What does the iOS 15 update mean for email marketers?

iOS 15 for email marketing

Everybody is talking about privacy. The worldwide regulatory landscape is only likely to get more stringent in the coming years when it comes to customer data privacy.

Earlier this June, Apple held their Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), a virtual event where developers from around the world were given access to future versions of iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS.

Here, Katie Skinner, Apple’s Manager of User Privacy Software, made an announcement that further added to the conversation on data privacy.

In her speech, she spoke about the upcoming mail privacy protection to iOS 15. She talked about how emails use invisible pixels to collect information about people’s email activity and how the “Mail Privacy Protection” update will avoid that. These are likely to impact email applications in iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey.

This has forced email marketers around the world to put on their thinking caps.

With this being implemented:

  • A “Mail Privacy Protection” tab will be added within the Mail app, where users can decide how much personal information is shared with email senders. Users can restrict access to their IP addresses and location information.

  • To control the amount of junk mail in their users’ inboxes, Apple plans to add “Hide My Email,” which allows creation of single-use, randomly-generated email addresses. It will be used to forward mail to users’ real accounts, limiting the ability to collect consumers’ personal data via email.

Simply put:

  • The users’ IP address will now be hidden

  • The location of these users cannot be determined

  • It will prevent the senders from knowing if and when a recipient has opened the email

The important question here is, what does it mean for email marketers?

We talked to some Zoho experts to get answers to some crucial questions.

How much will the email campaign report be affected?

 According to a StatCounter 2021 report, Android has around 72% of the mobile operating system market share worldwide, while iOS occupies around 26%. Keeping this data in mind, one has to think about the impact on the email report.

“Metrics such as ‘last open date’ would not be useful for segmentation, and neither would A/B tests based on open rates. These numbers may not be accurate going forward once Apple starts loading remote content privately in the background,” says Praval Singh, Zoho’s VP of Marketing.

So should marketers start identifying their Apple users? Praval doesn’t think of it as a viable solution. He says, “While it may help in the short run to understand how many subscribers on your list actually use Apple Mail, it is going to appear like an act of treating the symptom and not the disease itself. Once this change kicks in, it will be hard to conclude much from the open-rates as one would not be able to identify if the open rates are low because of this protection or if people are genuinely not interested in opening your emails.”

While some email marketers consider open rate a vanity metric, can one completely dismiss it? Naresh Kumar, a product manager with Zoho Campaigns, says, “The new changes will certainly have an impact on campaign reports, but it won’t render them completely ineffective. Open rates play a key role in measuring the efficiency of the campaign, but there are other metrics that can guide email marketers to measure the effectiveness and optimize their campaigns.”

What are the other metrics marketers should focus on?

Praveen Kumar, a product manager with Zoho Campaigns says, “Many email marketers have already shifted their focus to the email clickthrough rate (CTR), which, in many ways, is a much clearer indicator of success. The clickthrough rate doesn’t take open rate into account and simply tells you how many of your recipients have clicked on links in your email. It can shed some more light on how effective and engaging your content is.”

 He strongly recommends email marketers start tracking clickthrough rate over delivery (if you aren’t already) to set a new, additional baseline for campaign success going forward.

What about deliverability?

 Low open rates are a clear signal to ISPs that the recipients are not engaged enough.

Deliverability specialist Arun Kumar J explains how email marketers can navigate this challenge.

“Email marketers may face difficulty in sending emails based on their engagement, but it is always good to follow the other important best practices when it comes to deliverability.”

Apart from focusing on CTRs, here are some other parameters that must be considered for better deliverability.

Segmentation: Test as many creative and messaging variations as possible to solidify your audience’s understanding. Break it down to the audience-segment level so you’ve got data to guide future campaign design in place of recent openers.

Update your list: Take the opportunity to clean up your lists, lead quality, and sender reputation. And, of course, always make sure you focus on content quality.

Will other platforms follow suit?

Naresh, who has been closely following developments around data privacy, says, “The industry has been constantly changing—GDPR in 2018 followed by CCPA—and these changes have mostly been privacy-focused. The email marketing space has constantly adapted to these changes, and it will continue to do so for the recent changes very well.”

As of now, these changes are limited only to Apple’s Mail application, but it is only natural for other vendors to follow Apple and implement this in their respective applications.

“We have already seen this in deprecation of third-party cookies by Google after Safari introduced changes to ITP (Intelligent Tracking Prevention), which was soon followed by Firefox before Google,” Naresh says, adding, “We can expect similar adoption to the privacy changes by other email clients soon.”

Is there any future-proof  game plan that marketers must follow?

With consumers becoming increasingly educated about the collection and protection of their personal data, organizations are now feeling the impact of this legal and cultural shift toward data privacy.

 To understand the implications of this change, we have to take a step back and understand why people hate (most) advertising.

Praval explains, “In all these years, the advertising industry—for the most part—got addicted to over-optimizing their performance based on tracking, instead of leaning towards the quality of the content. The ones that believe in building a captive audience based on the value they offer are not the ones who’ll be too worried about this change.”

Experts feel that smart companies should start identifying audience segments via surveys that gather intent and engage with them without worrying about pixel-tracking and open rates.

“Publishers that are confident about their content would continue to measure their engagement by other metrics such as page views and increase in the size of their opt-in email lists,” Praval says. “Now is the best time for marketers to discover how different audiences are engaging and define new segments. They may want to clean up their lists and cull disengaged subscribers before they can’t detect them any more— at least not in the same way.”


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