What's Apple doing now? iOS 15 and email marketing

Roughly a 6 minute read by Fred Lorenzo

Brett Jordan Lpzy4Da9A Ro Unsplash 1

What’s happened?

Apple has recently released some shiny new products *mini fist pump*/*groan* (please delete as appropriate). A new generation of iPhone means another update to Apple’s iPhone operating system across existing and new devices. Say hello to iOS 15.

So why should I care about iOS 15?

Do you work in email marketing? Or does your brand use emails to share offers and promotions and use that data for other marketing activities? If you said yes to either, then this is the post for you.

iOS 15 has introduced a range of nifty new features for the Apple enthusiasts among us. Importantly, for us marketeers, it’s introduced new features to increase email privacy through Mail Privacy Protection and a new paid tier of iCloud. Queue the marketing challenges.

Without delving into the specifics of the update here (we’d recommend a longer conversation or Google for that), the long and short of it is that senders aren’t able to gather as much data on open rate, location, and IP address as they could before. You’ve likely already seen a drop in open-rate-related metrics and now have the challenge of trying to link up email activity with other online activity without the unique identifiable data that IP Addresses provide.

Who does this affect?

Anyone using an Apple device that downloads iOS 15 and opts to turn on Mail Privacy Protection and/or that purchases the new iCloud subscription. Whether that’s now or in a year’s time when they finally stop snoozing that notification (we see you).

At this time, it’s difficult to assess the uptake. Given the desirability for internet privacy at the moment, it’s likely a high number of users will enable this feature. Estimates suggest that this could affect 30-50% of your email list.

Then there’s the new tier of iCloud. This comes with an additional cost, but those that choose to purchase will also have access to an additional privacy feature Hide My Email. This generates a random email address when users fill in forms across the web. This will still allow your emails to reach inboxes but will keep recipients’ email addresses private from senders. Watch out for your email registrations increasing with these “dummy” @icloud.com addresses (in particular those that read 0@outlook.com).

How will this impact my marketing?

If you haven’t seen the impact already, these changes will impact your email strategy and wider marketing campaigns in the following ways:

  • A drop in eMail open metrics - The number of opens on your emails and open rates will likely decrease compared to previous months. This doesn’t mean your subject line hasn’t captured recipients’ attention, but that some of your recipients are opening your emails “in secret”.
  • Bumpy automation journeys - Going forward, any emails that are auto-scheduled from opening a previous email will be impacted. You’ll likely find fewer follow-up emails are sent if you continue to base your automation rules on eMail opens.
  • Muddier A/B Testing Results - if you’re looking to A/B test based on open rate metrics, you’ll find the results become less representative of your whole email database and a less reliable metric to measure engagement. Time to look at other metrics (we recommend click rate or conversion rate) or alternative subjective ways to gather feedback.
  • Hidden location information - as IP addresses will be hidden with Mail Privacy Protection the demographic data around the locations of your email list won’t be as rich.
  • Difficulty linking email address activity to other online activity - These changes will result in email addresses and IP addresses being hidden for Apple users. These won’t be the unique identifiers for online tracking on other channels as they were before.
  • Less personal personalisation - if users take up the new paid tier of iCloud+, users will be able to hide their own email address and Apple will automate one that will forward the email to their inboxes. They’ll still receive your emails but you may only be able to call them A145869 as opposed to Bob.

What can I do about it?

So enough scene-setting, here are some things you can do about it.

  • Benchmark your data as soon as possible so you can assess how the change impacts your email marketing data. We’d recommend taking a snapshot of how many @outlook.com email addresses you have at present so you can keep an eye on how many dummy emails “subscribe” with the Hide My Email Feature as part of the new iCloud tier.
  • Use the change as an opportunity to build stronger relationships with your audiences and earn the right to learn who they are and what they’re interested in. Try making different connections, gather preferences and feedback via short surveys that offer exclusive content, discounts, or prizes. Look to other metrics like clicks, traffic to your site, unsubscribe raters as alternative ways to indicate the readability of your emails. After all, opens are great, but more meaningful interactions are still better.
  • Check your automation rules - especially those that are triggered or feature rules around open metrics.
  • Evolve your criteria for success for email campaigns and A/B testing that typically use opens and open rate as a KPI - or at least lower expectations. Remember to annotate your Google Analytics if you can so you factor this change in when comparing performance year on year.
  • Keep an eye on updates related to iOS 15. It’s an all-new feature and things are likely to evolve over time and we’ve yet to see the uptake of the update.
  • Remember it doesn’t impact all email readers - Google and Outlook haven’t announced anything similar (as yet!) although Google has been introducing more and more privacy features to Gmail in recent years.
  • Be prepared for an increasingly private digital world.

Need a hand understanding the changes to your email reporting following the iOS15 update? Find out about our eCRM services or get in touch to speak to a member of the team!