The Impact of iOS 15 on Email Marketing

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Apple recently announced the release of its latest software update for iPhones: iOS 15. The update, which includes big changes to some of the iPhone’s biggest apps, is receiving a lot of attention.

But not for the reasons you might expect.

Email marketers are abuzz about email privacy updates that will soon affect hundreds of millions of users.

The change?

Apple will no longer let email senders see if a message is opened.

Yep, that’s right – no more open rate data.

As you can expect, email marketers are going to have to grapple with key changes that may spell the death of email open rates as a viable email marketing metric. Especially when you consider Apple’s sizeable market share.

Let’s look at the details of the iOS 15 update and discuss the impact of iOS 15 on email marketing.

What are the iOS 15 Privacy Changes?

There are two new changes that the iOS 15 update is implementing that are especially important to email marketers.

First, Mail app users can choose to hide their IP address, which contains location-oriented information about that user. Second, Apple users will have the option of preventing people from seeing if they’ve opened an email.

Both of these changes are significant for email marketers. With the ability to hide IP addresses, IP-oriented campaigns are totally useless for targeting iPhone users.

However, this is a small issue compared to the potential challenges created by the change in open rate reporting.

Here is a description of the changes directly from Apple:

Mail Privacy Protection helps protect your privacy by preventing email senders from learning information about your Mail activity. If you choose to turn it on, it hides your IP address so senders can’t link it to your other online activity or determine your location. And it prevents senders from seeing if you’ve opened their email.

How iOS 15 Affects Email Marketers

Email marketers have used open rates to measure email campaign performance for over a decade. 

Low open rates can be an indicator that your subject lines aren’t great or that your subscriber list is low quality.

High open rates often mean that your messaging, design and deliverability are firing on all cylinders.

With iOS 15, email open rates will no longer be a reliable metric. That means we will have to look to other data to determine the effectiveness of our subject lines and email campaigns as a whole.

Impact of iOS 15 on Email Marketing

Are Email Open Rates Dead?

Other platforms, such as Gmail, already have measures that decrease the effectiveness of open rates as a metric. Furthermore, individual users can disrupt open rate harvesting by using image blocker software or other features.

With a tech giant like Apple implementing a feature that invalidates open rates on its platform, it appears to be the end of email open rates.

How Should Email Marketers React

Most email marketers shouldn’t be surprised by this update. The writing has been on the wall for years and many people are already using other information to measure campaign effectiveness.

Here are the areas where the iOS update will matter most.

First, marketers obviously have to use other metrics to measure success. Thanks to UTM tracking, we can still see how many people visit a website through an email link and go on to purchase a product. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – the goal of an email isn’t to be opened, the goal of an email is to elicit an action (i.e. buy something).

Next, there will be huge changes in segmentation by engagement. It’s common to segment audiences based on if they opened an email or not – that will have to change. Instead, we’ll have to segment based on clicks.

That also means that segmentation by location will also be less reliable since users can hide their IP addresses. Email marketers can still segment by location using data collected from the user (like during the check-out process, for example), but IP address won’t be as dependable.

List hygiene will also be affected. Since many companies remove subscribers if they haven’t opened an email in a while, we recommend cleaning your subscriber lists now while you still have semi-reliable open rate data.

We also suggest that email marketers expand to new channels like SMS if they haven’t already. 

Our View on the iOS 15 Update

Overall, we don’t think the update is as big of a deal as some people are making it out to be. In fact, we think this will weed out agencies in the industry that solely focus on open rates and fail to consider more impactful metrics like clicks and conversions.

While this will affect our reporting and how we segment lists for clients, it won’t affect our overall process and lifecycle marketing ethos.

We will continue to send high-value emails to targeted customers based on all of the information available.