The Internet (and its unprecedented access to data) has turned marketing into a science. With thanks to digital marketing and ever-more effective Martech stacks, we have grown accustomed to granular-level customer data. This has allowed us to target and segment our audiences effectively and reach them with the most relevant content, products, and services through email marketing. With its latest changes, Apple iOS 15 is set to put a major blow to the accuracy of some of the most useful and popular pieces of that data for marketers.
As the internet’s reach expands, regulation and changes to how it operates are inevitable. Apple’s updates through iOS 15 are the latest, but definitely won’t be the last, major change. In this article, we’re going to explore what the Apple iOS 15 update means for email marketers and how to prepare for these changes.
What is the Apple iOS 15 Update?
There are three primary changes that will affect your email marketing strategy. These are:
- Mail privacy protection. iOS 15‘s updates to email privacy protection will make tracking open rates inaccurate moving forward by blocking access to individual user-level data.
- Email masking. Apple will allow email users to mask their real email addresses and instead use a placeholder.
- IP address privacy. Finally, Apple’s iOS 15 update will allow users to hide their IP addresses while exploring the web.
In a major diversion from previous privacy updates (as we saw in Apple’s iOS 14), the choice will be automatically presented to users the first time they open their phone after upgrading to iOS 15. The privacy changes in iOS 14, on the other hand, required the user to proactively search for them. This will drastically impact (and increase) the adoption rate of these privacy changes.
Apple iOS 15 Update and Email Marketing: What’s Changing?
So now that we know what is changing, you may be wondering how this will impact you as a marketer and your email marketing practices.
According to emailclientmarketshare.com, 37% of emails are opened using an Apple iPhone and 10% of emails are opened through the Apple Mail app (though your email list may have a different distribution). This means that a significant chunk of your email subscriber list will be impacted by this change.
An important note: it’s expected that this change will only impact users of the Apple Mail app, not users of other email apps such as Outlook or Gmail on Apple devices.
Here are the primary ways iOS 15 will impact email marketing:
- Open rates. Surprisingly, the impact The iOS 15 change will have on open rates is artificial inflation. Instead of allowing us to see who has opened an email, they will preload all tracking pixels for each subscriber. This means that it will look like every person who received the email through Apple Mail has opened it. Open rates as a metric, therefore, will no longer be reliable.
- Targeting and segmentation. Historically, you could re-target customers who open a specific email with additional related emails. This was effective for things like marketing events – ensuring you were reaching a customer that was interested in the event in question, for example. Due to this update, you will no longer be able to tell which Apple user opened an email versus who didn’t, eliminating many of these retargeting opportunities.
- A/B headline testing. Though it has become a standard practice in email marketing campaigns, the iOS 15 change will mean that A/B headline testing is likely a thing of the past. Many email marketers send out an email to a portion of their list, (say 20% for example), and test two different subject headlines to see which receives a better response. Once the test is complete they use the more effective headline to send an email to the other 80% of the list. Since the open rate will no longer be a reliable metric, this practice will no longer be as effective.
Tips to Prepare Your Email Marketing for the iOS 15 Update
This change is expected to roll out this month. Though we can’t know the full impact of this update on email marketing until it happens, we can anticipate and prepare for the change. To prepare for this change, you should start thinking about your existing practices and how they may need to adapt.
Here are some tips to get started:
- Audit. Review where you’re relying on data that will no longer be available and start considering alternatives. For example, if you rely on IP addresses to segment your list by location, you’ll need to find a new way to access this data.
- Educate your team. Be sure anyone who handles or interacts with email marketing and/or advertising is aware of the changes ahead.
- Review existing metrics. Though your future access to data (such as headline metrics) will be going away, use your existing data to your advantage. Analyze the types of headlines, link titles, email structures, etc. that have worked up until this point. This will provide valuable insight into your specific audience and can inform what will work in the future.
- Cleanse your list. While you can still see individual email subscribers and their respective open rates, cleanse your list of anyone who has been inactive for a long period of time.
- Start collecting first-hand data. Instead of relying on your email software to collect customer data for you, start using your own tactics. You can create landing pages, forms, polls, etc. to determine more about your audience and what they’re interested in.
- Determine new benchmarks. Wherever you’ll be losing data, (most likely towards the end and more granular parts of your funnels, for example), it’s time to examine other metrics. Especially while you have access to this data in the short term. Use this time to your advantage and see where you can find comparable information in other places.
What’s not changing with iOS 15: Closing Thoughts
You will still have access to some data for your email engagement through Apple iOS. This will be things like:
- Click-through rates
- Website visits
- Subscriber lifetime value
- Social media shares
- Sign-ups and survey data
- Orders and purchases
In addition, you will always have access to your existing data from emails completed prior to this change, as well as information about other segments of your email list.
Measuring email effectiveness is about to get a bit more complicated. But part of the excitement of digital marketing is the ever-changing landscape. Just as soon as you feel you’ve gotten comfortable, things always seem to change. Adaptability is a key success trait – and we’re here to help you get ready.