How iOS 15 Will Impact Your Email Marketing and How To Prepare Your Business for the New Normal

client experience communication data analytics email marketing entrepreneurship marketing strategy Sep 08, 2021
How iOS 15 Will Impact Your Email Marketing and How To Prepare Your Business for the New Normal


Today we're going to be talking about the iOS 15 update, what it means for email marketing, and what it means for us as online business owners.

If you haven't heard about the iOS 15 update, this is what's coming:

Apple users, sometime around September-November this year, will be able to hide their IP addresses, and they will be able to privately load their emails. This means that emails are now going to be routed through a proxy, pre-loaded by Apple, and then fed into the Mail app.

What this means for you and me: we're losing access to some of the main data points that we currently rely on to measure and make decisions about the effectiveness of our email marketing campaigns and our email outreach.

Who is impacted: 

  • This only applies to Apple Mail app users, which means that even if they're on, say, Gmail or Outlook, and they're using the Apple Mail app, it's still going to apply to them.
  • Their device has to be on the iOS 15 update, so if your audience's devices are not updated yet, that's not going to apply.
  • But, from what we've seen, approximately half of all email users are probably going to be affected, which is significant enough for us to pay attention.

Here are the projected impacts: 

  1. Right now, we have stats and accurate data around when a user has opened your emails. When iOS 15 rolls out, we will not be able to accurately know when the user has opened their emails because all emails are going to be opened by the proxy first, before being fed into the main inbox off your user's devices.

    List health, segmentation, and automated triggers will all be affected since they rely on open rate engagement. 

  2. It will also show an IP address in a broader region or the same state, or a different state, but within the same country, so location data will also be inaccurate. If you're using Klaviyo segmentations that rely upon open data, open rate data, or location-based geo data, they may no longer work anymore, especially if a significant portion of your users are on the Apple Mail app.

  3. It's very difficult to determine what mail application your users are on. The reason for that is the segmentation criteria that you have on any of these email software programs are limited by user behavior and/or email address domain. So you can segment by, but you may not be able to segment by the app itself. So you won't be able to identify all Apple Mail users.

  4. If we look at the metrics that rely upon opens (and any campaigns, flows, and automations that rely upon opens), for instance, re-engagement campaigns, automated nurture flows that are based on opens, send-time optimization, real-time personalization, subject line testing to maximize open rates, etc. are not going to be applicable anymore.

    We'll see a shift towards using clicks and inbox placement as a key focus for email performance, and measurement. This is going to be very similar to what marketers are already facing with SMS: they are only able to track clicks and conversions. With email, it's going to be very similar in the near future.

  5. Location-based strategies are now going to be a thing of the past. Location-based emails will not work anymore with iOS, iPad iOS, and Apple Mail, and this is the same for Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Outlook already, so it's going to be across the board pretty much irrelevant.

  6. Now that we have the proxy in place, we will not be able to get reliable data and metrics around whether the user is on a desktop or on mobile. The percentage of desktop versus mobile users is going to be completely wiped off the table. What that means for us, is that now you need to have emails that are designed, both for mobile and desktop, concurrently.

  7. Hide My Email, allows users to create “burner” email accounts to sign up for email offers. This address operates as a burner account, with Apple forwarding the email to the user, leaving them to delete the temporary address to prevent it from being spread online. The flip side of this is digital marketers will be at a loss to tell whether an email sign-up is legitimate, or merely a burner account.

    I am also projecting that these burner email accounts may result in Apple mail users receiving duplicate emails if they've previously opted in to your list with their actual email address and/or if they use more than one burner account when signing up for your opt-ins. 

  8. “Live” experiences (ex: countdown timers, store locators, etc.) that are delivered based on collecting subscriber data for open times will be far less effective.

  9. Purchase attribution will also become more difficult. If the adoption rate of Hide My Email is high and engagement is tracked with a fake email address, but a customer purchases with their real email address, it will be difficult to tie attribution between the records.

  10. The new ability for users to load remote content privately without disclosing their IP, while also introducing a pixel-blocker, means that ESPs like Mailchimp, who use an invisible one-pixel image to track unique and gross open rates, can no longer do so, and in turn can no longer track the effectiveness of subscriber engagement.

So, this is quite a bit of news!

And, before I start diving into the things you can do to prepare for this update, I just want to say that these changes do NOT mean that email marketing is "dead." It means the landscape has changed and we will need to start thinking outside the box in terms of measuring performance and automation design moving forward. So, don't panic!

Here are my recommendations for how you should prepare for iOS 15: 

  1. Take a look at the potential of this impact on your business. You may not have a ton of Apple Mail users reading your email. You can check out a tool called Litmus to get an approximate gauge of the impact this will have on your email marketing by looking at the segment of Apple Mail users on your list.

  2. Scrub your list. Since your list hygiene can be contingent on open rates, make sure you scrub your list based on other engagement metrics. Consider deliverability-based pruning practices, and use other baseline metrics to determine whether or not a subscriber should stay on your list.

  3. The next thing that we have to do right now in the short term is fix up your segmentations. Make sure that you figure out all your segments and cohorts that rely upon your open rates and open rate data to, at least for the time being, create audiences and groups of people that you can still market to in the near future, and even past the iOS 15 update.

    Start testing out what it means for you to be building segments that rely on clicks and delivery over just open rates alone.

  4. Due to the new features introduced with Hide My Email, it is important that you monitor your email deliverability, and ensure you have an ESP that can remove bounces.

  5. Click-through and conversion rates will matter more than ever, and make sure you adjust email testing, segmentation, and triggers, so they don’t rely on open rates.

    The email marketing metrics you should pay close attention to, moving forward, are:
    👉 Emails Delivered (this is the new benchmark replacing emails opened)
    👉 Return on Investment (ROI)
    👉 Conversion rate
    👉 Click Through Rate (CTR)
    👉 Unsubscribes
    👉 Unopens
  6. Connect your marketing activities to your business outcomes. Redefine success by giving more weight to business outcomes rather than digital engagements. Start by reviewing & enhancing reports and analytics efforts to ensure they're focused on navigating the consumer journey ahead – not what is already behind the consumer.

  7. Prioritize collecting first-party data. Just as in the instance of losing third-party cookies, first-party data will be more important. Use landing pages, website forms, and poll your subscribers to obtain more information on them that you would have otherwise relied on open and location metrics.

    You can also invest in experience platforms that deliver consumer value and create consumable, actionable first-party data. For example, great options include loyalty programs, interactive digital experiences (quizzes, surveys, trivia, etc.).

  8.  Embrace an omnichannel approach. Customers interact with your brand across all your channels – your experience, planning, and delivery should be planned to deliver across all your channels too – not just email.

    Also, leverage your remaining customer channels for testing. Instagram is one of my favorite places to test new subject lines and topics because I can get a good data set in just a few hours. 

  9. Start testing creatives, angles, and ideas to find what's most impactful for your audience. And start documenting them! I see a lot of brands doing  A/B testing with no real documentation. So, you're just testing different subject lines to maximize opens for a certain campaign, but you're not taking away insights from it. I definitely recommend going back into your past campaigns and all the tests that you've done and look at what has worked and what hasn't worked: 

    Long Subject Lines vs Short Subject Lines,
    Emojis vs No Emojis, etc.

    and start compiling your personal playbook for email marketing.

    Because every brand is going to be slightly different from the audience demographic that you're working with, you definitely need to understand what works best for your brand.

While this is a lot of information to process, please remember that iOS 15 is not the end of email. Email marketing is here to stay. It's up to us, as business owners, to make the necessary adjustments now, so that our businesses can thrive in Q4, and beyond. 

Let’s fast-track your results, shall we?

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