If your Marketing department is not including accessibility in your Digital Marketing strategy, start now. Digital accessibility may be the single most effective way to reach more customers, create a more engaging customer experience, and inspire deeper brand loyalty.
We are in the midst of the first mainstream web accessibility movement. Between 2014 and 2019, the number of website accessibility lawsuits has jumped from 4,436 to a projected 11,184. The surge of lawsuits have asserted that the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires websites to be accessible. However, not everyone has the same interpretation of how ADA applies to websites. Clarity may come soon though if the Supreme Court takes up the appeal of Robles vs Domino’s, one of the most important cases in the web accessibility landscape.
In the meantime, companies shouldn’t let threats of lawsuits determine if they are going to invest in accessibility. A Marketing-led accessibility strategy is exactly the kind of innovation that companies are looking for to stay competitive. As marketing budgets stagnant and shrink, marketers are desperate for more effective ways to spend their dollars outside of the unyielding grind of paid media and search.
From improved SEO to higher ROI on Video content, the benefits of accessibility are just starting to filter into Marketing strategies. Accessibility and Marketing share a common goal: reach more people more effectively.
Extend Your Reach
One myth about web accessibility is that it is only helpful for people with severe or lifelong disabilities. In reality, accessibility will improve the customer experience for tens of millions of people worldwide. Yes, that many.
The CDC estimates that 1 in 4 adults live with a disability. That’s over 61 million Americans. Some disabilities do not affect how a person uses the web, but clearly, that is a group that is too large to ignore. There are also tens of millions of people without a formal diagnosis who benefit from accessibility.
Here are a few examples of how far accessibility can extend a brand’s reach:
- Older Adults: Over 15% of Americans are 60 or older, and that number will double by 2050. Age-related conditions affect web use including symptoms of eye diseases, arthritis, and cognitive disorders like dementia.
- People who are Color Blind: Between 5-10% of the population worldwide has some form of color blindness. People who are color blind may not be able to find or read the information when websites don’t follow accessible color contrast guidelines.
- People who Use Closed Captions: Many people who are not deaf regularly use closed captioning on web videos in situations that don’t make sense to listen to a video’s audio, such as crowded public locations or in a room where family members are sleeping.
- People in Poor Viewing Conditions: Throughout their day, people experience less-than-ideal viewing environments, including screen glare, one-handed mobile use, or small screen sizes.
There is no brand in the world who can say accessibility isn’t relevant to their audience.
Improve Customer Experience
As Marketing budgets shrink and competition steepens, brands are looking towards customer experience (CX) design to fill the gap. Website accessibility is a fundamental aspect of customer experience. The only way to guarantee a good CX for your entire customer base is to make your website accessible.
Customer experience forces marketers to think about things from the user’s perspective. This is particularly powerful when thinking about users with disabilities. If a website is not accessible, some people will struggle to complete tasks. The result is frustration, disappointment, anger, and despair—the antithesis of good customer experience. For instance, some people with motor disabilities have to use a mouth or head stick to navigate websites. Every keystroke takes concentration, time, and physical effort.
Many accessibility guidelines are simple to follow and will proactively solve customer frustrations. There is no reason why a brand should let an inaccessible barrier come between them and their customers, or the customers and their goal.
Inspire Brand Loyalty
People show stronger loyalty to brands that provide good customer experiences. In online communities, people with disabilities share and recommend the brands that make it easy for them to shop and access information. In competitive spaces like online retail, this creates a distinct advantage over non-accessible competitors.
One of the principles of brand loyalty is showing brand promise through action. Customers develop brand loyalty through small interactions that add together, not through a single grand gesture. By creating an accessible website, brands can show their customers that they matter and reinforce that promise by enabling them to interact with their brand as effortlessly as possible.
Of course, the opposite is true as well. Accessibility litigation against big brands goes public these days. When Beyoncé’s website became the focus of an accessibility lawsuit in January 2019, it was covered by the mainstream media. When the websites of political candidates in the 2016 US elections were tested for accessibility, the results were both publicized and politicized. Brands that fight against accessibility complaints run the risk of creating a damaging persona. Intended or not, they send a message to their customer and potential customer base about what’s important to them.
Change Your Perspective
The potential of a Digital Marketing approach to accessibility is truly exciting. Marketers can embrace accessibility with the creativity and skills they bring to other Digital Marketing strategies. They can use testing and analytics tools to track KPIs and ROI on accessibility efforts, supporting both customers and business goals. Accessibility strategies can look more like SEO or CRO strategies and less like legal documents that are ignored unless needed in a lawsuit.
Marketers can make the fundamental shift that accessibility professionals have been dreaming about for decades, convincing companies to approach accessibility not as a burden, but as an opportunity.
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