May 06, 2020 - 1406 views|
The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the need to design and test e-commerce experiences that enable all types of users to access needed goods and services.
With people trapped at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re seeing reports that internet use is up 70%, and online buying is surging more than 50% in some markets. The pressure is on for e-commerce experiences and websites to perform well at this time of crisis, which requires a renewed focus on both access and resilience.
But “access” means different things to different consumers. For most, it’s simply a matter of being able to access a service. In this instance, businesses need to ensure that – despite traffic spikes and panic buying-induced shortages – websites have no tangible downtime through rigorously secured and tested back-end systems. For consumers who are elderly or live with a physical or cognitive disability, however, “access” requires additional features and functions that put a different onus on businesses.
Think of the elderly consumer whose online interactions are limited to FaceTime sessions with grandkids. While an increasing number of older consumers are becoming more digitally savvy – in the UK, more than half of those over 65 are shopping online – there’s still a large percentage who struggle with the “new normal” of procuring even the most basic goods and services during the pandemic.
There's more than one type of shopper
Unfortunately, most systems today highlight the fundamental inequalities in our current digital world, in which e-commerce experiences are built for a user-normative experience rather than optimized for access-for-all.
The impact of COVID-19 has not only been to separate the vulnerable from their support network, but to also force them onto complex systems that are already straining under the weight of existing customers. For many of us, accessing popular websites (like online grocers) has been hard enough, with retailers like Waitrose, Ocado and Tesco introducing a queue to access the site, with delays of over an hour. For vulnerable groups, these challenges are worsened by their lack of online experience, accessibility challenges and complex navigation.
We need to be aware that the systems we build, design and test impact the lives of a range of users. We need to be active in our drive to provide level access to services, food and, now more than ever, care and supplies.
Seeing through the eyes of the elderly and disabled
The main challenges for the elderly and disabled include:
Connecting vulnerable shoppers with needed supplies
For businesses, therefore, it is important to consider the following solutions that could ease the online challenges for inexperienced, disabled or elderly online shoppers:
All of this should be tested, and systems should be assessed for a range of potential services, such as:
At this time of vulnerability, we must consider the already at-risk, be mindful of their challenges, and ease the way to support everyone through perceivable, operable, understandable and robust e-commerce experiences.
Koushik Sethuraman, Non-Functional Engineering Consultant within Cognizant's Quality Engineering & Assurance Practice in the UK&I, contributed to this blog.
Visit our COVID-19 resources page for additional insights and updates.