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iOS 15: The Future of Email Marketing

Category: UX & DESIGN
September 1st 2021
12:54:29 pm

Email marketers, you’re on notice: Much like caused quite a stir in the advertising world, the upcoming iOS 15 update is already making waves in email marketing circles.

In early June, and all of the features that would come along with the new version of the operating system.

A considerable amount of the update is focused on privacy and user security. Where email marketers are concerned, the most relevant of the new features include “Mail Privacy Protection” and “Hide My Email” features, as these will both impact in profound ways.

The Mail Privacy Protection feature is a formidable hurdle for email marketers as this will enable Apple users to load remote content without disclosing their IP addresses. The outcome is that senders will be unable to track opens and forwards, nor will they be able to ascertain the user’s geographic location.

As far as the Hide My Email feature is concerned, this also poses major problems for email marketers as iOS 15 will enable users to give out Apple-generated, randomized email addresses, as opposed to their personal email contact info. Apple will then forward communications from the randomized email address to the user’s actual email account.

Users can easily delete the Apple-generated email to prevent it from proliferating across the web.

As of now, iOS 15 is currently in beta and will remain that way until September. The official rollout of the update is scheduled to be released this fall, with an anticipated drop time of mid-September.

Given how big of a deal this update is for email marketers, it is prudent for those engaged in the discipline to prepare themselves now, as the impact is likely to be substantial.

That said, let’s take a look at the possible ramifications of iOS 15, as well as what email marketers can do to prepare for this eventuality.

What iOS 15 Means for Email Marketers

Facts: much like the iOS 14.5 update before it, Apple’s iOS 15 has many implications that marketers must consider, including:

Mobile Highly Impacted

For several years, the majority of email opens have taken place on mobile devices, as shows.

As far as the current year is concerned, this trend remains steady. As highlights, in 2021, mobile devices accounted for 43 percent of all email opens. For context, the next closest contender was webmail at just over 36 percent.

Furthermore, Apple makes up a massive portion of mobile email opens. As the aforementioned Litmus data reveals, Apple iPhones account for a staggering 90 percent of mobile email opens.

Second place went to Google Android with a meager 3.5 percent.

As far as third place is concerned, this too is occupied by Apple, with iPads accounting for a (declining) 3.2 percent.

Ultimately, this means that over 93 percent of mobile email opens are poised to be impacted by Apple’s iOS 15 update.

This does not bode well for the metric as a whole, which leads us to our next point.

Open Rates Will Become a Depreciated Metric

Taking the data from the last section into account, this will impact not only the amount, but the quality of open rate data that merchants collect.

As a result, this means that as a defining campaign metric will become depreciated. Moreover, should privacy trends such as these continue (which all signs point to them doing so), then it is conceivable that one day in the near future, open rates will be dead altogether.

However, this is not wholly unexpected. As Visiture’s Head of Email Marketing, Amy Slater, points out:

“Let’s face it: mobile behavior has been shifting the way we measure email for some time. Casual browsing with low intent-to-purchase (in bed, at the grocery store, waiting for friends at dinner) has already downgraded the importance of the once-mighty Open Rate. iOS 15 is just making it official.”

Ultimately, this means that retailers will have to find workarounds for measuring campaign effectiveness (more on that momentarily).

Apple Will Mask IP Addresses

Again, the Mail Privacy Protection feature in Apple’s iOS 15 update will enable users to hide their IP address from senders, thereby impeding marketers’ ability to not only track opens, but determine the physical location of recipients as well.

In effect, this means that IP-based geo-segmentation strategies will be massively hindered (if not rendered completely useless) as many consumers are likely not to show their true IP address.

This deals a massive blow to for any of a seller’s audience who use Apple devices.

However, as unfortunate as it is, this is not the only email optimization practice that will be negatively impacted by the iOS 15 update.

Send Time Optimization Will Be Affected

Similar to personalizing (and thereby optimizing) email campaigns for user location, send time optimization will also become increasingly difficult as this practice usually takes opens into account to determine when is the best time to send email communications to subscribers.

Subject Line and From-Name Testing Will Be Impaired

Just as with location and send time optimization, those whom such as subject lines and from-names will quickly find that the data is greatly diminished. Moreover, the data that does come in is likely to be flawed and unreliable.

Given that all of these points of campaign optimization rely on open rates data, it is imperative that email marketers understand that alternative optimization methods will need to be found in order to continue using email as a viable strategy for engagement, loyalty and growth.

That said, let’s take a look at how merchants should prepare themselves for the era of iOS 15.

How Retailers Should Prepare for iOS 15

While there has been a lot of bad news up to this point, here is some good news:

There is still time before iOS 15 goes live.

Merchants and marketers still have time to prepare for the changes that are set to take place and implement strategies that can help navigate the forthcoming paradigm.

That said, some of the tasks that sellers will want to carry out include:

Launch Any Open Data-Dependent Tests Immediately

Given that a variety of optimization efforts are poised to be negatively impacted by Apple’s iOS 15 update, it is necessary for retailers to immediately prioritize testing that will give brands insights into optimization efforts that will be affected by the new iOS features.

Therefore, retailers should begin A/B testing and creating benchmarks for email elements such as:

  • Subject lines
  • Pre-headers
  • From-names
  • Send times
  • Day-of-the-week

In addition to measuring the open rates of these campaign components, retailers are also advised to begin transitioning to measuring the effectiveness of each element based on the number of clicks they drive.

Revisit and Rebuild All Engagement Segments

As a result of the features continued in Apple’s iOS 15 update, a merchant’s engagement segments can no longer be built or rely upon open rate data.

Therefore, retailers must expand their criteria to include alternative metrics such as click engagement, on-site activity and purchase behaviors.

Of course, after Apple’s update, the number of consumers who meet these criteria is almost certainly going to be smaller. However, this is a good substitute for continuing to possess highly targeted engagement segments.

The bottom line here is that, since sellers can no longer rely on data related to open rates, it is vital to tap into other and use those to drive segmentation and optimization efforts.

Communicate with Tech Partners on the Impact of iOS 15

One of the key features that retailers should look for when selecting or (ESP) is an AI-driven engine that collects and analyzes data to aid in campaign optimization.

However, many of the AI features contained within various ESP offerings depend on open rate data to produce actionable outputs. Some email service providers even factor open rates into conversion tracking, thereby posing massive problems for email marketers in terms of accurate data and reporting.

Therefore, it is critical that retailers take the time to have conversations with their email service provider to understand how Apple’s iOS 15 update will impact their platform.

Moreover, it is vital to understand what these companies are doing to mitigate the potential impact and ensure accuracy in data and reporting efforts.

At the same time, it is imperative that sellers look beyond just their ESP and have similar talks with any other applicable technology partners (such as loyalty platforms, SMS services, acquisition, reporting, etc.) to understand the scope of the situation and make the necessary arrangements.

Develop Benchmark Reporting

It was mentioned earlier that email marketers should absolutely prioritize testing that will give them insights into optimization efforts that will be negatively impacted by the new iOS features.

Part of the reason for this is so that sellers can collect proprietary data and use that information for benchmark reporting.

For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, benchmark reporting (sometimes referred to simply as “”) is the practice of comparing a company’s data with aggregated industry data from other brands to determine how well (or not) a business is performing in the context of the broader industry.

Therefore, it is vital for marketers to become intimately familiar with key industry metrics such as click rates, revenue per delivery, unsubscribe rates and the like.

As Visiture’s Head of Email Marketing, Amy Slater put it:

“The iOS 15 announcement has understandably caused some alarm in the Email space, but those marketers who already stay close to and react off their data will be in a good place to pivot. Know your numbers inside and out; there will be a lot of “gut-checks” in the first few months as we navigate the changes.” 

Run a Re-engagement Campaign to Eliminate Inactive Subscribers

Before Apple’s iOS 15 update goes into effect, it is wise for retailers to run a re-engagement campaign to help identify contacts who should be removed from the brand’s email list as a means of keeping engagement segments clean.

Moreover, gives sellers the opportunity not just to cleanse their email list but improve their lead quality and sender reputation as well.

After iOS 15 is implemented, retailers will want to utilize other engagement metrics to prune their email list.

Invest in SMS Marketing

Given that Apple’s latest update is likely to have a profound impact on email marketing, particularly in the mobile arena, it is wise for retailers to consider alternatives like SMS and push notifications as a means of expanding their reach and staying connected with mobile customers.

In fact, this can be an extremely fruitful transition for sellers given that shows that SMS conversion rates increased by a stunning 102 percent in that period.

The fact is that in the privacy-focused era that is being ushered in, building company-to-customer relationships on permission-based channels like email and SMS will be crucial to future-proofing a brand’s marketing efforts from the drastic changes imposed by big tech organizations.

Final Thoughts

As with the iOS 14.5 announcement, the impending changes to Apple’s operating system have created quite a bit of uncertainty among marketers.

However, this does not mean that email will not survive. Email marketing has proven time and again its ability to change and adapt while still driving substantial results for retailers.

While open rates are going to suffer and potentially become something of an afterthought in time, there are a variety of other metrics that can point to the effectiveness of various campaign elements, thereby allowing retailers to continue optimizing email efforts for peak performance.

That said, there are likely to be some challenging times ahead for email marketers while they gain their footing in this new landscape.

If your company would like help reorienting its efforts in light of the iOS 15 update, reach out to.

Our team of skilled eCommerce retention marketing experts can help your company to alter its approach to email optimization, engage in SMS marketing, connect with customers via social media messaging apps and put together a comprehensive strategy for mitigating the felt impact of Apple’s latest alterations.