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How will email tracking be affected by the iOS 15 update?

Updated: Jun 14, 2021

Apple's iOS 15 update will give users the option to prevent senders from gathering certain data about the recipient like if they have opened emails etc.

When a user updates to iOS 15 they will get a pop-up screen that invites them to opt into the Mail Privacy Protection.

With this, we can assume that most people will opt into not being tracked...

So the recipient doesn't want to feel like they are being watched, which is quite understandable, while a marketer would and SHOULD have the argument that tracking can lead to better and more relevant content for the reader as you can get stats on what kind of content engages the most, or segment further communication based on what people show interest in.

Are you being watched, or getting relevant content?

Marketers use some basic metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of their content. Open rate and click rate are some of them.

Open rate: The percentage of people that opened the email.

Open rate will give an indication of if the subject line was attractive for the reader (since they decided to open the email to read more) and if the content, as presented by the subject line, was considered relevant.

Click rate: The percentage of people that clicked in the email.

Click rate gives a better indication if the content was engaging, as it means that the person actually read and engaged with the content.

(There are a few nuances, but we will not go into the various details here, if you are interested in the topic, feel free to contact us for a chat.)

The general advertising industry has become very dependent on tracking to optimize its advertising and the right people with relevant content.

If you see it from a place that tracking can give more relevant ads and content to the recipients, I think tracking is great (to a certain point of course). But unfortunately, there are too many marketers and businesses out there that are just not that good at targeting the right recipients with the right content - and this is what becomes spam!

What will the new privacy changes do with the Apple Mail app with iOS 15?

A couple of things that affect email tracking and the quality of your email list will happen:

  • Tracking pixels and remote mages (that sometimes also include tracking) will be opened by default. This means that opening stats will be completely off and opening times inaccurate

  • IP addresses will be blocked

  • You will not know if someone is reading on mobile or desktop

  • With iCloud Plus (small charge), a sender can decide to send from a fake email address which also means that they can generate one to use to sign up for newsletters and some services. (Note that a reply to this email will still go to the user's inbox.)

Note that the update affects Apple Mail app and not other email apps even if they are on an Apple phone.

How does the iOS 15 privacy changes change the scene of email marketing?

First, know that there are actually quite a few things already in play that affect what happens with your email on the recipient side even before the reader sees it.

Here are a few to mention:

  • Your email might be flagged as spam by the provider even before it reaches the inbox and there are MANY reasons for this including pictures, alt text, links "flagged" keywords, and much more.

  • Google filters emails into folders, and many emails end up in other folders than the inbox

  • Mails are already automatically loaded/opened by some of the email providers to pre-check for spam content and bad/spammy links. This directly affects open and click rates.

But with the new changes and especially open rates being deemed fairly useless after the iOS 15 update, these are examples of processes that would be affected:

  • Re-targeting and other campaigns that would base their data or trigger on open rates

  • Optimal send times will not be accurate at the email is opened long before the reader might see it

  • Countdown timers in emails would be started long before the email is actually opened and might even have run out by the time the reader sees it.

  • List hygiene and keeping unengaged contacts off the email list would be challenging as it would look like unengaged contacts have opened emails

“ Without open rate data, keeping spam traps off your list will become very difficult. If senders email a large number of spam traps or a spam trap that belongs to a serious blocklist, it can cause messages to go to the spam folder or be rejected completely.

This change puts creators at an unfair disadvantage to get their work in front of their biggest fans. Inbox providers like Apple ask that senders keep their list clean and engaged, but then take away the metrics senders need to actually do that.

If creators rely on click tracking—the only remaining method of determining engagement—to clean their lists they’ll remove a lot of engaged subscribers who simply consume the emails without clicking through to the web.

Creators will have to choose between taking extreme list cleaning measures where healthy, engaged subscribers get removed because they aren’t clicking emails, or they won’t do any list cleaning which will likely lead to spam filtering for both engaged and unengaged subscribers. ”

Nathan Barry (Credit: Ibid)

There is no doubt that traditional tracking will be heavily affected by the iOS 15 changes, but there are ways to still measure the effectiveness of marketing including:

  • Views on web content

  • Growth of your mailing list

  • Growth of revenue

Unfortunately, the changes will not affect the number of spam-senders in itself as these senders probably did not rely that much on tracking anyway, at least if they did, they did not do it well.

But for the senders that actually is attempting to supply valuable content, they will have to just rely on slightly more triangular stats like the ones mentioned above

Pine3 Marketing is Email Deliverability Certified

Food for thought...

Is Apple doing these privacy changes for the user only?

(From the article How Mail Protection Privacy will force the email economy to adapt by Casey Newton)

"I (...have to point...) out the ways in which Apple itself benefits from cracking down on email data collection. The first one is obvious: it further burnishes the company’s privacy credentials, part of an ongoing and incredibly successful public-relations campaign to build user trust during a time of collapsing faith in institutions.

One of my more cynical friends views all this as a way to funnel more businesses to building apps, offering in-app purchases, and promoting them with Apple’s advertising products. Marketing emails not working as well as they used to? Sounds like it’s time to buy some keywords in the App Store!

It seems clear that the value to Apple goes far beyond customer satisfaction — and as its revenues from ads and in-app purchases grow, we’d do well to keep an eye on how its policies are gradually reshaping the economy."

(Casey Newton - The Verge)

Casey reflects more on the various opinions on this here:



  • iOS 15 - Email Privacy by SRH Design (11th June 2021)


Thank you!

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