Yes, Apple’s iOS 15 Update Will Change Your Email Marketing

We welcome a special guest: Stelter’s Digital Manager, Bryan Lloyd, to share his marketing advice and tips for analyzing email response after the launch of Apple’s new operating system.

Minor updates to Apple’s mobile operating system tend to happen every two or three months. Major updates, on the other hand, happen annually—usually around September or October.

This year was no exception.

Apple recently launched its iOS 15 update and, with it, introduced Mail Privacy Protection. The update brings increased protection for Apple Mail users and at the same time introduces a new set of challenges for email marketers.

So What’s the Big Deal?

Here’s how Apple describes it:

“Mail Privacy Protection hides your IP address, so email senders can’t link it to other online activity or determine your location. And it prevents senders from seeing if and when you’ve opened their email.”

Marketer’s translation: All emails sent to an Apple Mail app user will register as opened.

But What Does it Do?

The change affects all Apple devices capable of running iOS 15, including the iPhone, iPad, Mac computers running macOS Monterey and Apple Watch. Hang tight, I’m going to get technical. The end-user’s message and images load in a secure proxy server, reducing load and rendering times while maintaining a higher level of data security and integrity. This affects behavioral tracking (it still loads the tracking pixel, but the proxy may be in a different location making data potentially unreliable) as well as time-based interactions (such as time zones, countdown timers, etc.).

Nearly 11% of email users in the United States use the Apple Mail app. At Stelter, around 52% of our clients’ email lists use Apple Mail.

Is This the Beginning of the End for Open Rate?

Open rate was once a paramount KPI for email marketing but has transitioned in recent years. Today it’s more of a directional indicator of intent versus a clear indicator. Still, if all emails register as opened, then how will we:

  • Measure a campaign’s success?
  • A/B test and optimize subject lines?
  • Identify engaged readers?
  • Build logic into automated email programs and trigger follow-up emails?
  • Score and segment our lists and maintain quality data?

Change is the One Constant in Digital Marketing

Digital marketers are used to dealing with change. Consider how often Google changes the algorithms governing the performance of search engine marketing campaigns. Consider how often the rules governing Facebook advertising change.

In the digital world, as soon as you think you have something figured out, it changes. We’re used to it.

Mail Privacy Protection may signal the biggest change to email marketing since the introduction of the CAN-SPAM rules in 2003. But let’s remember that the CAN-SPAM legislation—and its emphasis upon permission-based marketing—was essential to making email what it is today. We believe that over time Mail Privacy Protection may spur similar improvements and growth for this channel.

4 Steps We Can Take Right Now

While Mail Privacy Protection from Apple is not the death of the open rate or A/B testing, we will need to adapt and develop new best practices. For example:

  1. Focusing on conversion rate optimization. Design, content and the overall presentation of the CTA are just a few of the elements that can be constantly tested and refined to optimize conversions.
  2. Monitoring other performance indicators. Bounce rates and unsubscribes, for example, will play an increased role in measuring email performance in the new environment.
  3. Supplementing A/B testing with subject line scoring. Many online assessment tools grade potential subject lines by word length, use of numbers, sense of urgency and other factors.
  4. Adjust unengaged rule strategies to use open and interaction metrics to send our marketing efforts to the best targeted recipients.

Staying on Top of Updates

Stelter will continue to follow updates from Apple and other email service providers and consult with trusted industry experts to gauge their overall impact.

Our goal is to maintain the value of email marketing not only as a strong branding and relationship-building tool but also as an invaluable lead generation channel that delivers results with an incredible ROI.

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