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What To Know About iOS 15 Update And The Impact on Your Email Marketing

Marino Marks

Campaign Manager, Email & CRM


Sep. 15, 2021

Privacy policies are a trending topic that has driven transformation and change in the digital marketing community. Especially in the recent few years.

This time, Apple decided to come up with a public response to this topic. They did so with a Mail Privacy Protection for its Mail app on iOS 15, iPadOS 15 and macOS Monterey devices.

Expected to be released this fall, this new policy will impact how email marketing campaigns are managed, preventing senders from knowing when subscribers open an email by masking their IP address (their online address).

Without an IP address, email subscribers cannot be linked to other online activities or have their location determined.

As a result, you may not be able to find out who opened your emails when and where via Apple Mail.

This change affects any email opened in the Apple Mail app on any device, regardless of the email service used, such as Hotmail, Gmail, or a work account.

While this shouldn’t affect other email apps used on Apple devices, such as the Gmail app on an iPhone, Google is likely to follow this trend and launch a similar email privacy policy in the coming months.

How will it work?

Although it can be a little technical, it’s important to cover the following main steps in how this will work:

  • Throughout the Mail Privacy Policy implementation, Apple users will receive a message asking them to “Protect Mail activity” or “Don’t protect Mail activity.” The subscriber will have to make a decision, so this will not be enabled by default.
  • By selecting the “Protect Mail Activity” option, Apple will first copy all information from the email (including tracking pixels) before serving readers to a new location in the Apple Privacy Cache. The IP address will be assigned to the subscriber’s general region rather than their specific geolocation.
  • This caching process requires Apple to request the images from the ESP server (Mailchimp), including the open tracking pixel, making ESP think the email has been opened. As a result, turning the open campaign rate into an inaccurate metric.
  • If the subscriber actually opens the email, it triggers a request to download and view the images in the email, but instead of coming from the sender’s web host or ESP (Mailchimp) server, they will come from the Apple Cache. This way, the senders are left without information related to email opens.

What will be affected in your email campaigns?

With opening rates and geolocation becoming inaccurate, we can expect the following changes:

  • The open rate metric becomes obsolete. Therefore, once the new policy is released, it should not be considered a single metric to measure campaign performance.
  • A/B testing challenging subject lines, using openings to determine the winner will no longer work.
  • Send time optimization would become inaccurate.
  • Current countdown timers may become out of date.
  • Any strategy or interpretation that relies on opening an email will need to be redesigned.

Going back to my opening words in this communication, the advent of this privacy policy will impact how email marketing campaigns will be managed.

How will it be from there?

There is still a lot of speculation surrounding Apple’s new Mail Privacy Policy. Right now, each email service provider (ESP) is working on its solution to adapt to the new rules.

However, despite the fact that all details are not yet available, the following should be recognized and considered:

  • First and foremost, it is important to remember that this type of change is expected and is part of the digital marketing environment. Alongside this privacy policy change, a cookie-free future is also coming, impacting how campaign tracking will work. Disruptions happen, and the way things are done adapts to the new rules.
  • Campaigns will be managed with an emphasis on actual engagement, measured by click-through rate and conversions. Metrics that, in fact, indicate a better representation of campaign performance than open rate.
  • A/B testing will become crucial to determine the content and copy of your emails. Therefore, more investment will be devoted to testing and validating all elements of the email content (email message, layout, images) to build effective campaigns. As measuring click-through rates for engagement tracking becomes increasingly important, we’ll need to ensure we’re providing recipients with the most optimized email possible.
  • As a recommendation, it will be important to archive inactive emails now from your email list as we will not be able to use open rate data to manage our deliverability later, at least not until new solutions are implemented.

We are closely following all the recent announcements regarding the iOS 15 update to help us set benchmarks for the new data we’ll have to lean on to measure engagement, deliverability, and user behaviour.

Email Marketing is a crucial channel in any digital marketing strategy, and more relevant will become after this change to indicate user engagement.

Maybe we don’t know the answer to some questions, but we’ll update you as we find out conducting the necessary adjustments for coming campaigns and reporting.

For more on making the most of your email marketing check out How to Make People Engage with Your Emails [+Free Email Calendar Template]

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