With the release of iOS 9 this week, Apple allowed for third-party developers to produce App Store apps that focused on blocking ads in Safari. These apps quickly rose to the top of the charts — and caused quite the ruckus amongst publishers, digital marketers, and even some of the apps’ own developers.
Now, Fortune has come across a new, unintended result of these iOS 9 ad blockers; some of the biggest eCommerce destinations, from Target to Walmart and Walgreens, are seeing their check-out process being affected by these apps as well.
As detailed here, Chris Mason, CEO of Branding Brand, submitted several examples to Fortune of iOS ad blocking app Crystal in use on various eCommerce websites. While, predictably, Apple’s website experienced no issues, product pages and check-out carts on sites for major retail brands Target, Sears, Walmart, and Bass Pro Shops has major problems when Crystal was enabled. On some of the sites, product images or buttons were missing; while, on others (including the example of Sears.com below), the stores’ content disappeared entirely.
There have also been reports of these ad blockers stripping out analytics code from sites using Google Analytics or Omniture.
As we near the holiday season, this issue with iOS 9 ad blockers creates a serious worry for online retailers. While apps like Crystal do offer the ability to whitelist specific websites, that requires users to 1) know to do this for eCommerce destinations and 2) have the tech-savviness to do so. Developers of these apps could also remove retail websites from their products’ respective blacklists — essentially enabling product and shopping carts to function correctly — but, even in this case, smaller retailers are still likely to be affected.
Though the percentage of iOS 9 users downloading ad blockers to this point is likely small (Apple doesn’t publish specific download numbers), the number of people browsing the mobile web & making purchases online continues to grow. Just ahead of the busiest time of the year, retailers can still make updates to their mobile platforms to account for ad blockers like Crystal and Purify Web. At least, since these content blocking apps only impact Safari, they could make an effort to direct Safari users to either take advantage of their mobile app or use a different browser, like Google Chrome. However, one still has to wonder: is it Apple that should take the initiative to make sure they aren’t inadvertently hurting other businesses?