Apple recently started rolling out their iOS 15 privacy changes and this latest update brings a whole host of new privacy features to give Apple users more control over their email and browser data. Whilst the update is great for giving customers control over their data, like the iOS 14 update earlier this year, it has already begun to have an impact on email marketing.
The iOS 15 update will impact marketing yet again, but while this can be frustrating for marketers, it’s a chance for teams to adapt, try out new strategies and form stronger connections with customers.
Apple only started rolling out this update from September 20 so we are still in the early stages, but if you work in email marketing, or own a company that uses emails to market or connect with customers, this should be on your radar.
In this blog, we’ll go into what has changed for email marketing, how it has impacted email marketing, and what you can do to adapt.
First off, what’s changed?
This update is actually only iOS 15 and this week iOS 15.1 was already released so we expect that we’ll see more privacy changes down the line. But for now, this will affect anyone using an Apple device that opts in to turn the new privacy features on, or buys the new iCloud subscription. The new features you should keep an eye on are:
If users decide to opt out, this prevents email senders (marketers, ecom teams etc.) from seeing if and when a recipient has opened an email in Apple Mail.
Mail Privacy Protection also hides the email recipient’s IP address, so marketers won’t be able to track their location.
Note that this does only affect those who use Apple Mail. Unfortunately, that turns out to be a lot of us (38.9% of mail users to be specific!)
Apple is now offering an additional iCloud subscription called iCloud+ where users can access more privacy features to prevent tracking on Safari and which tells users which websites they’re sending their data to, giving them the choice to stop.
Hide My Email (feature of iCloud+)
Now this is where it gets trickier! Users can choose to hide their email–like an email cloak if you will–to stop brands from seeing the user’s real email address. Instead, brands will see a fake email address as a replacement, until users decide whether or not to give them access to their real email address. Sounds confusing but basically, the users will still receive the email, but be able to hide their address until they decide if they want to share it or not.
Apple iOS 15 impact on email marketing
So how will this impact email marketing?
Well, it’s likely to have a negative impact on the number of people you can send emails to, what you can track once they have the email and how you market to them (via email) moving forward.
Now, think about how often you snooze the updates on your Apple devices. It might not happen right away. Or you might have already noticed that your email marketing campaigns are taking a dive!
Whilst not all of us use Apple Mail, and not everyone will be happy to pay for the iCloud+ subscription, it’s estimated that to affect 30-50% of your email list. The main changes to expect are:
You can’t rely on open rate metrics
Open rates are likely to increase, but engagement will drop. Apple will automatically open emails–or load tracking pixels–on behalf of the recipient, but as the user isn’t actually opening it, there will be less engagement.
Bunch that with the amount of emails that are using ‘fake’ email accounts through Hide My Email and the numbers are going to be confused for some time.
Adapt which metrics you track:
We’d recommend focusing on other metrics rather than using open rates to get insights. Instead, track all the engagement you can and work on really optimizing your content for those that are engaging and clicking through to your site. Put your focus on metrics such as click-through rate, bounce rate, unsubscribes and conversions.
Another tip is to review historical open rate data you have on iOS users specifically and keep a close eye on data trends from now, in comparison to historical activity. You can then use this to set a new benchmark specifically for iOS users compared to Android open rates.
Create your own custom UTM parameters in Mediatool to track engagement from emails to your website and better understand your audience. Create a customized dashboard so you can easily see how to improve the customer journey.
Harder A/B testing
Along with blurred open rates, A/B tests will become more difficult and less reliable to run on email. Especially at the moment while the update is still being rolled out, and a portion of your email list experiencing the update before others.
Create richer A/B tests:
If you’re already running A/B tests on email, take this into consideration and be aware that the results might be skewed slightly. Moving forward, focus your A/B tests on those other metrics such as click through rates (CTR) and conversions.
Automation journey issues
One of the main issues with the Apple iOS 15 update is it’s negative impact on email automations. Let’s say your current automation is set up to send a follow up email 2 days after the original email was sent. But as Apple is loading tracking pixels (“opening” the email for the user), your sequence might automatically send the follow up email without the user having actually seen the first email.
Adapt your automation strategy:
Think about how you can change your automation journey, can you trigger the sequence based on other engagement with your emails other than whether or not they opened it? Use this as an opportunity to really understand how your customers are interacting with your emails and optimize it so it fulfills a need for them through their journey.
Less personal information and demographic data
With Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection users can hide demographic data such as their location (by hiding their IP address), and those that sign up for iCloud+ can hide personal information like their name.
First off, this will affect how your email looks if you currently use the [FIRST_NAME] field as you’ll no longer have access to their name. And location data might affect email scheduling time-zones or languages.
The last thing you want! (Image via Instagram: @marketing_humor)
Create more valuable content:
If this information is vital to your campaigns, work on getting to know your email list more and to earn your customers/potential customers’ trust! If your customers don’t want to share their data with you, why not? And how can you change that?
Use it as an opportunity to really hear them out, to find out what they would find helpful, and provide them with your best content. Open a dialogue with your email list, by for example sending them a survey to find out what they would like to receive, run competitions, giveaways, and discounts in return for their honest opinion and loyalty.
That way, you get inspiration to make your best content yet, provide the most value you ever have, and they help you get the best insights you could ask for.
Whether you’ve noticed a difference yet or not, you need to change your email marketing strategy to adapt to these changes. And here’s a couple of other things we think are important too:
Couple of things to remember
1. This is a good thing
While this may seem like Apple is throwing curveball after curveball aimed at every marketing department in the land, giving users choice over what they do with their data is a good thing. According to research, 96% of users opted out of tracking when Apple iOS 14 gave them the choice. Now think about how many marketers there are out there… You probably opted out too, and that’s OK, that’s your choice.
2. Not everyone uses Apple Mail
I mean, maybe they’ll use this as a reason to start, but while this is likely to impact your email marketing results, there’s still a large portion of your audience that use Gmail, Outlook and other email clients. Don’t panic and forget about those other users in the process, simply use it as an eye-opener and to improve the experience for all of your email readers.
3. See this as an opportunity
Use this as an opportunity to create your best, most valuable email content to date. To really speak to your customers rather than just sending email after email out. Use this to develop a new email strategy that actually helps your customers and generates quality conversions, rather than quantity.
The marketing industry is always changing and if you want to be successful you need to get used to reframing challenges as opportunities, finding solutions and moving with the times.
4. Reporting is vital
Like we said this is a good thing, and although there might be some teething problems while we all get used to it, reporting is your best friend at this time. Having a reporting platform like Mediatool by your side is vital to gaining insights from the data you do have, and giving you time to get a new perspective and try out new techniques. Take the time to figure out what this means for your marketing and innovate accordingly. And let Mediatool do the reports for you while you make your next move!
To find out more about Mediatool and how it can help you stay ahead of your competitors, check out our latest Guide. And if you want to hear more about the platform, click the big green button below.