms in 2016. The existing NHS Digital websites covered more than 400 services, were difficult to use and lacked cohesion. Information was difficult to find because of poor navigation and an excess of text, links and technical written content.
The new website, run by The Government Digital Service, reduced the amount of time users spent on a web page before they found the information they needed.
The NHS built a website which was easier to use with:
- clearer written content
- simpler interface
- the number of PDFs reduced from 12,000 to a few hundred
- removal of banner ads
Pages with AAA accessibility ratings (the highest level) rose from 53% in April 2018 to 98% in October 2019.
- daily users went from 15,000 to 26,000
- reduced average time spent on page
Case Study: Legal & General Group
Financial service provider Legal & General conducted an accessibility audit of its website in 2005. They identified and addressed the existing issues with the website through user testing with disabled people.
Legal & General developed a new website which successfully passed accessibility audits and UX testing.
- Organic search traffic increased by 25% in the first 24 hours after launch, eventually growing to 50%
- Page loading times reduced by 75%
- Annual site maintenance savings of £200,000
- Staff time spent managing content reduced from 5 days to half a day per job
- 100% return on investment (ROI) in 12 months
Case Study: This American Life radio show
This American Life is a weekly public radio show which broadcasts to more than 500 US radio stations, with 2.1 million listeners worldwide. In response to new broadcast media regulations in 2011, they began to create audio transcripts of its archive of recorded radio programs, going back to 1995.
Each transcript was posted as a separate web page which contained additional information about each program. Media partner 3Play Media conducted a study into the additional benefits over a two-year period.
- People with hearing loss or impaired hearing able to access content
- Better comprehension for people with English as their second language
- Web content allows transcripts to be translated into multiple languages
- Organic search traffic increased by 6.68%
- Unique visitors to the site increased by 4.2%
- More than 7% of website visitors engaged with transcripts
- 89% increase in inbound links (directly attributable to the transcript pages)
Many organisations are waking up to the fact that embracing accessibility leads to multiple benefits – reducing legal risks, strengthening brand presence, improving customer experience and colleague productivity.
Paul Smyth, Head of Digital Accessibility, Barclays
2. Prioritising accessibility benefits your brand
People want to buy from companies they feel care about them. Brands which care or matter to us generate significantly higher KPIs, according to Havas’ Meaningful Brands study. While it’s hard to measure the impact of having a long-established brand on sales, caring about customers (beyond Corporate Social Responsibility) makes business sense.
According to Accenture research, 63% of consumers prefer to purchase products and services from companies that stand for a purpose. Especially companies that reflect their own values and beliefs, avoiding companies that do not.
Case Study: Apple
Engineers at Apple have been accessibility innovators since the company began. For pioneering features like VoiceOver, Braille display, and baking accessibility into all their products, they are widely regarded as the best in the industry.
Apple has done more for accessibility than any other company to date, and we have duly recognized this by presenting the company with at least two awards and publicly praising it whenever the opportunity arises.
Mark A. Riccobono, National Federation of the Blind
Case Study: Microsoft
Microsoft launched its Xbox Adaptive Controller in 2018 to much applaud from the disabled community. But the company has been making a visible commitment to accessibility and assistive technology for decades. Innovations like Sticky Keys, Seeing AI, Eye Control on Windows 10, Translator and Soundscape have helped Microsoft earn the respect of the disabled community.
3. Improving accessibility can boost sales
Around 14 million people in the UK (20% of the population) are disabled. Scale that up to 15% of the global population if you’re an international brand. If you cater to the needs of people who are currently locked out of your online services, by nature you increase your market reach.
Case Study: Tesco
Tesco was one of the first to enter the online grocery market. They wanted early on to ensure Tesco.com was accessible and therefore serving every possible customer. Tesco worked with the RNIB in 2001 to make the home grocery service at Tesco.com more accessible to blind customers. By the launch of the separate new site, an accessible alternative, it was thoroughly tested by more than 70 blind and partially sighted people.
Tesco built a faster version of the website with:
- more intuitive navigation structure (previously unusable with screenreader)
- clear descriptive link text
- simpler language
- fewer images, decreasing the time it takes a webpage to load
Tesco discovered that fully sighted customers found it easier to use this new interface and shortly built accessibility into all its online services.
- revenue from online sales increased to £13 million annually
- pre-Christmas orders increased to 700,000 per week (compared to 28,000 deliveries per average week in 2000, and 70,000 per week in 2001)
- Tesco.com sales went from £52 million in 2000 to £235 million in 2001*
*data from Tesco PLC Annual Review 2000 and 2001.
4. Being accessible can still make you a market leader in 2020
WebAIM’s recent study found that 98% of all top websites failed basic web accessibility standards in 2019. That means having fully accessible apps and services can give your business a competitive edge.
As web accessibility awareness increases, as does the legal and ethical obligation to make your digital services inclusive.
Get ahead now before disability legislation in the UK starts to follow in the footsteps of US policymakers. ADA Web Accessibility lawsuits continued to be filed at a rate of one-an-hour throughout 2019, according to a report by UsableNet.
The sooner you start implementing accessibility across your business strategy, the earlier you start reaping the rewards.
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