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What is inclusive e-commerce?


Published on: May 20, 2022


Online retailers are missing out on billions each year by not being inclusive. But what does inclusivity actually involve? Here’s what you need to know about inclusive retail and e-commerce, why it matters so much… and how to run an inclusive online store yourself.

What is inclusive e-commerce?

Inclusive retail is retail that welcomes everyone. It should be completely accessible, from store to delivery, with positive messages and advertising that include all customers. Inclusive e-commerce means following those values in your online business, too.

When you’re making a store inclusive, you’ll need to think about a lot of different aspects: disability, gender, race, class, and structural differences such as access to the internet or delivery services. That might sound like a tall order, but it’s worth the work.

Quite apart from the moral case for inclusive retail, the evidence suggests that non-inclusive retailers are missing out. Retailers lose out on £17 billion annually, in the UK alone, simply by failing to make their websites accessible to people with disabilities.

There’s room for almost every retailer to improve on inclusivity. But today, we’re going to focus particularly on inclusive e-commerce. How can inclusivity help your online business? And how do you get started with creating an inclusive online store?

Why customers expect inclusivity from e-commerce

Customers now expect inclusive e-commerce, and they’re willing to pay a premium for it.

    • 42% of consumers would happily pay more for a retailer committed to diversity and inclusion.
    • 55% of consumers would leave a brand which has a reputation for being non-inclusive. Many would actively switch to a more inclusive retailer.
    • 45% of consumers in the US want retailers to give more support to Black-owned businesses.
    • Almost 70% of US consumers say that they make shopping decisions based on their values.

The consultancy McKinsey calls these “inclusive consumers”. They’re part of a growing group that want brands to be socially responsible, sustainable, and progressive.

So there are two reasons for inclusivity: first, to include people who might have previously felt excluded by your branding, store design, or products. And second, to reach inclusive consumers who shop according to their principles.

How to make your online store more inclusive

So how exactly can you create an inclusive online store? How easy is it to change? Here are some great first steps for embracing inclusivity:

    • Update your website’s design for technical accessibility (for example, being compatible with screen readers).
    • Review the UX design of your e-commerce store. Does it use inclusive language? Is it easy to access on different devices? This could be a change as simple as offering more options for someone’s title on an address label.
    • Accept a wider range of payment options. For example, many US retailers which accept SNAP benefits (food stamps) in store still don’t accept them for online orders.
    • Review your products and packaging design for accessibility. A new cosmetics range by Selena Gomez made headlines for its products which are designed to be easy for people to use if they have limited joint mobility.
    • Use inclusive images and language in your advertising, social media, and product copy. Representation will help people to feel welcome in your online store.
    • Make it easier to return and exchange items, and offer detailed sizing guides or product information. For fashion retailers, many customers end up ordering multiple sizes of the same piece so that they can find the best fit.

Embrace inclusivity at every stage of the journey

Inclusivity can’t just happen behind the scenes. You must show that your business is inclusive as well as making practical changes. So, communication is key – at every stage of the buyer’s journey. Every touch point, from ads to your online store to the messages on your packaging, is an opportunity to share your values.

Customer service and operations experience management are also essential for inclusive e-commerce. It should be easy for customers to track their orders, ask for help, and make changes with the minimum of fuss.

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