How Will iOS 15 Affect Email Marketing?

How Will iOS 15 Affect Email Marketing COVER
Ravi Davda Rockstar Marketing CEO

Written by Steve

May 8, 2022

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In September 2021, Apple released the 15th iteration of iOS. Amongst the features that came with this update is the Mail Privacy Protection (MPP). That feature gave Apple users more control than ever over the privacy of their emails.

At the time of the release of this update, many people within the circles of email marketing were speculating about how iOS 15 will affect email marketing. Some thought that it would totally break the practice. Others thought it would just be another obstacle that they could overcome.

Now, after things have settled, we’re going to answer, “how will iOS 15 affect email marketing?”. We’ll also go over some practices that you can implement to adapt to the changes. Stay tuned.

iOS 15 – Mail Privacy Protection (MPP)

iOS 15 – Mail Privacy Protection (MPP)

Mail Privacy Protection, or MPP for short, is a feature that came included in Apple’s iOS 15 update. Its whole premise is to give users control over their privacy when it comes to receiving emails.

The first feature within MPP is the ability to mask IP addresses. This, in turn, means that email senders can in no way figure out the location of a recipient. Additionally, MPP includes pre-loading content in an email.

For the last decade or so, email service providers have included an embedded, hidden 1×1-pixel image that can be used to track opens. The moment someone clicked on an email, this image would automatically load, which counted as an open.

Now, however, emails sent to users using iPhones, iPads, or Apple watches will always register as an open, regardless of whether the users actually performed that action or not.

How will iOS 15 affect email marketing?

How Will iOS 15 Affect Email Marketing?

The true impact of iOS 15’s Mail Privacy Protection on your email marketing efforts and reporting will vary depending on how you use your email marketing platform. So, how will iOS 15 affect email marketing?

Here are 5 ways that MPP affects email marketers in general:

Inflated open rates

The first and perhaps most obvious result of the iOS 15 update’s MPP is inflated reporting of open rates. Since Apple devices now pre-load any images in the email, including the tracking 1-pixel, many open rates will show as higher than they really are.

Now, just to make things clear, open rates were never truly 100% accurate. However, they still have a good idea of the performance of an email marketing campaign. However, once iOS 15 started rolling out, marketers around the world reported significantly higher open rates.

This should come as no surprise since around 46.3% of all emails opened in 2020 (pre-update) were opened in the Apple Mail App. And according to PracticalEcommerce, some large corporations with sizable email marketing campaigns have reported that their open rates doubled because of the iOS15 changes.

Still, the inflation of open rates hugely depends on one demographic to another. For starters, not all users have adopted the iOS 15 update yet. Secondly, you have to keep in mind that not everyone that updated their devices to iOS 15 will opt-in for Mail Privacy Protection.

How will iOS 15 affect email marketing? Less reliable split testing

Split testing, also known as A/B testing, is yet another practice of email marketing that was affected by the update.

A/B testing refers to the process of testing out two different variations of an email to see which one performs best and is worth using. The most common component of emails that is put to the test with A/B testing (no pun intended) is the subject line.

Marketers will go to lengths to come up with what they think is a better subject line than the one they are currently using. So, they pit subject line A (the original) against subject line B (the variation) to see which is better.

At this point, you can probably see where this is going, right? Yeah, A/B testing in email marketing is heavily reliant on accurate open rate reporting. And since that’s something straight out of wonderland after the iOS 15 update, it’s near useless now.

Inaccurate real-time personalisation

Some of the best email marketing platforms in the market include AI-powered personalisation tools. The most common use of these tools is to determine or rather estimate the best time of day and week to deliver an email to a user based on their typical open times.

However, with MPP enabled on devices, the accuracy of send-time optimisation will be all over the place. A pixel image will get immediately downloaded the moment an email is received. The recipient could actually open the email hours later.

Additionally, location-based personalisation will fail to function properly with MPP enabled. For instance, if you have a tool that can optimise your emails in a way that would include the nearest store to the recipient in the email, say goodbye to it.

Unreliable segmentation

Anyone who has any experience with email marketing knows that part of the magic behind segmentation relies on open activity. Indeed, through it, a marketer can identify who is active and who isn’t solely based on their recent open activity.

For example, if a subscriber hasn’t opened any of your last 6 or so emails, then chances are they losing interest in your emails. A good marketer would try to identify these subscribers and send them re-engagement emails with the aim of reeling them back in.

However, MPP completely messes this up. That’s because everyone who opts for it will register as having opened every single one of your emails.

Still, you can cope with this by simply sending re-engagement emails to anyone who doesn’t show any kind of activity past opening your emails. So, you take all the people who interact with the CTAs on your emails and set them aside. Then, you email the rest.

How will iOS 15 affect email marketing? Ineffective email sequences

Most modern email marketing tools that put an emphasis on automation include the option for you to trigger email sequences based on opens. Say, for example, you send a follow-up email to a subscriber once they open the initial email.

However, with MPP enabled, you might end up sending a bunch of sequences to users that haven’t even opened your initial mail. So, if you happen to have automated sequences that are set up based on opens, we recommend that you reconfigure them to use a different engagement metric instead.

How to adapt to the impact of iOS 15 on email marketing

Now that we’ve seen how iOS 15 affects email marketing let’s go through some tips and tricks on how you can adapt to the changes brought by this update.

The steps that we are about to discuss are ones that you should consider as an email marketer. That’s true regardless of whether the update has substantially inflated your open rates or not.

Reconsider your metrics

The biggest change that came with this update is the fact that marketers are no longer able to treat the open rate as a reliable metric. But as we have mentioned before, the open rate has never been really that reliable of a metric, even more so now.

In other words, as a marketer, you should start to consider other engagement metrics to treat as a measurement of your campaign’s success. These include clicks and conversions. Focusing on clicks, for instance, is good. That’s because it allows you to get an idea about whether or not your email content is engaging enough.

Focus on data collection

When we say data collection, we don’t mean relying on third-party sources of data that might be questionable in nature. Instead, try to adopt a first-party data collection approach. In other words, the sources of data about your consumers are your consumers themselves.

How? You might ask. Well, you ask them for it, in an honest and professional way, of course. In this day and age, where privacy is a highly sensitive subject, be very transparent about what you are using your data for.

First-party data includes:

  • Users handing you their emails
  • Data on user behaviour and their different interactions while using your website (with their consent of course)

Moreover, we recommend that you provide users with enticements to provide you with their data. Those incentives can be discounts, coupons, a loyalty status, etc. A paper conducted by the people over ScienceDirect concluded that even though users nowadays are very cautious about giving their personal data away to commercial entities, they are more likely to do it if there is a discount included.

Experiment with new content

Post-iOS 15, the only true way of knowing whether a subscriber is active or not is through clicks. In other words, there is no better time but now to try and come up with new ideas about your email style and content.

Your content should be enticing enough for users to bother clicking on whatever call to action you have included. But it doesn’t end there. You should also ensure that the links lead to a page that is both relevant and well created.

Clean your list

Our last tip for today is a crucial step in every successful email marketing campaign. And although we have established that ousting inactive subscribers has become harder after the iOS 15 update, that still doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it.

Cleaning your email list periodically helps to ensure that you get better overall email deliverability. MPP does not change that.

We can help you optimise your emails

If you don’t think you can adapt to the iOS changes on your own, book a discovery call with us. One of our experts will come to the rescue.


How will iOS 15 affect email marketing? – FAQs

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