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iOS 15 Update – Email Open Rates are now Irrelevant

 In Email Marketing, Email Marketing News

This fall, Apple’s iOS 15 update introduced a range of new privacy features. Two of these directly impact marketers, and email marketers in particular. They are:

Mail Privacy Protection — Provides anonymity to email recipients on iOS devices by preventing accurate tracking.
Hide My Email — Lets iOS users receive emails without sharing their real email address with senders.

These updates are causing major changes in the way we interpret reports and determine audience.

The main change that concerns email marketers is Mail Protection Privacy’s anti-tracking feature. With this, they are no longer able to accurately track open data for emails opened through Apple’s native email software (on iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey). This feature basically results in skewed, unreliable email-open reports.

In addition, if you’re using IP to segment subscribers based on location, these IPs are longer be trackable (on iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey), so you’ll now have a smaller segment to target.

How does this work & when did it happen?

The release came out at the end of September, and as soon as devices updated, users were prompted with options for their “Mail Privacy Protection.”
Seeing that during the prior iOS update, 94% of users chose to opt out of allowing app tracking, it is likely that most users will also opt to turn on Mail Privacy Protection.

According to Apple:
“If you choose to turn it on, Mail Privacy Protection helps protect your privacy by preventing email senders, including Apple, from learning information about your mail activity. When you receive an email in the Mail app, rather than downloading remote content when you open an email, Mail Privacy Protection downloads remote content in the background by default – regardless of how you do or don’t engage with the email. Apple does not learn any information about the content.”

How will this affect my open rates?

So far, all Apple has said about this feature is, “In the Mail app, Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.”

From beta tests, it seems that Mail Privacy Protection protects Apple Mail users by “opening” their mail for them, regardless of what the users end up doing with those emails. To the email marketers and senders, it will appear that 100% of these Apple recipients have opened the emails. Obviously, your open rates will appear to go up, but the bad news is this data will be completely unreliable.

While open rates still exist (for non-Apple recipients, at least), marketers may have to look at clicks, purchase information, account log-ins and replies to piece together an accurate view of customer engagement. All of this data can provide clues to how emails are performing, help you devise a strategy to maximize return and identify recipients who want to continue hearing from your brand.

What should I do?

At this time, we don’t know how this will really affect reporting in the long run. However, we have a few recommendations on how to make sure the change doesn’t have a major impact on your strategy.

Start monitoring the percentage of opens coming from Apple, then start making open rates less of a factor in your overall strategy. You’ll want to review other reports like clicks, purchases and web behavior.

Clicks and conversions are now more important than ever. Many email marketers might send emails containing no links. These marketers should start including links and other ways to determine interaction.

If you’re segmenting audiences or triggering automations based on opens, you may also want to change your focus to clicks or web interactions so you have a more reliable indicator.

Another recommendation is to focus on consent. Have opt-ins in place and provide a preference center for subscribers to choose what kind of content they want to receive.

Keep in mind that this change doesn’t affect your entire list, but does affect the part of it that opens with Apple, so you’ll want to factor it into your future strategy. OpenMoves will continue to monitor and assess these updates and provide as much information as possible along with strategies to keep your reporting accurate.

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