iOS 15 privacy features: How they’ll affect your email marketing

Email Privacy and iOS 15

iOS 15 is finally here, and for Apple users worldwide it brings a slew of new and exciting features to their devices. This includes new message functions, sharing options, and greater functionality for iPad users, to name just a few. And, as with all of Apple’s yearly software updates comes a range of tightened consumer privacy protections. Whilst this is a win for consumers—and all of us more broadly—it adds a layer of complexity to some of our traditional marketing tools. Namely, email marketing. Let’s take a deep dive into the why, and also look at how we can navigate these new challenges to still deliver high quality content that’s not only engaging but relevant to our audiences.

Some email marketing fundamentals:

When running email marketing campaigns, there are several metrics we use to evaluate performance. Broadly speaking, these include open rate and click through rate. Open rate, as the name suggests, refers to the rate at which your audience opens an email you’ve sent. Traditionally, an email will include a small invisible image or pixel embedded in the email code. When an email is opened, this pixel loads in the background. This process then gets recorded, allowing businesses to track whether an email has been opened or not. On the other hand, click through rate refers to the rate at which people click links embedded in your email. This could include a “purchase now” button or a “learn more” call to action. The higher the open rate, and the more clicks you’re getting through to your site or landing page, the better. It means your content is resonating and people are eager to engage with your brand!

The numbers: 

  1. Emails are opened more on mobile than any other platform at 39%
  2. 9% of emails are opened on an iPhone
  3. 2% of emails are opened with Gmail, and 11.5% with Apple Mail
  4. Only 4% of iOS users have opted in to data tracking since upgrading to last year’s iOS 14

So how does iOS 15 impact email marketing?

iOS 15 arrives with several new privacy features: Mail Privacy Protection, iCloud+, and Hide My Email. These impact email marketing campaigns and analysis in a number of ways. Let’s look at these in more detail to see how.

Techadvisor hide my email Apple iOS 15 features

  • Mail Privacy Protection
    • Mail Privacy Protection works within the Apple Mail app and routes and preloads all emails through a proxy server before they land in a user’s inbox. This means, all tracking pixels used to evaluate open rates are preloaded, rendering them useless in any analysis. It also masks a user’s IP address, which prevents any location data or browsing history being linked to a user.
  • iCloud+
    • With the subscription-based iCloud+ service, Safari users have access to VPN-level privacy protection. The opt-in service uses what’s called a Private Relay, preventing any tracking of user information. It also allows users to see which websites they’re sharing their data with.
  • Hide My Email
    • This feature gives subscribers the ability to hide their true email address behind a “fake” alias. Whilst this doesn’t directly impact a brand’s ability to communicate with their audience, they don’t have direct access to a consumer’s email, unless it is shared.

As the market changes, we must too

So why is this important? More or less, iOS 15’s privacy features may impede a range of analysis methods like A/B testing and make producing targeted or personalised content for your audience far more difficult to achieve. Additionally, if your email campaigns rely on open rate as a trigger for your automated flows, things might get messy, quickly.

To counter this, as marketers we’re going to have to rely on other tools and methods of analysis. This includes what we talked about earlier—click through rate. Analysing which emails drive the most clicks through to the desired landing page will highlight which content is performing best. Alternatively, looking at which emails are delivering negative results, like a high unsubscribe rate, could also provide guidance in content production and more.

There will also be a shift to greater reliance on consumer feedback. This could include the use of focus groups or surveys to evaluate how your audience is engaging with your content and their views on potential content avenues. Utilising your existing digital infrastructure like live chat offers a way to engage with your audience as well.

Apply iOS 15 updates and their effect on the industry

The industry is moving in one direction

However, it’s important to note that the majority of iOS 15’s privacy features are only available within the Apple Mail app. If your audience uses the Gmail app, for example, open rates and privacy considerations will remain unaffected. But it’s not guaranteed to stay that way. In regards to privacy, and consumer protections, the market is only trending one way—greater privacy.

Whilst Apple may be a leader in this space, other platforms and technology companies are planning their own privacy upgrades and changes. Google for instance, the company behind the market-leading Android platform, has recently updated their own privacy features. With the release of Android 12, users can opt out of ad tracking through the hiding of their personal ad ID. In place of a unique string of numbers, trackers and platforms like Facebook will only receive a string of zeros. Whilst the features aren’t as wide-reaching as Apple, and it’s opt out as opposed to Apple’s opt in, it’s a start for the platform, who itself relies on advertising and personalised data as a money maker.

It is therefore important we all stay abreast of these issues, and consider new and innovative ways to ensure we’re reaching our audiences in a way that’s relevant and effective. 

If you’re curious how these changes may affect your business, or need help with email marketing and brand communication more broadly, feel free to reach out to us at Elevate.


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