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Apple iOS 15 Privacy Updates Are Here – Now What?

Apple has released iOS 15, which provides the option of “Mail Privacy Protection” for users of the native Mail app. What does this mean? For users, it will improve the privacy of mail accounts. For marketers, it will present challenges to collecting data in the traditional manner of relying on data gathered through tracking pixels and IP address tracking. Knowing that Apple Mail accounted for more than 46% of all email opens in 2020, this update comes with some challenges that you should be prepared to navigate.  

What we don’t know:  

It is unclear exactly how the feature will be implemented across users' iPhone devices. The two options potentially being:  

1. a pop-up request once the user opens their native app;


2. a function the user must find in their “settings.” 

What does this mean, exactly?  

Open Rate will be less important because it may appear artificially high. Whereas clicks and conversions will become more important than ever. The assumption is that Apple’s caching system will “open” emails whether a user has opened them or not. This will make reporting look as if virtually all Apple users (who have opted into the privacy update) have opened their emails. Another fallout is that Apple users will now be able to create alternate iCloud+ emails that can auto-forward to their real accounts. This implies that marketers may lose sight of actionable email addresses & data acquisition of new subscribers. 

The following are examples of current tactics that will become less effective: 

  • Time stamps, forwarding, device identifiers, and live content such as countdown timers will become obsolete because there will no longer be a pixel attached to the individual.
  • Real-time data or offers and personalization related to the time of open will be ineffective.
  • A/B Tests regarding Subject Line won’t be as effective or accurate.
  • ERN will be ineffective since you won’t be able to target the best time of send for a user based on optimization algorithms. 
  • Email retargeting capabilities will not be possible.  

Moving Forward

So, how do we move forward and navigate a drastic change in the email world where Open Rate has become one of the most scrutinized KPIs? Here are our top 10 recommendations on how to prepare and navigate your email program this fall:

  1. Conduct an audit of your email list and evaluate the potential impact. You’ll want to take into consideration a 360-degree view of your program before the privacy updates have taken effect, so act now. This will help you get a better understanding of what percentage of your current audience could potentially be impacted by this update and where dependencies exist on Open Rate within your strategy.   
  2. Monitor OR/UCTOR for a known baseline to help measure impacts to your subscriber base now that the privacy updates are released.  
  3. Continue to conduct Subject Line testing for a baseline and best practices for your brand moving into this new era of skewed Open Rates to see what shifts are happening and among which users.   
  4. Prioritize Conversion Rate as a critical metric beyond in-email activity.  
    • Determine the Revenue/value per subscriber and the subscriber Lifetime Value and shift focus to these deeper-impact metrics.
  5. Increase first party data capture capabilities.  
    • Evaluate your current Welcome Stream for opportunities to gain additional information during the point of sign-up when subscribers are most likely to be more engaged and provide insights that cater to their preferences.  
    • Outside of Welcome Streams, actively encourage and promote readers to update their preferences and profiles. By giving users control to scale back, or adjust type of content, or to unsubscribe all together to ensure you have clean, actionable lists within your database.  
  6. Segment your audience. Doing this will give you better understanding as to how each target behaves.  
  7. Increase targeting. The more targeted you can get with email communications through data that you have garnered from your database, the more likely you will be able to engage your email channel effectively. 
  8. Continue to focus on, and adapt, engaging content.   
    • Gamify the click process – acquire points by sharing or clicking — doing things to keep targets in the “engaged” category. 
    • Adding brief always-on polls to non-transactional emails (e.g., “Did you like this email? Thumbs-up/down”).  
  9. Actively monitor and unsubscribe your disengaged subscribers who are not adding any value to the email program.  
  10. Utilize Re-engagement efforts for acquisition of quality subscribers vs. quantity.  
    • Getting this group back into your engaged category is easier than finding new leads. Getting rid of those who are ready to unsubscribe is healthy for your list.  

If you have questions or need help navigating the new iOS updates, our team of experts is happy to help. Ready to dig in? Let’s chat.