iOS 15: How your email marketing will be impacted

8 min read by Lauren Boyton 20 Sep 2021

Today (20th September 2021) Apple is due to launch the latest iOS 15 update. The update includes a new privacy feature that has shaken the email marketing world. The iOS update launching today will give users on iOS devices the ability to mask their IP addresses and prevent opens from being tracked. 


What is the new privacy feature from Apple? 

From Apple: “Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. [It prevents] senders from knowing when they open an email and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.” 

Will it even affect me?

If you’re sending emails the answer is yes! Apple’s total email client share is now over 48%*, meaning that Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection launching today will have an impact on your email marketing regardless of your industry.  We know that the new privacy features won’t be turned on by default, however, with the last apple privacy update, ad tracking only 4% of iOS users opted in, meaning more often than not users will select to be protected. 

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Your immediate actions 

If you’re sitting panicking that this is the first you’ve heard about the iOS15 update, here is your guide to things you need to address:

  1. Opens/open rates are now less reliable – Apples new Mail Privacy Protection policy will show that all Apple users have opened your email, meaning your opens and open rate will now be overinflated. You should now be looking at your clicks, click-through rate and going beyond your typical email metrics, we’ll talk about that later on
  2. Rethink your resends  – As we won’t opens/open rate will no longer be a realistic email reporting measure, sending a non-opener resend to those who haven’t opened your email should no longer be part of your strategy. Instead, try a non-clicker resend.
  3. Content at the time of open  – If you send content that updates at the time of opening such as countdown timers, weather forecasts, live polls then you’ll need to rethink this. These content types usually work off the time of opening, the new update will mean that Apple will class all emails as opened as soon as they reach the inbox, meaning that when the user does open, the content will likely be out of date. 
  4. Geo-location  – Some email marketers will use location segmentation to send emails to a particular location or show content based on your location at the time of opening (for example stores specific to a users nearby location). Apples new update masks users IP address so marketers will no longer be able to determine users location from an email.
  5. Automations need addressing – if you use open data to power your automation segmentation, for example, a re-engagement campaign that is based on users who haven’t opened an email in X amount of time, then you’ll need to rethink this, you could use click data or website behaviour to now power this automation.
  6. If you use Mailchimp engagement metrics to segment – Mailchimp has a great feature where you can segment your users based on their email marketing engagement status, often, new, sometimes, rarely. Moving forward this is unlikely to be as reliable as it once was as opens will be overinflated. Therefore you should look at new ways to segment your email marketing database.
  7. A/B Testing – If you’re using open rate to determine the successfulness of your test, you now you’ll need to look at a new success metric, for example looking at clicks/website session data or conversion data.

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Considerations for the future

Data is more important than ever

As discussed in my previous blog data is more important than ever.  Gone are the days of batch and blast, your email marketing communications need to be timely, relevant and personalised, meaning less volume, more human. Data is going to be key to this, you need to ensure you have relevant, up to date data on your contacts in your email service provider to feed these communications. Your focus needs to be on implicitly and explicitly profiling your contacts, for example finding out what they are interested in whether that be through website tracking or a preference centre, this data should then be used to power your communications.

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Go beyond the ‘normal’ email metrics

For a while now some email marketers have been going beyond the ‘normal’ email metrics, when I say this I mean open rate, click through rate etc. Apple has given those who haven’t yet gone beyond those metrics the push to do so. It’s time to start looking at email performance as part of your full customer lifecycle and how email is helping impact those key customer metrics. For example, the churn rate of your customer base, assisted email revenue in Google Analytics, first time buyer rate to active customer.

It’s also worth noting here the influence effect. The influence effect is where users see the email but don’t purchase/click from the email directly. For example, imagine you’re on the way to work and you see the email from your favourite brand but don’t click through on the email at the time. However when you get to work you decide to purchase from your work computer directly from the website. That purchase wouldn’t be directly attributable to email, however, the email acted as a ‘nudge’ – we call this the ‘Nudge effect’ or ‘Influence effect’.

The DMA email marketing consumer tracker report showed that users usually save email information for later, they don’t click but the email acts as a nudge/influence for later on. This is a particularly good metric for e-commerce clients. A good way to measure this is noting on Google Analytics when you sent an email and see if sessions drive an uplift when emails are sent.

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