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Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.
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Few companies in any industry are genuinely focused on doing something new. Probably the most pernicious influence of that keenly felt competition is the need to keep an eye on what your rivals are doing. Any success they have must be emulated. That’s how we reach a situation where countless manufacturers are producing smartphones, but they all look extremely similar and have virtually identical features and functionality.
It’s a given that any successful product is going to dictate new directions and competitors will copy elements of it, or sometimes even rip it off wholesale. But at some point that copying habit goes beyond what has actually been successful with consumers. Companies can’t afford to be late to the party and so they start emulating everything their rivals are doing. They are being guided by their competition and spending huge amounts of money to try and gain an edge with incremental improvements to existing standards.
Instead of forging ahead with new innovations companies begin to focus on how they can protect what they produce. Time and resources plowed into patents and legal teams are diverted from the creative end of the business where you need huge investment to produce great products. But if you’re fundamentally risk-averse then it’s much cheaper to copy a successful idea and build on it than it is to come up with a new one.
Set the interests of the tech giants aside for a moment and think about this from the consumer perspective. Why can’t we just buy the best products as determined by us and have all of our digital content work across all of them? Why can’t rival systems be synced together? Why can’t we have universal standards for accessories?
The idea that your library of apps and purchased content can’t travel with you to a new device looks increasingly like blackmail. You’re never going to get the best possible experience if you have to buy all your devices from one company. How much energy are these companies putting into closing their ecosystems down and avoiding cross compatibility?
Competition is supposed to boost quality and choice. Closed ecosystems seem like the opposite of that.
Where’s the creativity?
Companies get used to planning in terms of their rivals all the time and closing things down. These attitudes become deeply ingrained over time. The agility and creativity you need to come up with new innovations is stifled by huge, overbearing corporate structures. There’s a reason that most of the giants of tech buy in their new ideas now. They lack the atmosphere internally to come up with them and it’s easier to acquire a startup and assimilate them.
Most of the genuine innovation in tech today is coming from small companies and the growing crowd-funded movement that can catapult someone with a good idea into business. If they gain any measure of success then the lucky ones get bought out, the unlucky ones have their idea copied by a company with a much bigger marketing machine that rolls in, undercuts them, and takes over the market.
Without startups and crowd-sourcing where would the new ideas in tech be coming from? The very competition that was supposed to drive progress is now stifling it. The sad thing is that collaboration between rivals can be mutally beneficial. Perhaps instead of focussing on what the competition is doing, it’s time that companies concentrated on what consumers want.
Businesses operate to maximize their profit in this fast-paced, dynamic world. With every drop of the hat, we see new competitors rising up with similar and sometimes identical products or services to offer consumers. It is recommended that producers or marketers take a different path or point of differentiation in order to make their offerings more appealing to consumers. It could be in terms of
Product or service offering
The price at which the product is offered
The way the product is being offered in terms of packaging or marketing strategies
Where the product is being offered
To whom the product is offered and others
But sometimes companies take the wrong approach. In this article, we will be diving deep into how consumers are exploited by businesses and why they should not take this route.Consumer Exploitation by Businesses
We see many occurrences in which the consumers are being offered goods of below-standard quality, are being charged more for a product, the product or service is not delivered to consumers, or businesses are making tall claims to the consumer regarding a product or service. All these cases are nothing but the exploitation of consumers by businesses to sell their products and thus maximize their profits. Consumers are rational human beings, but deception is something that they cannot control.Ways in Which Consumers Are Exploited in the Market
Selling of defective or expired goods – Not all consumers in all situations are extremely vigilant regarding the quality of goods that they purchase. Companies often sell defective or expired items to consumers. Clothes that you purchased or stuffed toys might be torn, or the 100 grams of butter that you purchased might be expired and hence have a foul taste and smell. They use the strategy of placing expired or near-expired products near the billing counter and offering steep discounts.
Adulterated offerings made to the consumers – In this situation, what the sellers do is mix the product with other adulterations to increase the quantity or reduce the cost of the good. This helps them earn more profits or volume sales than the companies that are selling high-quality goods to consumers. Examples of this scenario could be the adulteration or addition of water to milk by our regular milkman or when pharmacies offer you medicines at a discount that are adulterated. Consumers are duped because they lack knowledge of pharmacy or are unable to see the company’s manufacturing facility.
When the goods offered are of substandard and below-average quality – there are scenarios where the company while selling the product, claims it to be of superior quality, but what you take home is at a level below. This is commonly seen in jewelry companies. Sellers might sell below-quality gold, diamonds, or stones to consumers, and the consumer, being a noob in this case, gets cheated.
When the seller uses false weighing scales or machines – this is a scenario when the seller does not give the consumer the correct quantity of goods promised. They use scandalous weights or weighing machines to earn more profit. These are generally done by the local grocery and ration shop owner. Where they promise to deliver 1000 grams of rice for Rs 30, what they actually give you is 950 or 900 grams of rice for Rs 30. Camouflaged marketing can also be included here. Camouflaged marketing occurs when the price of raw materials used in the manufacturing of products increases. This increase in the price of raw materials causes the overall cost price of the product to increase, and hence the selling price of the product to increase. Now instead of increasing the price of the product, what companies do is decrease the quantity being offered. This is something that is not conveyed to the consumer. Now, for example, earlier the company was offering 100 grams of potato chips for Rs 10, but now they are selling 90 grams of potato chips at Rs 10. The consumer assumes that the competitor has increased the price and not this brand, so they keep purchasing it. Sometimes companies are also able to attract competitors’ consumers.Negative Impact on the Company After Consumer Exploitation
Fines and penalties imposed by the consumer rights department – When a consumer complains about any exploitation that the brand has done to them and they submit proof, the consumer forum imposes a fine on the company. Generally, these fines are heavy, and they are even asked to write letters of public apology.
Legal action against the owner - The penalty that a business can receive is not only limited to fines and penalties but can also lead to situations of imprisonment or the shutting down of businesses. It totally depends on the intensity of the crime being committed.
Goodwill is hampered – Whenever a company does something to exploit its consumers, the consumers and the community withdraw their trust in the company. There is no goodwill or good name left for the company, and a lot of negative publicity.
Consumers boycott the brand altogether – If one branch of the umbrella brand does something wrong, we see the lingering impact on all the other brands that the company holds. Consumers boycott the brand and all its products.
Long-term survival is in shambles – Companies can exploit consumers once and get huge profits and sales, but the sour experience that they create through their exploitation will lead to the consumer never going back to the brand and spreading negative word of mouth about the company. The company will not be able to survive in the long term because of a zero or negligible customer base.
It is time that companies understand that exploiting their consumers is not a point of differentiation that they can create for the brand’s survival. Consumer exploitation will only create a sour experience among consumers. With everything happening online, it is very easy for consumers to complain about a brand and also spread their stories to the community. Good customer relationships can only ensure long-term business and long-term survival for the company.
Popular news this week
Edgar Cervantes / Android AuthoritySamsung:
Samsung Good Lock is finally available in more countries: If you’re in Europe, Latin America, and a couple of Asian countries, you can now find the apps in the Galaxy Store.
Samsung reportedly ditches Samsung, will rely on Samsung for future Samsung chips: Samsung has apparently formed a chip development team within its mobile unit, with the purported goal of making custom phone chips. The company currently relies on a sister unit for its Exynos chips.Best for an Android deep dive: Android Bytes
Mishaal Rahman and David Ruddock chat with Android experts and ask super-nerdy questions about all things Android, like “What are the hidden costs of building an Android phone?” If you need your Android fix over the holidays, this is a must-listen, with episodes ranging from 30 minutes to an hour — and there’s a huge back catalog to listen to, as well.Best over breakfast: The Hustle Daily Show
The Hustle Daily Show remains one of my favorite podcasts for a quick catch-up of the day’s top stories. Hosts Zachary Crockett, Juliet Bennett Rylah, Jacob Cohen, and Rob Litterst provide a daily dose of offbeat and informative takes on all the latest business and tech news. Each episode’s around 10-15 minutes in length, making this a great way to get tech headlines over breakfast.Best for smart home and IoT enthusiasts: Internet of Things
This weekly podcast is packed with news and analysis on smart home, industrial internet of things, enterprise internet of things, and more, from co-hosts Stacey Higginbottom and Kevin Tofel. Episodes run around an hour long, perfect for a lazy afternoon’s listening on the couch.Best for behind-the-scenes stories: Business Wars
Not strictly a tech podcast but a riveting listen nonetheless, Business Wars dives deep into the cutthroat world of business as host David Brown shares the stories behind the world’s biggest business rivalries through clever sound design and reimagined conversations. New episodes land Wednesdays, and there are already over 450 for you to listen to.Best for science nerds: Flash Forward
I’ve been a fan of Flash Forward since it began, looking at possible (and not so possible) future scenarios every week, answering questions like “How would diplomacy work if we couldn’t lie?” or “Could we all live underground?” Host and award-winning science journalist Rose Eveleth presents a combination of investigative journalism and audio drama that’s truly engaging. Sadly, the podcast itself ended in 2023, but its new immersive drama, Welcome to Vanguard Estates, has landed, and you can pick your own route through the story. It’s definitely worth a listen this holiday season.Best for gamers: Kinda Funny Games Daily
When I can’t be bothered reading the games headlines from the week but want to stay abreast of what’s happening, Kinda Funny Games Daily is where I turn. This podcast’s vibe is very much a group of friends chatting about all things gaming, which I guess is why it’s the world’s most popular daily video game news podcast. Hosts Greg “GameOverGreggy” Miller, Tim Gettys, Blessing Adeoye, and Star Wars Rogue One writer Gary Whitta, the podcast covers the latest in PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo, and other gaming news, with a cast of guests and games industry veterans.
While you’re here, why not check out our roundup of the best podcasts to listen to on Spotify? Or for something a little darker, we’ve also chosen some of the best true crime podcasts, though we don’t recommend listening before bed…Tech Calendar
January 5-8, 2023: CES 2023 (Las Vegas)
January 12: Motorola Moto G Play launches (US and Canada)
February (date TBC): Samsung Unpacked (Galaxy S23?)Tech Tweet of the Week
Chart of the Week: More than three in five consumers say that retail innovations or solutions have made shopping experiences easier, with online shoppers seeing the biggest benefits
More customers now expect a seamless, personalized shopping experience. Whether they are buying in person or online, people want a quick and easy experience, something that is being made more possible with retail technologies.
In fact, more than three out of five consumers say that technologies used in retail and retail innovations have led to an improved shopping experience, according to the latest research from the National Retail Federation (NRF). When it comes to shopping online, 80% of customers say the same compared to 66% shopping in-store.
Despite the fact that there is an increased focus on mobile shopping experiences, only 63% said that shopping technologies and innovations improved their experience when shopping on mobile devices. This suggests that more retailers need to look at the experience they offer on mobile.
Download our Business Resource –E-commerce statistics benchmark
This guide is for anyone who works in e-commerce marketing who needs to review the latest customer adoption research and statistics or conversion rates to compare their performance or set targets for plans.
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However, technologies, in general, are improving the consumer experience, but what do companies need to take into account?Customers want tech solutions early in the buying process
According to the report, customers get most frustrated at the start of their shopping experience, with 37% of consumers saying they get frustrated when first researching features and reviews. This is perhaps why 47% are most interested in trying tech solutions at this stage, with innovations and solutions likely to reduce the frustration at this stage.
Consumers are also interested in tech solutions just before purchase, with 25% saying they would be welcome when checking prices or availability. Just as with at the beginning of the shopping process, frustration is also fairly high at this point, with 24% saying this stage of shopping is the most frustrating.
Interestingly, only 12% of respondents said they would be interested in tech solutions after a purchase when they are leaving a review or processing a return, despite this having a high level of frustration (24%). This suggests that processes rather than technology might be the roadblock at this point, with consumers needing simpler processes for returning products and providing feedback on their experience.Online and in-store working together
In terms of customer satisfaction, the ability to buy online and pick up in-store is a welcome option.
Over half (56%) of consumers are aware that in-store pick-up for online purchases is an option for some retailers. Of these, 71% have tried it, with 67% of those who have tried it being satisfied with the option. This supports the idea that shoppers want their experience to be easy, with being able to pick up their order when it suits them avoiding the hassle of missed deliveries.
Another solution with a high satisfaction rate among those who have tried it is mobile payment. A greater proportion of consumers (59%) are aware that this is an option, although only 57% of those who are aware of it have tried it.
However, of those who have tried mobile payments, 69% were satisfied, likely due to the fact they are able to pay without needing to carry cash or a bank card.Availability, price and location are important
Consumers are keen for companies to adopt technology that make life easier pre-purchase, helping to take the guesswork out of shopping. Options that make it easier to decide on a purchase are sought after by the majority of respondents.
Over half (55%) are very interested in tech solutions that allow them to see whether a product they’re interested in is in stock or available, with 52% saying it is important for retailers to offer this option.
Just under half (49%) are also interested in technologies that better enable them to compare prices or reviews in order to narrow down their choices, while 47% want to be able to find a product or location easier.
In contrast, just a quarter (25%) or respondents are interested in technologies that recommend items for purchase, which may well be because this form of personalization has been available for quite a while now. It seems that people want more solutions that enable them to easily purchase a type of product they have already decided on, which e-retailers need to bear in mind.Emerging retail solutions are targeting customer pain points
When it comes to the next set of retail and e-commerce trends, consumers are interested in those that provide solutions for their main pain points.
This includes visual search, which enables shoppers to search for products using photos they’ve taken or found online. In fact, 86% of those who have tried visual search are interested in trying it again, while 60% of those who haven’t tried it would like to.
Consumers are also interested in trying smart dressing rooms, which can allow them to see how different outfits will look on them without having to deal with the discomfort of using a real fitting room. In fact, of those who have used this technology, 88% would be interested in trying it again, with 57% of those who haven’t tried it being interested in doing so.
However, some solutions are popular among those who have tried them but not among those who are yet to try them. While 78% of those who have tried social shopping want to give it another go, only 29% who haven’t tried it but are aware of social shopping are interested in trying it.
Similarly, voice assistants are not overly popular among those who are aware of them but haven’t tried them, suggesting that certain solutions are only suitable for specific audiences. This is where detailed audience research will come in handy, as you can ensure you’re developing the right solution to suit the needs and wants of your existing and target customer base.Final thoughts
Technology can help provide the personalized and easy shopping experience that customers want both in-store and online. While the majority of consumers have found tech solutions to be beneficial, brands still need to do some work to make mobile catch up with desktop and store experiences.
Making the beginning of the shopping process, which is where customers experience the highest levels of frustration, as smooth as possible is likely to increase your conversion rate and reduce cart abandonment. Making features and reviews easy to find, as well as compare, will enable customers to find the product they want while offering real-time stock levels and different delivery methods will help them get to the checkout.
However, as with any solution you look to implement, you need to ensure it is what your customers want. Research your personas, ask your consumers what they want and look to provide solutions for their real pain points rather than their perceived pain points in order to improve experiences both in-store and online.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is now commonplace, with connected devices featured in most businesses large and small.
Connected devices associated with IoT come with considerable cybersecurity vulnerabilities that small businesses should plan for.
This guide includes tips on how to protect your IoT devices so you can reap their benefits without opening yourself to risk.
This article is for small business owners who want to protect their connected devices and IoT network from cyberattackers.
In our homes, internet-enabled refrigerators can tell you which food is past its expiration date. You might already have a smart meter in your home – a dedicated display providing real-time information on how much energy you’re using and how much it’s costing you.
In the world of business, oil companies can now maximize production and efficiency at individual wells using networked sensors that make automatic micro-adjustments to pump stroke rates. Food retailers and restaurants fit their trash containers with connected weight sensors designed to reduce the financial, social and environmental impact of the waste they produce.
These devices represent the Internet of Things (IoT), and it’s bigger than just our laptops, desktops and mobiles. Security equipment, cars, electronic appliances, lights in commercial environments, security cameras, speaker systems and vending machines are now just as much a part of the IoT.
The ability of these devices to send and receive data and to talk to each other will make running our lives and companies easier in many ways we can’t quite conceive of yet.
Did You Know?
According to a Juniper Research study featured on Compare the Cloud, the number of IoT devices in the world is set to reach 46 billion in 2023.Protecting your IoT devices
There are multiple ways to protect your IoT devices, your network, and the data stored on your network.1. Create sub-networks.
Schouwenberg said it’s nearly impossible for a small business to protect all of its assets, so he suggested listing your biggest assets and then putting the most effort into preventing network security threats.
“Work your way down from there,” he said. “Segregate your network. IoT and BYOD (bring your own device) can go hand in hand, so you may also want to look at policies in that area. Many new smart devices, like fridges or TVs, have functioned perfectly fine as dumb devices. Unless you have a very valid business case, it’s best to not hook them up.”2. Only collect as much data as you need to trade.
Small businesses should also limit the sensitive information they collect, said Jay Radcliffe, senior security analyst for InGuardians.
“If you’re not doing anything with names and addresses, and your system by default is collecting that information, then don’t collect it. The tendency for vendors and people supplying the Internet of Things is to have all that stuff turned on. It’s like going to a restaurant and ordering every dish they have when really all you need is one thing.”3. Avoid Wi-Fi where you can.
Wisniewski agreed that one way for small businesses to protect themselves is to not use Wi-Fi.
“Know what’s plugged into your network,” he said. “Don’t allow your employees to bring their laptops in and plug them into your network that you’re processing credit cards on.”
If you want a Wi-Fi network for employees to use during their breaks, run a separate network with just the Wi-Fi, Wisniewski said. “Give them a free Wi-Fi [network], but make sure that free Wi-Fi isn’t hooked into the same place where you’re doing all the critical stuff.”
If a physical connection to an IoT device is not possible and you rely on Wi-Fi, consider switching to a new network that uses the WPA3 protocol and not the now-compromised WPA2. All Wi-Fi devices manufactured since July 1, 2023, must have WPA3 certification, but check with your vendor before purchasing.
Cybersecurity while traveling is another concern. Use 3G, 4G, or 5G when possible, because a favorite trick for cybercriminals to use in open places and hotel lobbies is creating alternative, authentic-looking Wi-Fi networks.4. Choose the right manufacturer and download patches.
Check every product you want to connect to your network before you purchase it, because even a printer could be your weak security link.
Haley said part of the onus for security should be on the manufacturers of these connected devices.
“I think manufacturers are going to have to figure this out, but unfortunately, it’s going to have to take a big incident [for things to change]. But for now, small businesses have to do a couple of things. You have to ask what you have connected to the internet and what the risk of that is. … [I]f you have those security cameras, research and see if there are vulnerabilities – and if there are, patch them. And if you have a commercial router, you have to make sure there are good passwords on there. And if there’s a vulnerability, you have to make sure you’ve updated to the latest patches.”5. Take cybersecurity seriously from the top down.
Human error is the No. 1 cause of successful cybersecurity attacks within any business. From choosing strong passwords to downloading patches on the day of release, every business needs to take cybersecurity seriously. Teach your staff about the types of attack, how to spot them, and what to do if they think they’ve been targeted.
Clear leadership from the top, as well as staff education and monitoring, is vital to cybersecurity at any company.
Linda Rosencrance contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.
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