Senior Manager, Email Marketing

iOS 15 Mail Privacy Protection: How to Adapt Your Email Marketing Strategy

If you have spent any time in the world of digital marketing, you know how quickly things change. From new technologies to ever-changing best practices, a digital marketer’s success depends on them staying up to date with the latest technological developments. Email marketing is no different. Recently, Apple announced changes to their security and privacy features that will drastically affect the way email marketing is conducted and reported. 

This isn’t the first time we’ve been here as email marketers. In 2013, Gmail began caching images and spurred many questions about whether marketers would still be able to track email opens accurately. However, we collectively adapted to this change without too much disruption. But with Apple’s iOS 15 privacy announcement, it seems we have arrived yet again at a need for adaptation. 

What is Apple’s iOS 15 Mail Privacy Protection?

With iOS 15, Apple has announced the implementation of Mail Privacy Protection. According to 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.”

This update will affect users who opt into the service and who use the Apple Mail app (regardless of which email service they use) on any device using iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and MacOS Monterey. If you would like an in-depth look at these updates and what to expect, we suggest checking out this Litmus blog post.

While this change will not take effect by default, we can expect a very high opt-in rate. Recently, Apple allowed users to voluntarily opt-out of cross-app analytics tracking. According to Apple Insider, 96% of users are opting out of this tracking. Experts anticipate that we will see a similarly high opt-in rate for Mail Privacy Protection. 

Apple Mail also commands a market share of nearly 50% for email opens, according to the latest analysis from Litmus. It is inevitable that this will have a profound impact on all email marketers. 

How does Mail Privacy Protection affect email marketing?

So, is this going to change email marketing forever? It might! Is that necessarily a bad thing? Maybe not! Due to the way Apple will now be serving images to email recipients, the open rate metric for Apple Mail app users will be dramatically inflated. In fact, Litmus estimates that there will be at least a 75% increase in apparent opens for these recipients. This inflated open rate can affect several elements of your email marketing strategy:

  • Engagement-based lists: Any lists that you have currently set up that track open rates will be artificially inflated. Many marketers currently use open rates as a measure of engaged audience size, compared to their total database.
  • Deliverability tracking: This might be an area of improvement from this change. Because recipients have to actively use their Mail app in order for Apple to download images to their proxy server, we can assume that any user who is shown as having opened an email is an active, valid recipient. While we won’t know if they opened the email or not, we will be able to say, with some confidence, that they are accessing their inbox regularly.
  • Automated nurture flows: Similar to lists, any nurture flows that are triggered on email opens will be affected. Perhaps you have lead scoring automations or sales rep alerts that are triggered from email opens. These will likely need to be adjusted in order to provide value.
  • Send time automation, geo-targeting, real-time personalization: Other more specialized elements that use an email open to trigger an event will be affected. If you use specialized products or extensions with your email marketing programs, it is important to understand how their performance will be impacted. Check in with these service providers to understand the steps you can take to mitigate this impact.

What can marketers do to prepare for Mail Privacy Protection?

There are several things you can do before, during, and after this transition to ensure your email marketing program is still running smoothly and effectively. It just might require small adjustments to your methods (and your way of thinking). Take a look at some of the suggestions below.

  • Develop a robust A/B testing strategy to assess open rate now. You likely already have an A/B testing strategy in place, but we suggest ensuring that every email that is sent out is A/B tested. Try and see what resonates with your audience and what elicits the most opens before iOS 15 is rolled out. This way, you can have a good baseline for what works and what doesn’t, and you can use this information to confidently craft effective subject lines in the future. 
  • Cleanse your database. There’s probably a list in your email marketing platform of dormant contacts—people you have been meaning to enroll in that killer re-activation campaign you’ve been contemplating, or maybe to remove from your database entirely. Now is the time to start on those campaigns. Get them set up and start that cleaning process so you know you are working with an engaged, active, and valid email database.
  • Start focusing on click rate. Some marketers will say that you should have been focusing on click rates over open rates all along. While we agree that click rates—and even more so, goal conversion rates—are a huge portion of the measurement of success for your email campaigns, it will take some adjustment to move away from open rates as a part of email reporting. Audit your automations and dynamic lists for open rate triggers and adjust them accordingly. 
  • Continue providing valuable content. What “works” in email marketing isn’t changing, only how we report on it! Focus on providing valuable content that your audience will love. Helpful tips, exciting offers, or lifestyle content, presented in an engaging, intuitive, and well-rendered email will continue to be what drives contacts to your site and turns would-be customers into customers for life. Developing a strong content calendar and a robust testing strategy will ensure success as our industry continues to evolve.

If you still have questions, reach out! Rise has a full-service email team with experts in email strategy, technical setup, development, execution, deployment, and analysis. We can assist in audits and provide recommendations as these changes in the marketplace occur or discuss longer-term opportunities for increasing ROI and enhancing your email marketing programs. Reach out today to learn more. 

09/22/2021 at 10:26