Designing for every shopper: how to build inclusive, sensory-friendly ecommerce experiences

By Rae Guimond, Director of Strategy and Business Development at PriceSpider

As the war for customer attention rages on, the average consumer’s online browsing experience is starting to feel more like a battlefield than a comfortable and inviting place to seek out information.

Imagine trying to navigate a website only to be bombarded with flashy visuals, confusing layouts, and no way to hear what’s going on. That’s the reality for many users, especially those with visual impairments, cognitive impairments, hearing disabilities or those who rely on assistive tech to get their shopping done.

And it’s not just those shoppers that are starting to feel the burnout. According to recent reports, 42 percent of consumers have abandoned online shopping transactions because they felt overwhelmed with the amount of choices at hand.

Flashy ads and “Shop now” buttons are great for grabbing attention, but when they aren’t built to accommodate different types of users, they can also contribute to digital overstimulation.

For folks using screen readers or other assistive devices, a complex, multistep process can be more than just annoying — it’s a barrier. And for brands whose bread and butter is online sales, that could result in higher bounce rates on their sites, fewer conversions and lost sales to more sensory-friendly competitors.

This is a huge problem for e-commerce, as more than 85 percent of consumers in the U.S. and UK shop online, with India not far behind, showing a whopping 4.2 percent growth in e-commerce. Making the online experience as smooth and inclusive as possible isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s essential.

How can brands fight back against overstimulation?

For starters, it’s about going beyond just ticking the legal boxes for accessibility and actively seeking out feedback from those with less-often addressed accessibility issues. Considering users with different needs can make all the difference between a satisfied customer and another percentage point on your bounce rate, it’s critical to ensure your shopping experience considers implementing all of the following options:

  • Low contrast modes
  • Text-to-speech options
  • Text reader options
  • Colorblind widgets
  • Image alt text
  • Captions in video and audio files

Wherever possible, look to streamline your site’s navigation and purchasing experience, decreasing the amount of clicks it takes to purchase an item and making the customer journey as smooth as silk.

From there, look to give some of the power back to customers — e.g., allowing them to proactively choose what content they see. Giving users the ability to mute videos, disable pop-ups and adjust color palettes is a great step toward accessibility and can transform a jarring digital experience into an enjoyable one.

Here’s the best part: making your digital spaces more accessible doesn’t just benefit a portion of your audience — it improves the experience for everyone. If you’ve ever rolled a stroller or suitcase up a conveniently sloped curb, you’ve experienced this for yourself. It’s a phenomenon that’s so common, in fact, that there’s a name for it in design circles: the curb-cut effect — after the cut in the curb that was originally intended for people who use wheelchairs, but has since proved a major convenience for nearly every pedestrian.

The curb-cut effect extends to online commerce, too. When brand marketing and online experiences include overly complex navigation and tasks (like multistep, click processes), it can be challenging for assistive technology to accurately interpret the website or widget’s layout and content, leading to poor performance of ADA tools and frustrating experiences for consumers that rely on assistive technologies to complete online tasks.

How PriceSpider is making accessibility accessible

PriceSpider specializes in making brands shoppable. A big part of that work involves ensuring that we’re opening doors—or rather, online experiences—to everyone. 

How do we do it? Here are a few guiding principles we use:

We help brands create accessible experiences through our path to purchase solutions.

“For years, PriceSpider has been making some of the world’s largest and most recognizable brands shoppable online,” said George Graham, PriceSpider Client Solutions Engineer.

“For these leading brands, it is a requirement to provide all consumers, even those using assisted technologies, such as screen readers, with a seamless pathway to purchase. This is why we have partnered with accessibility experts to review and audit our Where-to-Buy modules, to advise brands on best practices and accessibility standards.”

To make the path to purchase as accessible as possible, we work with third-party organizations like Level Access, who completed PriceSpider’s Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT®, also called an Accessibility Conformance Report). This helps us gain an objective understanding of our solutions’ accessibility for all users, and helps us pinpoint any deficiencies—ensuring that our efforts translate into smoother shopping experiences. 

We ensure our widgets and templates are always WCAG compliant and accessible.

Additionally, PriceSpider widget templates, such as those our customers use for Where to Buy templates, are compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) guidelines for design and features that are optimized to work with assisted technologies like screen readers and hands-free mouse tracking devices.  

We work with brands that prioritize accessibility.

Whether we’re starting work with a new brand or assisting a current brand in updating its path to purchase, our teams constantly emphasize the importance of creating accessible digital experiences. 

It’s important for brands to prioritize working with technology vendors who have solutions that are already WCAG and ADA compliant, and can advise on what strategic, actionable steps they can take to reduce digital overstimulation, maintain compliance and ensure inclusivity for all online customers and shoppers.  

A version of this article was originally published at TotalRetail.

Want to try out PriceSpider’s shoppable solutions? Schedule a demo today!

Want more insights like this?

The latest resources to take back control of the shoppers’ journey, maximize sales conversion, and protect your brand