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June 25, 2021

Apple iOS 15 Update & Impact on Email Marketing

As Apple releases security and privacy features for their customers, digital marketers should be aware of the latest release on email tracking and reporting.

Check out these FAQs below to learn more about the implications of the latest Apple iOS 15 software updates.

Apple's Announcement

On June 7th, at the Apple annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC 2021), Apple announced in their iOS 15 release that Mail Privacy Protection would be enabled on the native Mail app on all Apple devices – iPhone, iPad, and Mac. According to Apple, “Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user, which 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.” So naturally, an implication for marketers is that they would not know when or if a user has opened their email in Apple’s Mail app. The restriction, which needs the user’s consent, would apply to any email opened on Apple’s Mail app (Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, etc.).

When Will This Go Into Effect?

The iOS 15 release will be available this fall, possibly as early as September. While there is no immediate impact on email programs right now, marketers need to understand what potential impact this change could have and what strategies can elevate email marketing programs.

Impact on Tracking & Measuring Email Campaign Results

Tracking pixels within Apple Mail will be disabled, which means that marketers will no longer reliably tell when an email is opened. While disabling tracking pixels is not new, several providers have taken similar measures in the past. Apple’s Mail app has broad adoption across many providers. Therefore, the impact could be more significant than previously experienced when other providers have chosen to disable tracking pixels by default. The privacy protections, which need the user’s consent, would apply to any email opened on Apple’s Mail app (Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, etc.). If the user uses the Gmail app or another mail app, the privacy controls will not be affected. For context, the Apple mobile device market share for Q1 was 17% globally and 55% US.

Does This Announcement Pertain to All Emails Opened on an Apple Device?

The Mail Privacy Protection feature pertains to the user who has iOS 15 AND checks their email in the native Apple Mail app. If the user checks email on the Gmail App or another mail app that is not Apple Mail, even if on iOS 15, the privacy controls will not be in effect. This feature makes it critical for marketers to segment their lists and database to determine the potential impact.

Impact on Measuring Open Rates, Ctors (Click To Open Rate), Revenue, + Other Metrics

Email open rate hasn’t always been a reliable metric, with some providers blocking images by default and others pre-loading images. Therefore, assessing the open rate on its own is not a good barometer for analyzing the effectiveness of an email campaign. Still, it can be helpful when considered along with other email metrics. With the new privacy protection, marketers will have to reduce dependency on open rates and consider other performance metrics like bounces, inbox placement, clicks, transactions after the click. Also, consider what you are measuring: open rates are a function of the subject line; clicks are a function of your offer or content; activity after the click is a function of your products/services/website.

Additional Areas Impacted

Measuring open rates is not the only aspect of email marketing impacted by Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection. Email opens drive send-time optimization strategies, real-time personalization, re-engagement campaigns, and automated multi-wave campaigns. The privacy restrictions will also impact email campaigns incorporating location data for personalization. These changes mean that marketers must begin planning to determine what these strategies will look like for Apple users once iOS 15 is released and the privacy protection capabilities take hold this fall.

Steps You Can Take Now (for Marketing Automation Users)

If marketers are not doing so already, an excellent place to focus would be on device-based segmentation. Device data helps marketers understand which devices your customers use to read your emails, which could be a good starting point for determining the potential impact on email programs. In addition, segmenting by device type will provide insights into how much of an audience uses Apple Mail to read emails. It would also be beneficial for the marketer to understand blog-Apple_iOS15_Updates-body-email.jpgother campaigns and strategies that incorporate opens as a trigger or metric (i.e., re-engagement campaigns, send-time optimization, etc.).

To view what device a user is opening or clicking an email from, you can create a filter on the tracking logs level and look at the Device field under the Browser table, as shown.

Our Paciolan team will continue to keep our community updated as more findings and solutions are shared, as this change affects email marketers everywhere.

authorPost by Michaela Patt, Marketing Automation - Manager, Paciolan