How Apple iOS15 Mail Privacy Protection will impact your Email Marketing & steps you can take to lessen the impact

Apple announced the release of a new privacy feature in iOS 15 and Mac OS Monterey. If your a brand that users any form of email campaign software and your stored contacts include iOS devices using Apple Mail as a default software for managing email, the bad news is that they will now have the option to enable a new feature called “Mail Privacy Protection”  which will limit the ability to accurately determine:

  • Whether or when an email has been opened
  • Where a contact is located when they open it
  • The type of device and client a contact is using when they open it

This change may affect how marketers measure the success of their email campaigns and how they engage their contacts. Rest assured that even with these changes:

  • Your email marketing campaigns will continue to be delivered to your contacts who use Apple Mail
  • Engagement within an email (click activity and click rate) will still be reported for your contacts who use Apple Mail.

In this latest “The Edit” article, we are going to answer some common questions about how these changes impact you and your brand.

So… How does open tracking work today, and how is Apple Mail Privacy Protection going to change it?

Currently, with open tracking enabled, your email campaign software places a tiny, transparent image (a single pixel that isn’t visible in the email) into each email campaign. The pixel loads each time the email is opened, which we count and report. Opens help us estimate a contact’s location and time zone, as well as determine device type and email client.

If a contact enables “Apple Mail Privacy Protection”, Apple Mail will preload pixels, even if your contact hasn’t opened the email, resulting in unreliable open marketing metrics. Your email campaign software will not be able to accurately count opens, estimate location, or determine device type or email client for these contacts.

With “Apple Mail Privacy Protection” enabled, it is more than likely that all email present in Apple Mail will be reported as “opened” regardless of the contact’s activity, resulting in inflated and thus leaden to highly inaccurate open rates from your email marketing campaigns.

Does this affect email opened in any other apps?

NO… Apple’s “Mail Privacy Protection” feature only applies to Apple Mail users for NOW, but thats not saying they could not roll this solution out to protect all mailboxes on their devices.

How does this impact my email campaign software?

We have curated a list of the possible anticipated impacts from Apple’s new Mail Privacy Protection feature on your email campaign software, we are sure this is likely to expand as we learn more about it.

  • Campaign reports might show distorted numbers for opens, a lower “Clicks per unique open” rate, and potentially inaccurate geolocation and email client reporting for any contacts who use Apple Mail and enable the Mail Privacy Protection feature.
  • Because the IP addresses will be obscured for contacts who opt into Mail Privacy Protection, you may notice fewer contacts in segments targeted to a location.
  • Resend to non-openers will not be delivered to contacts that opt-in to Apple Mail’s Privacy Protection feature.
  • The results of A/B tests that are based on open rates may not be accurate.
  • Any Customer Journeys or Classic Automations and automations triggered based on opens will automatically be sent to a larger audience. If the trigger is based on a “not-open”, it will be sent to a smaller audience. Consider expanding your trigger criteria to include other engagement criteria like clicks or purchases. We suggest pausing your active automations triggered based off of opens to preserve historic metrics.
  • Contact ratings of Apple Mail users will be higher than expected based on inflated open rates.

Although reported opens by Apple Mail users may inflate your overall open rates, you’ll still be able to see other data from your email campaigns. Clicks and purchases are stronger signs of engagement than opens, and we don’t expect these to be impacted by Apple Mail Privacy Protection.

How can you prepare for this update?

  • Be proactive and understand the size of the impact. To get an idea of the potential impact to your open rates, you can check how many contacts in your audience use Apple Mail. The greater the percentage of your audience that uses Apple Mail, the more likely you’ll see inflated open rates as a result of the new Mail Privacy Protection feature.
  • Change how you measure success in your email campaigns. If you’re not already doing so, we recommend you focus on clicks as part of your email strategy. Also monitor your bounces, unsubscribes, and conversions. If your account is connected to an e-commerce store, you should also consider purchase data as a metric.
  • Monitor your reach. Both contact ratings and email marketing engagement rely on opens, which may yield misleading results.
  • Collect location info directly from your contacts. To populate your Audience Fields with city or ZIP/Postal code data, consider using your email campaign software to develop a survey or form to ask contacts where they are located. To maximise your reach, you can create segments that combine audience fields with your contacts’ self-reported location information.
  • Review your segments. If you’ve defined segments based on opens, contact rating, email client, location, or email marketing engagement, consider whether other operators or parameters are more appropriate.
  • Update your active Customer Journeys or Classic Automations. If your trigger is based on opens, consider revising it to include stronger engagement criteria like clicks or purchases. If you want to preserve your historical data about your existing journey or automation, consider pausing it and creating a new one instead.
  • Use different criteria when you resend a campaign. Because all emails to Apple Mail users may look as though they’ve been opened, resending to “did not open” may not reach as many contacts as you want. When you resend your campaign, consider sending to “did not click.”
  • Update your A/B tests. If you’re running A/B tests based on open rates, your results might not be accurate. Consider using click rates instead.
  • Use a different method to identify a contact’s email client. Although data about your contacts’ email client may be misleading when based solely on opens, data based on clicks is more accurate.
  • Check your webhooks. If you use our Marketing or Transactional APIs, you’ll see inflated open rates in your webhooks, so consider whether to make any adjustments to how those are set up.

Can I estimate location and determine device type of clients who opt into Apple Mail’s Privacy Protection?

The location and device can’t be determined based solely on opens for contacts who opt in to Mail Privacy Protection; however, we use other information such as sign up forms and click data to help you identify where your contacts are located.

How can I measure engagement without relying exclusively on opens?

We recommend expanding your measurement using other winning metrics such as clicks and double opt-in signup forms.

With Apple creating issues for tracking with iOS 14.5 with Facebook Pixel and now iOS 15 now giving inaccurate data on email, you would be hard pushed not to think that Apple were up to no good for the almighty cause of them creating a new revenue stream by Apple owned data and the possibility of an Apple Search Engine and Marketing platform.

Author: Graham Paffett

A seasoned luxury goods & services digital marketer with over 20 years Exp. A specialist in developing "disruptive" digital campaigns and strategies for FMCG brands both within the UK and International. • Paid Social (inc. Facebook/Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn & Pinterest) • SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) • PPC (Pay Per Click) • CRO (Conversion Rate Optimisation) • ASO (App Store Optimisation) • Direct To Consumer & B2B Digital Strategy Specialist • Social Media Marketer