The case for diversity, equity and inclusion for UK retailers

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When it comes to sales, there’s a proven link between higher profits and companies that genuinely get Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) right. More and more consumers want to buy from businesses that put all three elements high on their agenda – alongside a clear ESG policy.


According to some studies, profitability can increase by up to 35% for companies focused on DEI compared to those that do not. 


Read on to find out more about DEI, plus some practical steps you can take for your business today. 


What is DEI and how does it apply to retail? 


The narrative around DEI can often mean different things to different people. For some, the focus is squarely on race and ethnicity. For others, the focus is on gender disparity in compensation and career opportunities. 


In actual fact, both of these topics fit the bill, alongside a whole range of other important issues. Here’s a breakdown of what’s covered under Diversity:


–  Race 

–  Ethnicity  

–  Gender 

–  Age 

–  Nationality 

–  Mental health 

–  Sexual orientation 

–  Socioeconomic status 

–  Disability 

–  Religion 

–  Parenthood 


Following on from this is Equity. Equity is a gateway to equality – they aren’t mutually exclusive, but they also aren’t the same thing. Equity means treating your team as individuals with different needs, ensuring they can access the same opportunities as their peers – even if it means offering additional support.


Inclusion is about giving people a sense of belonging. Creating an environment where every person – from an employee to a customer – feels comfortable is the key goal. 


Each of the three elements is important – retailers cannot and should not just focus on one. Companies that get all three elements right are typically more productive, have staff that are happier, and get better output as a result.


State of the nation – what does DEI look like for UK retailers? 


A study by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) published in 2022 looked at the workforces of more than 200 businesses. Only 14 had female chairs, and just 21 had female Chief Executive Officers or Chief Financial Officers.  


Although the report found that an encouraging 91% of retailers had diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategies, the conclusion was that UK retailers still have a long way to go. 


The report also listed 5 key reasons businesses need D&I, as detailed in a PwC report which stated that “diversity is the solution, not a problem to solve”. 


1.  Better outcomes for customers 

2. Better business returns 

3. Greater innovation and new ideas 

4. More attractiveness to employees 

5. Improved reputation and brand 


As part of the annual study, the BRC also launched its own D&I Charter to help UK retailers with all aspects of diversity and inclusion. More than 80 retailers are already signed up with the intention to challenge culture and biases and embed D&I into every aspect of a business.  


How to incorporate DEI into your website to meet the needs of a wider audience 


According to data from the 2021 Census, 82% of people in England and Wales are white, and 18% belong to a black, Asian, mixed or other ethnic group. 


The same data also highlights that 91.1% (52.6 million) of UK residents had English (English or Welsh in Wales) as a main language. This number was down from 92.3% in 2011, with other languages such as Polish (1.1%), Romanian (0.8%), Panjabi (0.5%), and Urdu (0.5%) also representing significant sections of UK society. 


In terms of disability, across both England and Wales the proportion of disabled people was 17.8% (10.4 million). That’s almost one in five people. 


This data only scratches the surface of all the different facets of diversity, but it shows clear differences in the UK and retailers need to consider these factors when it comes to their online stores.  


If selling to an international audience, it’s even more crucial to consider what else can be done to make your products and services accessible. 


Here are a few key stats to make the case: 


–  English-only websites reach less than 25% of internet users worldwide 

–  42% of people never make any purchases in languages other than their own 

–  Around 19% of people never browse in a foreign language

–  Because of accessibility issues, 27% of disabled adults say they have never used the internet


So, what can you do to better embrace DEI as an online retailer? Here are a few suggestions to get you started: 


1.  Knowing your audience is the key to DEI in retail 


Taking the time to really think through who your target customers are is an investment worth making. Don’t just consider what the data tells you now. Think about the potential to reach new and more diverse groups of people if you were to make a few small changes to your site or your products. 


Conducting some inclusive market research could really help. Consider getting the views of different groups representing ethnic, gender, disabled or other perspectives. 


The data could be quantitative, but also don’t rule out the value of qualitative studies and thinking about things like Inclusive focus groups. 


2. Consider the look and feel of your website 


From the simple to the complicated – could your website benefit from some changes to appeal to a wider spectrum of society? 


Remember that different colours have very different cultural connotations as well.

Love is symbolised by the colour red in the UK. But it’s actually green in countries like Japan, whereas the likes of China, Korea, Japan, and the USA mix between red and purple. If you’re selling internationally, these types of considerations could have a dramatic impact on sales. 


Also consider the statistic about one in five people in the UK having some form of disability. Does your website work well for people who need devices like a screen reader, braille device or colour contrast? The accessibility of UK web sites is covered by the Equality Act 2010. But there are lots of aspects to consider to ensure a site really factors in all the various elements of DEI.  


3. Think about languages and translation 


Creating a multilingual website isn’t easy. But as the statistics above highlighted, there could be huge benefits and a much wider audience available to you if you can make it happen. On top of that, there are other reasons for doing so, such as improved SEO and a potential reduction in website bounce rates


It’s possible to add more languages to your site with some clever website coding., for example, is available in 43 different languages. There are also free tools such as Google Translate you could explore. 


But before you go and invest too much time in adding multiple new languages to your site, consider step 1 in the process. Think about what type of audience would be interested in your products and services, and make sure you have the research to back up any wholesale changes. 


Looking for more retailer focused articles? 


Our retailer articles section is packed full of useful and informative content to help you get even more from your website. From more on ESG initiatives to advice on managing the changing seasons, take a look here.

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Please note, a minimum turnover of £5M and minimum trading of 24 months is required to work with DivideBuy.


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