Most Amazon Prime members make an online purchase once per week, and plaintiff lawyers are delivering ADA-compliance lawsuits even faster. The Supreme Court is showing no remorse for companies whose websites are not ADA-compliant. If you get served, your only option is to pay up. Here are 6 steps some of our clients have taken to successfully operate an ADA-compliant website and avoid costly damages.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. All content and information available are for informational purposes only.
Step 1: Understand the Seriousness of ADA-Compliance
The American Disabilities Act requires all places of public accommodation to be accessible to individuals with disabilities. It’s no surprise that in the year 2019, the world wide web is now considered a place of public accommodation (See: Title III).
In 2016, Domino’s Pizza Inc. was hit with an ADA- compliance lawsuit that claimed the website doesn’t ensure the blind and visually impaired can order food through the website or mobile app. As of October 7, 2019, the Supreme Court is refusing to review Domino’s appeal on the basis that ADA is a strict liability law, meaning there are no excuses for non-compliance violations.
Plaintiff lawyers are working overtime to serve up lawsuits for non-compliant companies. No matter how many unique visitors your website attracts, if it’s inaccessible for web users with mental or physical disabilities, your business is a target for legal action
Reports reveal that there is one web-related ADA lawsuit every working hour. This means 8 a day, 40 a week, and more than 2,000 a year. In 2018, more than 7,500 ADA suits were arraigned in federal court. Now that you understand it’s not a question of if, but when you’ll be targeted, let’s dive into the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
“While plaintiff lawyers handing out ADA-compliant lawsuits may seem predatory it is necessary and an important part of our justice system. Our government alone would not have the resources to enforce important regulations. So, these lawsuits are here to stay. Companies must know that there are consequences for non-compliance. As a business stakeholder, we have the challenge of balancing compliance, cost, and customer experience.
— Adam Morris, CEO, Redstage.
Step 2: Review Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
6.2 billion shoppers are expected to shop online this Cyber week alone, leaving eCommerce businesses vulnerable to potential lawsuits. To help you prepare, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) explains how users with disabilities can access sites. While you’re in the process of strategically planning your holiday content, be sure to double-check all points of access to your store. You need to ensure your site is “perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.” For a full explanation of these terms, see the link to WCAG above.
Taking proper measures to get an ADA-compliant website will save companies time and money. This step is always forgotten, overlooked, and never budgeted for. Many helpful tools can let you know if your site passes ADA requirements and extensions that come with approved codes.
— Jignesh Joshi, Sr. Project Manager, Redstage
Step 3: Add Alternative Means of Access
Ensuring your content is ‘perceivable’ may not be the toughest task you’ll face on your ADA-compliance journey. In fact, it may even be the opposite. According to the WCAG, all images including charts and infographics must include alt-text. Since SEO and content marketing are already part of your eCommerce strategy, you’ve likely already added alt-text to all of your imagery. To make sure, take some time to go through your archive and add relevant alt-text wherever it’s missing. This process may be tedious, but site readers (software) must be able to successfully read and describe your images to the blind and visually impaired.
54% of consumers want to see more video content from a brand or business they support. Naturally, videos have become a common practice for brands. All published video and audio files must also be accessible to those with disabilities. This can be achieved by including closed captions and text transcripts.
Closed captions should be accurate and in sync with video while text transcripts should accurately convey what’s in the video file. If you’re producing audio content like podcasts, you may want to pay close attention.
The WCAG updates are continuous and it can be easy to overlook minor details like fonts, for example. Make sure your fonts are clearly readable and properly displayed on a high contrast background. To play it safe, keep the standard light background and dark font. These minor changes can be a huge help for your users to easily navigate your site.
Step 4: Provide Easy Navigation for your Users
Luckily for our readers, we’ve been sharing tips on how to provide a fast and frictionless user experience for customers all year. If you’ve been following along, you should already be one step ahead, since user operation for ADA-compliance and frictionless experiences go hand-in-hand. When focusing on navigation, the first step is to ensure your website’s entire navigation can be fully operated via keyboard, without a mouse or touchscreen.
Users should have the ability to pause, slow down automatic movements, interact with images, and play videos through the keyboard. One tip is to stay away from auto-play to give your visitors enough time to read and process content.
Secondly, if your website doesn’t have a search function that can help your customers find products and information at ease, it’s required under the Web Accessibility Standards to have one.
Lastly, do not forget to include a site map. Remember, a positive user experience requires users to have the ability to operate your website that is understandable and feels natural. Again, you probably have one already because site maps improve your SEO.
Step 5: Website Features Should Be Understandable
When producing content, remember: all of your visitors must be able to read and understand it. Providing a default language function can not only keep you out of a lawsuit, but it can positively affect your conversion rate. We all know the uncomfortable feeling of standing in the middle of a conversation without understanding what is being discussed. To ensure your users and their reading assistance technology can properly function, refrain from the use of jargon, idioms, and abbreviations without properly introducing or explaining them.
Your website may already have the main functions that are considered predictable under the WCAG. Your users should be able to come to your website and predict what will happen as they interact. If you’re unsure, we have provided a brief checklist below.
- An X in the upper left- or right-hand corner for users to close the window.
- All Visible forms have instructions
- Navigation is consistent across all pages (Up, down, left, right,)
It may seem like a lot to fine-tune your website. Make sure you keep your developers in the loop as they’re coding and responsible for making sure your website is running smoothly. It takes a lot of work to get fully compliant. Once you’ve achieved compliance, you’ll want to keep it that way.
Step 6: Website Should Be Error-Free
While developers have a lot on their to-do list, the main priority is to make sure your website is robust enough to be considered ADA-compliant. This step may take the most time, but it can save you more than $50,000. Without getting into too much coding jargon, the overall presentation must be error-free and coded with standard HTML tags. We touched on some of these points earlier in the article, so here’s a quick checklist to review with your developers.
- Clear Descriptive Text
- Nested Headings
- Clear Forms
- Uniform Labels
- Section Labels
- Clean Code
Keep in mind that the work you do to make your site accessible benefits ALL users, not just those who may have disabilities. You will see the positive results of providing an accessible, easy-to-use site almost immediately.
—Kevin Rydberg, Managing Accessibility Consultant, Siteimprove
Remember, reaching ADA-compliance is a process with many steps to complete. With an estimated 30% increase in lawsuits this year, there’s no time to waste. Remember, the information provided in this blog does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Our trusted partners at Siteimprove can help you pinpoint accessibility issues that can potentially put your site at risk of an ADA-compliance lawsuit. Consider them your first step to protection before lawyering up. They can get you involved in a program that will help shield you from those who would target your online store. Do not hesitate to get a powerful, free website report and request a Demo here.
If you’re looking for a more robust, comprehensive solution to cover all holiday risks (including security, bug monitoring, and ADA-compliance, check out Redstage’s new security and maintenance bundle here. Feel free to drop us a line if you have any questions! We’re always happy to help.
Congratulations! You survived the Back to School retail surge. While the true test of eCommerce performance is yet to come, any hurdles you encountered during Back to School should be taken care of well before then. Consider these your warning shots. To help, here are 3 precautionary measures you can take to digitally strengthen your store for the holidays.
1. Stress Test to Avoid Lost Revenue
A wave of more than 6.2 billion shoppers will descend on digital retailers during Cyber Week. Unfortunately, not all businesses are prepared for success…
For example, J. Crew’s site crashed on Black Friday in 2018 and issues persisted throughout the afternoon. Analysts predict the outage cost the company around $780,000 in just five hours. Shoppers flocked to Twitter to complain en masse, causing a firestorm of anger to erupt across the web. This is where the real damage was done. Like a ghost story from holidays past, this is a warning for retailers everywhere to change for the better.
Redstage’s CEO Adam Morris identified the top “holiday rush” issues we’ve helped clients through in years past. Here’s what to watch out for:
1. Slow Site Speed
2. Price Caching
3. Broken or Buggy Checkout
4. Server Overload or Timeout
5. Add to Cart Features Failing
“The holidays are a time of increased profits, but that comes with a huge load on websites,” Morris says, “So if you haven’t done proper stress testing to account for higher demand, you won’t know how your online store is going to react.”Adam Morris, CEO at Redstage
Preparing for the worst now can save you money and your reputation later with one simple step— testing. Skipping this step could spell disaster that leaves the specter of poor service hanging over your reputation for years to come.
2. Your Back-End Checklist at Present
From Thanksgiving to Black Friday through the end of Cyber Week, retailers have a few critical days to rake in as many sales as possible. During this shopping frenzy customers both in-store and online. Regardless of how they buy, your online store (or your app) will more than likely be their first stop. We developed a checklist of what you can do today to ensure your eCommerce site survives Cyber Week.
- Optimize your site’s user experience with A/B testing.
- Check your indexing to avoid price caching.
- Review all error codes to avoid a broken checkout.
- Avoid overload and crashes by scaling your server.
- Double-check key functions to avoid important features failing.
- Complete load testing to prepare for an increase in traffic.
- Utilize an automated monitoring system for real-time updates on 404s and checkout errors.
- Upgrade your payments and security platforms to prevent payment fraud.
- Lastly, be prepared to scale up your support team on the fly. If something goes wrong, even for a few minutes, you’ll need a sizable support team to manage angry customers and correct the issues.
“If you’re not using visitor data to identify the friction points in your checkout, you risk focusing your budget in the wrong places. A data-driven approach to optimization means trusting your analytics even when the message is counter-intuitive.”Oliver Sosinsky, Sr. Solutions Engineer at Redstage
Learn a valuable lesson from LuLu Lemon. Last year, the athleisure brand’s site went down the morning of Thanksgiving Day. Shopper outrage hit Twitter at 8am EST with a “Site is down. Ugh!”
In the first minutes of the shopping event of the year, the brand was stuck, entangled in crisis. Once the site got back online, more errors appeared, causing sales prices for in-cart items reset to regular prices or prevent customers from checking out.
With proper bug monitoring and back-end preparations, this fiasco could have been avoided. Take a page out of our book and start monitoring now. You’ve done the legwork to bring customers to your site, now protect it.
3. Capitalize on the Future
A single visitor doesn’t guarantee a transaction and a single transaction doesn’t guarantee a loyal customer. Flawless mobile experiences will do both, but takes some serious testing.
Conversion rate optimization turns your visitors into customers while ensuring they receive an immaculate customer experience. While no two customers are the same, simple tests can lead to enhancements that remove friction from the checkout and dramatically reduce abandoned carts.
Merchants like LawnmowerTirestore.com took advantage of testing their site before the holiday season and the results were a game changer. By making their checkout button stick to the site’s header and follow users while they scrolled, sales soared with a 29.5% increase in revenue per visitor (RPV) for desktop customers. For mobile, the test yielded a 7% increase in RPV, after only 4 weeks of testing. Now, Lawnmower Tirestore plans to roll-out the feature site-wide to capitalize on their new-found data-driven advantage.
As part of the Mobile Optimization Initiative, retailers can receive checkout tests 100% free. The goal of the initiative is to create a set of best practices for mobile optimization and share our insight with the world. Read more about the initiative here.
According to Internet Retailer, 60% of consumers plan to spend 50% or more of their holiday shopping online; spending over $21.6 billion during Cyber week.
It is not too late to prepare. If you start early enough and cover all the bases, you can sit back, relax and watch your revenue grow with measurably less stress. Remember, this is your holiday too. While there’s still time, monitor your site for bugs, load test, A/B test, utilize the data, capitalize on those results, and enjoy some eggnog.
Everyone’s asking, “What technology will have the biggest impact on marketing in 2018?” Will it be the illustrious AI, the illuminating abilities of augmented reality, or perhaps… chatbots?
With the emergence of all this new tech, marketers are left to base their budget allocation for 2018 on speculation. As a result, I am inclined to believe that without a doubt, 2018 will be somewhat of a plateau for marketing; defined by a knowledge-gap surrounding new avenues for advertising and the deteriorating value of current methods. Here’s why:
Marketing Tech in 2018
As we await the true advent of AI, AR, VR and Mixed Reality in the mainstream, contemporary digital advertising is rolling over and dying, with search, social and display ads experiencing a gradual decline in usefulness. Gen-Y and Gen-Z hate ads, and while pervasive multichannel messaging was previously a working strategy, ads are ignored now more than ever… and expansive ad campaigns are annoying customers, damaging brands.
The savior in this scenario was and still is video, which many companies lack the capability or know-how to properly leverage. Many still refuse any attempt to enter the video realm, despite annual marketing reports for the past decade marking video as the most effective channel for sales and brand engagement. Right now, the benefits of video seem to be buffering (pun intended), with numbers stagnating as users look for something new.
As a natural side-effect of the decline in channel efficiency, marketers have turned to big data as the new god to drive vertical engagement. However, many retail marketers lack the experience and/or artificial intelligence applications necessary to make sense of this wealth of data.
Getting a Grip on AI
This past year, we’ve seen the launch of some incredible remarketing software in eCommerce, like HiConversion and Rejoiner. Programs so powerful they can replace entire marketing teams that would typically manage the breadth of digital messaging (emails, ads, social, tracking, analytics, etc).
However… because these systems and the technology are so new, we’re combining the adoption curve with a learning curve. While marketers get a grip on machine learning Saas, I expect their true potential will be neither realized, nor their full impact felt in the market this year.
To make matters worse, today’s AI market focuses exclusively on predictive AI, which all-too-soon will be replaced with cognitive AI (Rajesh Sinha, Fulcrum Digital‘s CEO, predicts in the next two years). There’s a chance the change-over could immediately render predictive systems obsolete. On the other hand, retailers and brands can’t sit around waiting for cognitive AI, and those that do could see big-time losses (Hence the dilemma). Overall, what most of the martech world considers “AI” will soon be baked into every major software system available. What matters is how you use them.
Playing the Waiting Game & Winning
For now, we have to keep milking the avenues we have available. Optimize performance as much as possible with regard to channel strategy and be diligent. With the current pace of innovation, you might not get a second chance.
Now is the time for companies to start looking into how AR, AI, VR, IoT and other emerging tech can reshape business alongside other digital transformation strategies. While the long-term strategy teams focus on how they will deliver value in 2020 and beyond (when these technologies are expected to have much wider reach), it’s time to bring our websites into the new age. Maximize your site and sales funnels with every possible upgrade, build out content and bulk-up ad spend while we get over this hump. Rethink your strategy for the next four years and think seriously about how you plan to invest all the new martech. If you haven’t already made significant investments in your mobile customer experience, that’s a good place to start.
Some companies will spend a little more on ads to wait this out. Others will buy into expensive (soon-to-be outdated) platforms they’ll be stuck with long after the competition moves on. Unfortunately, the largest group will likely be those who sit on their hands and refuse to innovate. These will be the losers. Instead, find out how much budget you can pack into the time between now and 2020. Focus on your omnichannel experience and unifying your brand strategies with supportive AI products you can afford (for the short term). In addition, bulk up your ad spend, get some videos or podcasts going, and settle in for the long hibernation period ahead.
So let’s review. What technology will have the biggest impact on marketing in 2018? You, the human, which should be an empowering, albeit intimidating challenge for marketers. Lastly, remember, there’s no need to be discouraged. Plateaus are part of every high-growth process…
We just happen to be crossing the Rubicon.
As marketers, constantly sending emails is critical to mission success. However… There’s a big difference between simply “sending an email” and delivering targeted reminders at critical touch-points along the customer journey. Reminders, offers and insights, mind you, that influence higher conversions, win-back customers, and maximize your customer lifetime value. Here’s a quick breakdown from Rejoiner’s massive report on the subject: “Email Marketing for eCommerce: The 8 Campaigns That Have Generated over $140M”. So again, here’s 3 major issues with your email campaigns. If you’re not doing these things right, why bother?
1. You’re Doing Newsletters Wrong. Stop That.
Blanket email marketing works less and less each year, AKA: It doesn’t work anymore. According to Rejoiner and the DMA’s 2015 national client email report, “86% of email revenue is coming from email campaigns that use advanced tactics.” So it’s time to switch it up. Rather than sending a promotional email to your entire subscriber list, get targeted. Segment your lists by shopping category and morph one 10% off coupon into 10 different coupons like the hydra from Homer’s Odyssey. Your dress crowd should get a deal on dresses with a distinct description. It’s simple divide and conquer. Your tie-guys should get a deal on ties. Swimwear, slacks, unmentionables… Segment them all and surround the enemy. Er, your customers.
2. You’re Using “Triggers” Right? …Riiiiight???
Rejoiner outlines the following critical touch-points as send-signals for what we in the industry call “targeted emails.” Set up an automation that sends emails when your customers fit any of these criteria:
1. Browser Abandoner (they looked at that hat 3 times… make it 4)
2. New Subscriber (hasn’t made a purchase)
3. New Customer (after first purchase)
4. Cart Abandoner (you know this one)
5. Primed for Cross Sell (compliment their recent purchase)
6. VIP (The ones who spend the most are worth the most)
7. Replenisher (are they really going to keep that lipstick forever?)
8. Defector (re-engage before you lose them to the dark side)
Learn them. Live them. Love them. Tell your friends.
3. Your Win-Back Emails Are WEAK
Your cart abandonment emails are lame and uninspired. You also don’t use enough of them. Here’s Rejoiner’s short list of pro-tips that can be used for lonely carts and customers who’ve disappeared into the abyss elsewhere:
- Plan your cart abandonment emails under the pretense of customer service.
- Know and accept that customers will open win-back emails from their mobile. Anticipate this.
- Remember segmenting? Remember categories? Have you remembered anything I’ve said? Your abandoned carts are potential customers. Treat them like the real thing and remember: filter, divide, target, attack.
- You should know who’s on your site. Guest, registered, subscriber, Bill from accounting. Be the all-knowing Yoda of site traffic.
- Oh a cart was abandoned. Better do nothing about it. Just kidding, send them an email within 30 minutes to ask why. Let them know you mean business, and you’re here to help.
- While your win-back email should have a customer service focus, you’d do well to include a visual reminder of the last thing they looked at before they dropped-off.
- It’s now or never. Don’t lose them forever. Send a follow-up or two to make sure they come back.
- When it comes to discounts, use your brain. It’s 2017 and customers have gotten wise. Many know you’ll send a discount if they leave, so make sure you’re not throwing away money. You can achieve this through what Rejoiner calls “frequency capping.” Don’t be the parent who gives their kid candy every time they scream for it. It won’t do either of you any favors.
Sorry for the tough love, but you’ll thank me one day.
You can read and download the full report here at Rejoiner.com.
Find more email marketing best practices for retailers here.
Keep an eye out for our Emergency eCommerce Checklist: A Tactical Guide to Surviving The Holiday Rush (Bookmark this page, link coming soon!).