Customer Experience Counts For Consumers With Disabilities, Too

What if your company was leaving $645 billion on the table?

That number represents an entire global group of people who marketers have been ignoring for decades. In North America alone, 54 million people have disabilities, and they have more than $220 billion in discretionary income.

According to the International Center for Corporate Accountability, that’s a bigger demographic than Latino, LGBTQ2, and African-American markets combined—and people with disabilities have twice the spending power as the coveted market of tweens and teens. The disability market size increases when you add in friends and family—people who care deeply about diversity and disability issues and make purchase decisions accordingly.

In today’s economy, CMOs are mandated to drive greater ROI, tie marketing spending to successful conversions, and own the customer experience. Disregarding this market is a lost revenue opportunity, one that CMOs can no longer afford to ignore.

When it comes to successfully connecting with this market, digital leaders can adopt a number of strategies to project a disability-friendly brand presence. This includes building an inclusive digital presence by making all properties accessible to people of all abilities, promoting products and services relevant to this market, and creating inclusive advertising.

Know Your Customer
Buyer personas are the heart and soul of every marketing decision and campaign, but before delving into strategies to win over this market, it’s imperative to understand the needs and challenges of customers with disabilities.

Consumers with disabilities are employers and employees, homeowners and car owners, spouses and parents, students and retirees. They are working, commuting, banking, shopping, vacationing, attending school, and paying their bills.

The challenge, however, lies in a brand’s digital presence. When it comes to the physical world, businesses have made progress in accommodating customers with disabilities. Brick-and-mortar stores have ramps and wide aisles. Banks provide talking ATMs for people with vision disabilities. Office buildings have accessible washrooms and automatic doors.

But in the digital world, brand websites lack basic accessibility requirements that make the digital customer experience seamless for people with disabilities.

More than anything, customers with disabilities want the same digital experience as everyone else. In today’s digitally driven economy, it’s ultimately customer experience, not the product, that is the new battlefield for brands to connect with and capture the market.

Create A Disability-Friendly Digital Presence
Nothing is more frustrating than reading, seeing, or hearing about a product, going to the website, and being unable to engage with and make a purchase. The customer is then forced to close the session and deflect to a competitor with a disability-friendly site.

For the analytics-driven leader, this manifests itself in bounce rates. If your business relies on customers visiting more than one page, a high bounce rate (over 60%, according to Google) means your customers are leaving after visiting one page because they are dissatisfied with the experience. You’ve lost the customer—and once lost, it’s very hard to convince them to return.

You certainly can’t control what computer, browser, or mobile device is used by your customer, and you can’t determine their individual level of comfort or experience using the internet. What you can control are all your channels (website, social media, mobile app, etc.), the content, how that content is provided, and your omnichannel services.

Marketers who are serious about fixing the digital buyer journey for people with disabilities should start by asking the following key questions:

  • How easy is it for people with physical disabilities to navigate your digital properties without a keyboard or a mouse? Are you offering assistive technology to help these customers with limited dexterity?
  • Is it easy for people with disabilities to find the information they need to make an informed purchase decision? Are your videos properly captioned so people with hearing disabilities can still follow along?
  • Do your product images have text descriptions so customers who are blind or have low vision and are using screen readers can navigate your digital properties? Are your public-facing PDFs properly tagged so a screen reader can decipher what’s on the page?
  • Is it possible for a person with a disability to conduct a transaction or make a purchase online?

If any answers to these questions are “no,” your team has a momentous opportunity to change that to a “yes” and simplify the path to purchase. You have the power to dictate just how welcoming your corner of the web will be to people with disabilities. One of the best ways to create a lasting impression and brand loyalty is to remove any digital barriers.

Embrace Inclusive Advertising
The key to connecting with people with disabilities is signaling that the brand experience includes them. Advertisers and marketers have to understand that this market is hungry to be a part of your brand experience.

In the past, advertising has included questionable representations of people with disabilities. However, a number of advertisers have recently had success with making disability a part of their brands’ overall message. A good example is Duracell’s “Trust Your Power” ad featuring Derrick Coleman, an NFL player who is deaf. Another is “Unlikely Best Friends” from Kimberly Clark.

People with disabilities are featured in the ads, not for their disabilities, but as accomplished people who play sports, adopt dogs, and live life. The takeaway here is to create and embrace a culture that is more representative and convey it to your market by avoiding stereotypes and embracing commonalities.

Talk The Talk, Walk The Walk
Creating inclusive digital properties and advertising is just the start. The innovation and insights derived from disability are applicable to all. Messaging and product innovation that attracts people with disabilities can and does evolve into messaging and product innovation that benefits all consumers.

Marketers who invest in their customers with disabilities as part of their overall marketing strategy will reap the rewards: increased ROI, lower bounce rates, increased brand loyalty from invested customers, and a healthier bottom line.

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