Apple recently introduced ad-blocking extensions in iOS9, making it easier to block ads in the mobile version of Safari. Recently, several reports have surfaced that ad-blockers are rendering commerce websites useless.
While there is some truth to that underlying assertion, ad-blockers have been around for many years, and we believe the fears are overblown. The recent announcement from Apple has prompted several developers to release ad-blocking apps on iTunes, which in turn, has caused something of a furor in the industry.
According to Fortune Magazine’s experiments, some major retailers’ ecommerce sites would be negatively impacted when the popular iOS ad-blocker Crystal is enabled. These reports also say that sites including Walgreens.com and Sears.com have caused a degraded customer experience when viewed using Safari on an iPhone with ad-blockers enabled.
How bad is this problem? According to a report by PageFair and Adobe, consumer adoption of ad-blockers is widespread and growing.
So how do we solve this problem?
Before we talk about solutions, here’s a quick ad-blocker 101 for the uninitiated:
- Most ad-blockers maintain a blacklist that prevents certain domains from loading content (ads)
- They also block content coming from servers associated with advertisements by disabling scripts that are associated with ads. This gets a bit more complicated with iOS9. In this case, some ad-blockers don’t necessarily wait for the browser to load the page before determining what to block or not. Rather, this determination happens even before the page is loaded.
So what does this mean for retailers?
The best way to assess the impact of ad-blockers on your site is to test your site load experience on all popular browsers on all popular devices with ad-blockers enabled, so you can evaluate the impact that this could have. Specifically, look for user experience elements that are driven by a partner or a third party. Ad blockers tend to frown upon content not delivered by the same hostname or delivery point that is delivering the website. It is important to understand what technologies are increasing the possibility of a disruptive user experience when an ad-blocker is enabled.
At the moment, ad-blockers have limited penetration (otherwise, trust me, our retailer clients would have told us about it). However, many consumers, at least in North America, have gotten used to receiving personalized content, and may not want to trade that experience for generic ad-blocking-enabled messaging.