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What You Need To Know About Apple iOS15

This article was updated to include our findings over the two months following the release of iOS15, on September 20, 2021. Please see the section of the article, titled, “What We’re Seeing.”

Apple’s Mail Privacy changes are here, causing marketers to wonder how they’ll impact email marketing. We’re keeping tabs on the impacts, and sharing our periodic findings in this article.  We’re also offering a simple overview of the changes, along with tips for adapting to them. 

What We’re Seeing

We have been monitoring our reporting and performance since the release of iOS15 and we are happy to share our findings. While open rates have been affected, as expected, a thorough investigation has confirmed that impacts are limited to open rates. 

One key finding is that email send interval/time optimizations are not being affected. Since send time optimization is calculated based not only on open time but also the potential for conversion (and multiple data points) the efficacy of the optimizations is preserved.  

Likewise, and for the same reason, we are not seeing the privacy update affecting our A.I. Models or recommendations. Resci’s data science models track factors that lead to conversion, like website activity, not simply open rates. 

Please stay tuned to this article, as we plan to provide another update on the impacts of Mail Privacy Protection after 30 days. 

What Impacts Can We Expect?

First of all, while things like open rate will be affected, you won’t need to worry about negative impacts to your marketing programs, or your ability to track email effectiveness. Why? Because you are likely focused on other email marketing metrics that are much more meaningful for your business. Yes, marketers have been referring to open rates since the beginning, but we know they aren’t a true measure of engagement. 

Apple Mail Privacy Protection is offered as an option for users of Apple’s Mail app for iPhone, iPad, Mac computers, and Apple Watch, so you should prepare to rely less on email open data. Generally, when users are given the opportunity to opt out of data tracking, they take it. We expect these new privacy features to be as popular as previously released iOS features, like opting out of app data tracking.

What is Apple Mail Privacy Protection?

Mail Privacy Protection gives users of Apple’s Mail app the option of hiding if and when they open marketing emails. Mail Privacy Protection prevents email marketers from using invisible pixels to collect information from recipients. The feature is available for users of Apple’s Mail app, allowing them to mask information such as when and where they open an email, what device they used, and any other online activity linked to that device.

In the past, data from an email was loaded only when the recipient opened the email and downloaded the email’s images, which happened automatically in most cases. This data included a pixel, which allowed your email provider to detect that the email was opened, what device was used, and sometimes where the subscriber was located when they opened the email.

With Mail Privacy Protection, Apple Mail preloads images and other content of emails you send — including the tracking pixel — regardless of whether the recipient actually opened the email or not. This makes data from these pixels unreliable as a performance metric.

Here’s what’s changed in the world of email marketing as a result of Apple’s privacy updates:

  • Open rates will likely increase but won’t be an accurate metric

Since Apple will begin pre-loading email data regardless of whether a user actually opens an email, email open rates will not be accurate. You might see a huge increase in email open rates as a result of these privacy changes, but those won’t be actual email opens.

  • Click-to-open rates will likely decrease but are also unreliable

A click-to-open rate (CTOR) is the number of unique clicks your email receives divided by the number of unique opens. In the past, this was a favored metric for email marketers to measure how effective their content was at motivating their audience to click. However, since CTOR is a function of your email opens, Apple’s new privacy changes will cause your CTOR to plummet downwards artificially. That makes CTOR a relatively unreliable metric going forward. 

But there is some good news! Mail Privacy Protection will not have an impact on your total clicks. Clicks will remain a reliable measure of your email effectiveness because they show the total number of email recipients who clicked a link in your email. Comparing total clicks across email campaigns with a similar number of recipients is a good way to assess which campaigns are most engaging.

Helpful Tip: Organize your metrics on clicks so that you have a better view of performance.

  • Individual user data (like location, time opened, etc.) from Apple Mail users will not be available to email marketers

Since Apple is working to protect Apple Mail users’ individualized data as they beef up their Intelligent Tracking Prevention, it’s likely that marketers will have access to less and less information about an individual subscriber’s online activity.

Some of the individualized subscriber data we expect to become less accessible for all marketers:

  • Time an email was opened
  • Device used to open an email
  • Location from which an email was opened

Email still has the highest return on investment (ROI) of all forms of marketing and is even more likely to drive sales than other channels like social media marketing.

Focusing on meaningful metrics like conversion rates, retention rates, and list growth rates has been and continues to be the way to go. Keeping your eye on the prize will help you manage your way through this privacy change and others to come.

Email Marketing Metrics and Triggers To Focus On

Here is a handful of metrics to track, if you are not already doing so.

  1. Conversion Rate – The percentage of email recipients who take a specific action, like making a purchase
  2. List Growth Rate – How fast you’re adding new email subscribers versus losing people via “unsubscribe”
  3. Overall ROI – The amount of revenue you generate for every dollar you invest in email marketing (revenue per email sent)
  4. Click-Through Rate – The percentage of your email recipients who click a link in your email
  5. Forwarding/Email Sharing – How often your subscribers forward and share your emails with their own contacts, expanding the reach of your email campaign

A shortlist of some of the many triggers that will remain effective for email automation:

  • Clicks on a particular link or piece of content
  • Time-based triggers (send email two X days after email one)
  • Website visits
  • Date-based triggers, like birthday and anniversary emails
  • Buyer behavior 

Why You Should Still Care About Email Opens

While you’ll focus on metrics other than open rate,  encouraging email opens is always going to be a good idea. Take advantage of our Smart Subject Line tool to drive engagement, and also take the time to customize your email’s preheader — this is the text that shows up in the preview of your email in many popular email clients.

We can expect to see more privacy changes in the future, so it’s important to stay grounded in the email metrics that are truly meaningful for your business. Our Customer Success team and our Help Desk are always great resources for our customers.



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