iOS 15 was announced at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference on June 7th during the keynote as the upcoming software iteration for iPhones. It’s expected to release around September 2021.

The update includes improvements to FaceTime, a new feature called Shareplay, a productivity-booster called Focus, and many other noteworthy changes. 

Within the remainder of that list is an alteration that will have a big impact on email marketing: Mail Privacy Protection.

Let’s take a look. 

Mail Privacy Protection

Here’s how Apple’s online newsroom explains Mail Privacy Protection…

“Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from learning whether an email has been opened, and hides IP addresses so senders can’t learn a user’s location or use it to build a profile on them.”

Unfortunately, this means exactly what it sounds like it means: for iOS users who opt-in to this program, email marketers will no longer be able to track open rate or create segments (i.e. personalize emails) based on engagement and location. 

This has deeper implications, of course — it means that email marketers will have a harder time reliably scrubbing their list of disinterested subscribers, it means creating sequences to re-engage dormant subscribers will be a moot tactic, and it means that serving each subscriber the amount and type of content that they prefer (determined by engagement metrics like open rate) will no longer be possible. 

This isn’t just bad for the marketer — it’s bad for the user. 

Imagine that you’re a fan of YETI — the eCommerce brand selling outdoor gear — and so naturally, you want to receive emails based on your interests and open frequency… emails geared specifically toward you.

But that’ll no longer be possible. The YETI email team won’t have access to your engagement data (data, we might mention, that is remarkably un-personal by nature) because of the iOS 15 update and so they can’t craft emails specific to your engagement level, interests or demographic. Now your experience with YETI is sub-par… and it’s all thanks to Apple.

Perhaps this wouldn’t be so problematic if Apple didn’t have such a large share of the market and if people didn’t use their phones so often to check email. 

But it does. And they do. 

81% of people, in a 2017 survey by Adobe, said they regularly use their phone to check their email. And unsurprisingly, Apple retains the largest portion of the smartphone market — a whopping 47%.

If there’s good news, it’s that Mail Privacy Protection is not enabled by default. Users must opt-in. Still, email marketers should expect to see a drop in open rate and a decrease in the reliability of certain tried-and-true email marketing tactics once this update is released.

What’s the Solution? 

What you’ll need to do is look at other metrics and data points (ie click rates, conversions, revenue, etc) and approaches to measure success.

Open Rates have also always been unreliable in their accuracy. (Check out this post I wrote “Open Rate Obsession”)

Also, start testing your engagement rates as soon as possible and keep track of information like: 

  • Average Open Rate
  • Deliverability Rate
  • Best Time to Send
  • Best Performing Subject Lines & Preheaders
    • Ideal “From” Address

Tracking that information now will help you measure how big of an impact iOS 15 has on your email marketing efforts. It’ll also give you valuable insight into how to keep your subscribers engaged once it becomes more difficult to track engagement. 

Ultimately, do the best you can with what you have. 

I think these iOS updates are a mistake on the part of Apple — they don’t only hurt email marketers, they hurt the end user’s experience — but data privacy is the way the market is moving.