Why Prioritizing Physical Accessibility In Retail Will Create Brand Loyalty

Creating accessible environments is crucial. Retailers invest billions of dollars annually to optimize their retail spaces for customer appeal. However, many do not prioritize inclusive design. Our comprehensive white paper on inclusivity in retail highlights that an accessible store is not just a legal obligation but a strategic asset that enhances customer satisfaction and loyalty across demographics.

Despite the clear advantages, many retail spaces still fall short in accommodating the diverse needs of their customers, from those with physical impairment to the elderly and parents with strollers. Based on our research findings, this blog will explore the current state of physical accessibility in retail, offering different strategies for enhancing physical accessibility.

The Current State of Physical Accessibility in Retail

Often, retail brands do not properly assess the level of physical accessibility within their retail locations. A common issue identified in our study was that facilities were designed according to regulations without considering consequences and effectiveness. One example was found in our audits: a large retailer has mechanical doors for customers with physical impairments that don’t lead to a ramp but a set of stairs only. This illustrates the idea of compliance with government regulations but failing to consider the actual customer experience. To truly create a customer experience that fosters a sense of belonging, brands must consider how to go above and beyond regulations.

There is a significant opportunity for retailers to rethink their store design. According to our study, over 56% of respondents had encountered physical barriers while shopping, such as inaccessible entranceways and narrow aisles, high shelving, lack of seating and accessible washrooms, and insufficient wheelchair accessibility.

Removing these barriers and creating an inclusive design will make customers feel included. When companies design stores that can meet the needs of everyone, “it built loyalty, it felt like they understood that you had a body, brain, and life and needed certain things to enjoy the experience there,” noted Dr. Valerie Fletcher from the Institute of Human Centered Design.

Consumer Perceptions and Expectations

The accessibility of a store has been shown to have a significant impact on customer sentiment and brand loyalty. Respondents have expressed that the absence of in-store accessible features makes it challenging for them to shop comfortably, leading to diminished satisfaction with the brand. The white paper also indicates that most people, even if they do not self-identify as physically impaired, believe that inclusivity is important when selecting a store to shop in. They expect stores to be accessible to everyone, including individuals with impairment, the elderly, and families with young children.

Consumers desire more than just compliance with regulations. Stores should exceed regulatory requirements and demonstrate their commitment to inclusivity. It is becoming increasingly clear that simple things like rest areas and accessible checkout counters are not just nice-to-haves but essential for a good shopping experience. These expectations are setting new standards for retailers which should consider a wider range of needs to keep up with consumer demands and stay competitive. There is a significant gap between what consumers want and what retailers are currently doing, presenting an opportunity for brands to invest in truly inclusive shopping environments.

Strategies for Enhancing Physical Accessibility

To facilitate in-store navigation for all customers, retailers can implement various strategies. One approach is to modify the store layout to ensure sufficient space for wheelchairs and strollers. Products should be accessible to all, regardless of height or mobility. This could involve lowering high shelves and ensuring signs are visible and legible from different heights and distances. Another crucial step is the installation of automatic doors at entrances and exits, as well as the provision of sufficient wheelchair-accessible parking spaces near the store entrance.

It is also important for retailers to consider integrating technology solutions that help shoppers with physical impairment. For instance, interactive store maps accessible via smartphones can assist visually impaired customers in navigating the store more easily. Another strategy is to establish service points where customers can request assistance. Retailers should ensure that the stores are adequately staffed with well-trained personnel to meet a variety of needs. Priority checkout lines for customers with impairment should also be implemented, reducing wait times and alleviating the stress associated with busy retail environments.

By adopting these strategies, retailers not only comply with accessibility laws but also champion inclusivity, creating a welcoming atmosphere for all customers while increasing brand loyalty.

Challenges to Consider

Making the stores more accessible can be challenging. It can be costly to implement changes in the physical environment, such as widening aisles, lowering shelves, and installing automatic doors. Additionally, older buildings may not be able to accommodate these changes without significant structural modifications. Retailers must also consider the store’s aesthetics while implementing these changes.

Another thing to consider is the varying needs of different customer groups. What may be effective for one group may not be suitable for another, making universal design prototypes challenging to implement. For instance, the white paper suggests that rest areas are beneficial to all customers, including those with physical impairment, elderly shoppers, and pregnant women. Retailers must design these spaces in a way that is easy to use and unobtrusive.

The commitment to inclusivity extends beyond store design to staff training. Employees must be trained to help all customers effectively. This requires ongoing education and sensitivity training to foster an inclusive atmosphere. These considerations demonstrate the need for a holistic approach to inclusivity, encompassing physical layout, employee behavior, and a deep understanding of diverse customer experiences.


It is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic advantage to embrace inclusivity in retail through enhanced physical accessibility. This can significantly influence customer loyalty and business success. The findings outlined in the white paper demonstrate that every consumer values and seeks out retail environments that cater to diverse needs.

By implementing thoughtful and comprehensive accessibility improvements, such as redesigning store layouts to enhance navigation for everyone and training staff to help customers effectively, retailers can create a more welcoming and inclusive shopping experience. These enhancements not only meet the expectations of a diverse customer base but also reflect a broader commitment to social responsibility and equality.

As the retail landscape continues to evolve, those who prioritize inclusivity will likely see improved customer satisfaction with increased patronage and brand loyalty. Retailers have the opportunity to develop innovative solutions and spearhead the creation of accessible environments that all can enjoy.