What a VPAT Reveals About Retail & e-Commerce Institutions’ Approach to Accessibility
- 162 views
A VPAT, or voluntary product accessibility template, is a web-based prototype document that enables vendors of information and communication technology (ICT) products and services to document how their products or services comply with the established accessibility standards, namely, the Section 508 Standard, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and the EN 301 549 Standard for publicly accessible ICT in Europe and Australia.
The term “VPAT” is often mentioned alongside the term “VPAT accessibility conformance report (ACR).” That can cause confusion and make people think the terms are synonymous. However, the VPAT is a blank template, whereas the VPAT-ACR is a filled-out VPAT that details how a VPAT-assessed ICT product or service conforms to the accessibility standard that is appropriate for the market where the product or service is to be made available for procurement.
You can build better and more accessible retail and e-commerce experiences for everyone by embracing VPAT compliance. If you’re a retail or e-commerce practitioner and have not prioritized accessibility, you’re losing out big time, as people with disabilities are the world’s largest minority group, comprising a huge untapped market.
According to leading VPAT consulting firms, people with disabilities have been directing their huge online spending power to just a few digitally accessible retail and e-commerce stores. Imagine the opportunity lost by ignoring the urgency to capture even a small fraction of that market! It will definitely deepen the penetration of your business and earn you more revenue and profits.
Did you know that people with disabilities are bypassing retail and e-commerce stores that lack VPAT accessibility, even if they offer amazing products and services? This was a research finding that a leading scholar shared with our VPAT consultants during a recent peer networking meeting.
In fact, during a recent VPAT work trip to Australia, our senior ADA VPAT consultant worked with a retail and e-commerce store whose clientele had reduced by half within a period of six months because of their delay in posting their updated VPAT ACR. Within the same period, a competitor retail and e-commerce store had registered a steep rise in its customer base.
During the course of VPAT assessment for the client’s web-based products and services, the ADA VPAT consultant sampled a representative number of the client’s customers who had not made a purchase in the six months preceding the VPAT compliance exercise.
Findings from the randomized surveys with a sample of the customers that had not made a purchase revealed important things that every retail and e-commerce store needs to know and work around so as not to lose customers to their competitors. One of the revelations, which has become a hot arena for our VPAT consultations, is understanding how customers perceive a retail and e-commerce store’s approach to accessibility by simply studying the store’s VPAT reports.
Online retail and e-commerce businesses are picking up at amazing paces and competing fiercely with their offline counterparts. This trend was stirred by the COVID-19 lockdowns. But even with the relaxation of COVID-related restrictions, people appear to have gotten used to shopping online, which is giving online stores a significant edge over their offline counterparts.
As can be expected, many offline stores are not losing business to online stores while lying down. That can be attested to by the increasing number of hitherto offline stores that are scheduling VPAT consultations to help them venture into online retail and e-commerce businesses.
With more and more hitherto offline stores fighting to have a piece of the online retail market share, customers are learning to see beyond the seemingly concerted efforts by emerging online businesses to hoodwink customers into thinking that they care about accessibility when they actually only care about making sales.
They are increasingly able to separate the public relations gimmicks retail and e-commerce stores display from a genuine dedication to accessibility. The VPAT is helping them decode the genuineness of online retail and e-commerce stores’ attitudes toward accessibility and helping them choose stores that truly care about the accessibility of their products and services.
This stance being adopted by retail and e-commerce customers is a new trend that is going to drive the quest for accessibility to another level. Retail and e-commerce stores that fail to live up to their customers’ VPAT compliance expectations are likely to lose business to their astute competitors who purpose to make their products’ and services’ VPAT compliance dynamic and customer focused.
Here are some of the secrets that a retail and e-commerce store’s VPAT report discloses to the store’s customers:
One of the issues most retail and e-commerce customers check to determine whether an online store is committed to accessibility is the store’s efforts in accounting for the various forms of disability that exist.
Most retail and e-commerce customers gravitate toward stores that demonstrate an approach that goes beyond just accounting for one disability with their inclusive design. You will make great strides with customers if your VPAT report accounts for a range of disabilities, including visual, physical, auditory, speech, neurological, and cognitive, among others.
Customers are learning to decode whether a store has dignified regard for people with disabilities from the store’s VPAT report. A customer that withdrew purchasing her products from a well-known online retail and e-commerce store recently amazed us with the scrutiny she gave to the section of the VPAT report highlighting the methods used in conducting the VPAT testing that generated data and information to create the report.
Asked why she took considerable time reviewing the methods, she responded by saying that VPAT assessments that make an effort to sample the opinions of people with disabilities and incorporate them in the product or service improvement schemes reveal how the VPAT compliance process respects people with disabilities as dignified individuals. Retail and e-commerce stores that have mastered this secret are attracting increasing customer numbers.
Most customers of leading retail and e-commerce stores indicate that they are driven to the stores by ideas and innovations that challenge the existing status quo. Ultimately, the stores that re-imagine new ways of delivering accessibility are winning the hearts of customers, day in and day out.
The innovative ideas for enhanced accessibility are identified through the detailed explanations they provide under the various provisions of their VPAT reports.
Losing customers to competitors is something that no online retail or e-commerce store wants to experience. However, the reality is that customers are dynamic, and the current wave of accessibility is shaping the way they shift loyalties from one store to another.
With the customers’ stance toward decoding a retail and e-commerce store’s commitment to accessibility through review of the store’s VPAT reports, you can’t afford to prioritize VPAT compliance for your retail and e-commerce products and services. This is an arduous journey that requires assistance from an experienced VPAT consultant.
ADACP can help you navigate that journey. Let’s help you align with your customers VPAT aspirations so you can retain your current customers and attract new ones to your retail and e-commerce stores.
Talk to our VPAT consultant at (626) 486-2201 for more information about how we can assist you. Take advantage of our free VPAT consultations to learn more about how customers decode your approach to accessibility by simply studying your VPAT ACR.