Are you one of the iOS 9 users who has installed a content blocker in Safari? If you are, you may find you’re blocking more than just ads. The content blockers also block images, buttons in shopping carts, and even entire sites.
A Fortune investigation shows that an iPhone enabled with Crystal — the top paid iOS app right now – is unable to fully render the e-commerce sites of many major retailers, including Walmart, Sears and Lululemon.
The issue was first brought to our attention by Chris Mason, CEO of Branding Brand, a Pittsburgh-based company whose platform powers mobile commerce sites and apps.
“This upcoming holiday season… content-blockers are going to cause a lot of problems,” Mason says. “First, the experience for customers will be lessened. Lots of sites will be missing content, have broken links or customers won’t be able to add certain items to their shopping carts. They’ll probably just think the site is broken, but it’s really their content blocker. Second, retailers will be data-blind, or at least data-dark. It will really impact their ability to make quick judgments.”
Mason sent a list of retailers with Crystal-related issues to Fortune, who then confirmed the issues on their own iPhones. Problems ranged from disappearing product images, (as seen above on the Bass Pro Shops website), to a completely blank page on the Sears.com website, as seen below.
Fortune reports Walgreens.com showed a similar issue with Crystal enabled, initially showing the homepage properly, but displaying a blank screen when the user tapped the “Shop Product” link. Mobile sites for Lululemon and Walmart loaded fine, but users were unable to add any items to the shopping cart.
The blockers not only block ads and other content, but can also block back-end code used by Google Analytics, which provides real-time insights to customer behavior. Many retailers also generate a large portion of their traffic via the same online ads that ad blockers are designed to eliminate.
Crystal’s creator Dean Murphy told Fortune that he can remove select e-commerce sites from his app’s “blacklist,” and that he’d look into some examples the publication supplied to him. As for analytics issues, Murphy said he was considering whether to create a “tracking opt-out” for users.
Another issue for online retailers – and lets face it, websites such as the one you’re currently visiting – is that even if issues are fixed where one blocker is concerned, there are numerous other blockers available that would need to be dealt with on a one-by-one basis.
We had the opportunity to test one popular ad blocker, “Blockr” from independent developer Arno Appenzel. The app works as advertised, and allows users to easily whitelist any websites they wish to allow content and ads to display in their browser. Blockr allows users to select whether they want to block ads, media, tracking, and cookie warnings from websites. While the users could get a little confused by it all, the app does supply a tutorial to explain it all.
Blockr developer Appenzel explained that he wanted to allow users to whitelist sites such as MacTrast, to allow them to support the site. (As a side note, we only display ads from Google, and a few other vendors, we do not subject readers to pop-up ads or video overlays.) Appenzel even went so far as to say, “Mactrast is white listed for me. I hope everyone does it because it’s a great site :)”
This holiday season is bound to be an interesting one, as we’re sure we’ll see reports from various sources about how mobile sales have been affected by the content blockers. If you do use a content blocker, be sure to whitelist sites such as e-commerce sites, or even site’s like MacTrast, where you don’t mind seeing ads.