Earlier this year, Apple announced it’s Mail Privacy Protection for their Mail app on iOS 15, iPadOS 15 and macOS Monterey devices. The latest version of the mobile operating system and its iPad equivalent iOS15.5, is currently rolling out worldwide.

According to Apple “Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. [It prevents] 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.”

So, what does this mean for email marketers? Essentially it means we are not going to see accurate open rates in our email reporting and so some email marketers are calling Apple’s iOS15 update ‘a proverbial nail in the coffin’.

However, ESPs have been presented with various challenges over the years, so instead of looking at this negatively (even though it’s clearly going to mess up ESPs open reporting and Apple are not going to roll this feature back!), in this blog we’ll discuss how we can continue to manage our email marketing efforts as effectively as possible.

So, what are the changes? Below is the screen that will be presented to all iOS 15 users when they first open the Apple Mail app:

It is safe to assume that most people will choose to select ‘Protect Mail Activity’ as why would a user not want this added protection and we therefore appreciate that open rates will be affected.

In some cases Apple is preloading images in an email, even for emails that have not been opened. This means almost all emails sent to recipients using the Mail App may have incorrect results showing false opens.

In regards to tracking clicks, it appears that Apple will not modify the querystring, nor are they changing the user agent string, so click tracking will likely not be impacted by this feature. 

If an email is opened on the Mail app on iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and MacOS Monterey devices, it will have the option to not be tracked via the user privacy selection shown in the screenshot above.

The privacy protection is only activated when the recipient has iOS 15 and also checks their mail via the native Apple Mail app. If the user is on Gmail or another mail app that is not Apple Mail, even if on iOS 15, the privacy controls will not be in effect.

Open rates are a great way to measure the success of an email, however they are not always accurate due to various factors such as auto load images for one, or forwarded emails.

So, before we panic let’s delve into the real impact of this change:

  1. Senders will need to rely on clicks and deeper behaviours to determine if a real person is engaging with the content.

  2. Subject line testing will be affected if automatic sends to the higher open winning version is enabled.

  3. Automation flows which rely on recipients solely opening campaigns will no longer work efficiently.

  4. Reports recording open rates will become inaccurate as opens without the download of images will not be recorded from Apple Mail. 

  5. The recipients IP address will be hidden so you will not be able to find out the location of this recipient.

All of this may sound a bit daunting, however to help prepare for this there are a few things which you can do:

  1. Try to find out how much of your audience actually uses Apple Mail. Use our Advanced Analytics module to find out what devices are popular with your email marketing lists and sends.

  2. Start tracking your click through reports to determine the success of the campaign. This means (if you’re not already doing so) including more tracked links in your campaigns to help build this reporting up.

  3. Drive your readers to actual conversions e.g. downloading a PDF for a meaningful performance metric.

  4. Test different content to your recipients to find out what they find most interesting, this will help with your engagement rate.

  5. Update your automation flows from open engagement to clicks to avoid any disruption.

  6. Using our Site and ROI Tracking modules to see actual visits to your website and beyond from email campaigns plus ROI too.

Remember this only effects recipients who are using Apple Mail on iOS 15. There is still going to be a vast amount of recipients using both their desktop and mobiles to check their emails, so don’t worry too much, however its best to plan early to avoid any major disruption to your engagement rates.

Get in touch at info@campaignmaster.co.uk if you need expert email marketing advice or support.