Another consequence of the pandemic is that it has driven many people, who would have rarely shopped online previously, to now start doing so.
Many governments have advised elderly or vulnerable people to self-isolate for long periods of time and to minimise their contact with others, which has resulted in many people significantly reducing or completely ceasing their visits to retail stores. Without being able to shop in-store, many within this group have turned to e-commerce – sometimes for the first time ever.
The one thing we don’t yet know is how changes in behaviour that have been enforced by the pandemic will continue once it has finished. Only time will tell but it is generally accepted that it is likely to have some kind of long-term effect on consumer behaviours. A case in point is my elderly mother-in-law. Before the pandemic, she had never shopped online and would have considered it far too complicated to do so. COVID-19 forced her to isolate and, with little ability to safely shop for groceries herself, she ventured into the world of online grocery shopping and was amazed when bags of food were delivered to her door a few days later. While she often calls my wife asking for help when she is ‘stuck’ on a website, she says that she will never go back.
This change in behaviour poses UX designers with a new challenge.
It is safe to say that accessibility is primarily viewed as a compliance requirement, similar to regulations such as GDPR. While it is true that accessibility and usability can go hand-in-hand, I do not believe that many brands consider accessibility as something that will have a significant impact on KPIs such as conversion rate or average order value. Before the pandemic, I would probably have agreed but now, I am not so sure. Brands will often create personas of different customer groups to help them understand how these different personas will interact with them. I suspect that many brands don’t seriously consider, and design for, personas of elderly or disabled customers, yet this is now a huge group of customers who are now much more likely to shop online.
Many of you reading this article will have shopped online for groceries. Most grocery websites pack as many products onto the screen as possible, cramming as much as they can into that valuable real estate. Going through the checkout, you are often bombarded with offers and suggestions; much the same as when you visit supermarkets in person. Supermarket margins are extremely low and therefore they try everything they can to get you to convert and increase your order value. Those customers who are used to shopping online are able to navigate through this experience, but it can be very daunting for those customers who are not.
Covid has abruptly turned a group of customers into new online customers and brands should now start to seriously consider how accessibility affects them. Accessibility should now change from a compliance requirement to an important business requirement. Accessibility will now have a much bigger impact on KPIs than ever before.
Using the example of grocery websites, supermarkets should now consider how they could adapt their website to be less busy and complex for this new customer persona. We are used to websites that allow us to view items in a list or a grid but how about having a web version of that big-buttoned telephone or a checkout that does not bombard these customers with offer after offer but allows them to quickly and seamlessly complete the transaction with just a few clicks?
All brands should now start to consider the importance of accessibility and look to understand this group of customers more. E-commerce is no longer just the domain of the younger generations. COVID-19 has brought a whole new and important customer persona to e-commerce so investing in accessible experiences could pay dividends.