Apple is Cracking Down on Data Privacy: iOS 15 Email Marketing Summary
iOS 15 Email Marketing Summary
As email marketers, we recently watched our Performance Marketing counterparts prepare and adjust for when Apple deployed their iOS 14 update, which allowed users to opt-out of being tracked. Navigating this was challenging, no doubt. And now it’s time to prepare for iOS 15 where Apple is cracking down on data privacy, and email marketing could be greatly affected. Part of the privacy update includes allowing people to hide their real email address, as well as disable some of the tracking common to email marketing. We’ll be looking into this and more in my iOS 15 email marketing summary below.
Get Ready. Apple is cracking down on data privacy.
Just like paid media marketers with iOS 14, it’s the email marketers turn to feel the burn of Apple’s quest for privacy-led dominance. Apple has been pressing the privacy message more and more heavily since 2014, and things are really coming to a head now.
Launch is estimated for Fall 2021, and it will apply to all iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey devices. Many of the cool new iOS 15 releases have a privacy component involved.
Apple says it believes privacy is a fundamental right, and since stepping in the role of CEO of Apple in 2011, Tim Cook has continued to emphasize privacy as a priority for Apple. It seems privacy has become a core brand identifier and competitive differentiator against other tech giants like Android and Windows.
Privacy protection is a good thing, but with it we also have to balance the need for data – our users expect it. If we lose the ability to understand our users well, we can’t deliver them the right content at the right time. That’s one big reality.
Email as we currently know it
So how are email processed now? Nearly all marketing emails contain hidden pixel sized images that know when you’ve opened an email. Most general email users are unaware that these hidden trackers exist, but in fact, these images collect information about you, including your IP address and where you are.
The email open information from the tracker is then leveraged, mostly by marketers, to better optimize email campaigns and other marketing initiatives based on the engagement data received from the emails. Some browser extensions actually already block these invisible trackers, but with Apple’s participation in making this activity more difficult to track in the Mail App.
The key iOS 15 email privacy updates (and how it affects email marketers.)
· Mail tracking pixels removed
– The Apple Mail app will start running images through proxy servers to remove tiny image-based tracking pixels that report when and where messages were opened. This will make it impossible for email marketers to track opens, as shown above.
· Private Relay to remove location data
– This service will hide users IP addresses, which usually infers a location. It’s not a VPN, but traffic will run through Apple servers and a third party server to remove identifying information. Traffic leaving a user’s device will be encrypted so that third parties can’t see what users are searching for (and that supposedly includes Apple too). Some email marketers have used this data to track important metrics like keyword search volume, and demographics of their mailing lists.
· Hide My Email Feature
– iCloud subscribers can create and use temporary, anonymous email addresses – sometimes called burner addresses – inside the Mail app. This random email address can forward emails to your personal inbox, and can be given out in place of your real one. This means that websites can contact you without receiving your real email address. This is a huge blow to any business relying on email marketing, as now casual site goers can input a fake “burner” email address, get their welcome coupon, and delete themselves from the list by deactivating the burner email.
· Privacy Dashboard feature
– The new privacy dashboard will show users which apps are collecting their data and when. It’s a continuation of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature from iOS 14. Users will be able to overview which apps have been given permission to access data, what data they’re using, and see how often it’s accessed. Okay, this one we have no beef with!
So what does it mean for email marketers?
Over 45% of Apple users use the Mail app. The loss of open rates, behavior, and location data will drive significant changes to how email marketers are able to effectively engage and interact with a sizable portion of their lists.
It’s going to have big impacts for:
- Real-time personalization
- Split testing your campaigns
- Targeting re-engagement campaigns
- Respecting privacy by identifying and deleting unengaged contacts
- Triggering sequential emails in an automated nurture flow
- Optimizing send time to maximize open rates
- Optimizing deliverability by removing unengaged contacts
Let’s get prepared for Fall. Start here.
1. Understand your Apple Mail Segment
How much of your audience actually uses Apple Mail to read your emails? And can you capture data now for which client segments use the Apple Mail app most? If it’s low, fingers crossed, then the update might actually have little impact on your program. In which case, you’ll still have enough data from other mail apps to provide statistically accurate data for running your campaigns.
2. Know your benchmarks
Compare delivery to open and click rates, as well as variations by location, as these may become more assumption-based in future. This works more precisely when you can segment by goal and audience.
3. If you’re not testing, you better start
If you don’t already have a solid handle on what engages your email list and drives desired actions best, test as many creative and messaging variations as possible to solidify what your audience wants. Break it down to audience-segment level so you’ve got data to guide future campaign design in place of recent openers.
4. Improve deliverability
Deliverability is affected by your email open rates. If you have low open rates, your emails could be classed as SPAM and blocked. Take the opportunity to clean up your lists, lead quality, and sender reputation now. It’s just good practice anyway! What could you do to keep tabs on this in future without access to full open rates? Always make sure you have a focus on content quality & quality data. Data integrity and fixing common data weaknesses is really key here.
5. Avoid major pivots
Just like for paid media, the worst thing you can do right now is completely shift your email marketing strategy. Stay calm and carry on, while incorporating some of these investigative steps. There is still time to adapt. Keep assessing work-arounds and alternative data quality strategies. For example, collecting higher quality client information in forms or via a preference center, improved database design and more regular data auditing.
While changes in email marketing strategy over the next few months are inevitable – there may be a silver lining to this iOS 15 thing.
In nearly every event that has forced our industry to challenge our current “best practices” – we have almost always increased the quality of our marketing strategies rather than the inverse. iOS 15 will be no different.
Sure, open rates have played a critical role in analyzing engagement, segmentation, deliverability, and so-forth, but I would argue that we may actually be too reliant on a metric that hasn’t necessarily proven to be a direct correlation in driving desired conversion actions. We may need to start challenging ourselves to look at metrics that drive more activity down the funnel, and perhaps iOS 15 will force our hand in this much needed shift.
Final thoughts on iOS 15 Email Marketing:
Focus on higher impact activities: Though the audience will be smaller – email marketers will be challenged to consider how to drive more bottom of the funnel activities focusing on elements like CTAs, landing pages, automations, and messaging to earn clicks and analyze engagement. Button CTA’s will give you stronger signals and segmentation than open rates historically have.
Refresh what engagement means for your brand:Rather than relying on open rates to determine email engagement – it’s time to restructure what engagement KPI’s actually drive success. Metrics like shopping frequency, value data, LTV and more will soon be a key part of defining success in your campaigns.
Meet people where they are:Other forms of communication are working as wonderful compliments to Email – SMS and Push Notifications. By building on your communication tactics, you can use SMS, Push, and other great integrations like ManyChat to meet your customers where they are – and gather some key insights that will be pivotal in personalizing the customer journey.
Apple’s planned email privacy updates are going to challenge our email strategy. And yes, this may hinder the ability to respect customer privacy and experience if we can’t see whether they’re engaged or not. However, if you prioritize the steps above to mitigate the potential impacts now, hopefully you won’t suffer too much impact as a result. Take that, Apple!