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iOS 15 Email Marketing Strategy

October 19, 2021

Apple is renowned for introducing system changes that force marketers to rethink their advertising and marketing tactics. And with changes in their latest operating system, iOS 15, email marketing strategy will forever change due to Apple’s 50% market share of email opens compared to other platforms. 

iOS 15 Privacy Related Features

Apple announced a number of new iOS 15 privacy-related improvements around email tracking during their Worldwide Developers Conference in June. With a 47% share of all smartphone users, understandably, the changes are noteworthy for all email marketers. The new features will begin to reach the market en masse in Q4 of 2021 and include the following.

Mail Privacy Protection:

A free change that allows users to opt in to mail privacy features that mask IP addresses and block third parties from tracking email opens or other IP data. This feature is expected to lower the accuracy of open rates, which can inflate open rate data and make the metric less reliable. 


A new iCloud subscription level, iCloud+, will provide additional privacy features, including Private Relay. This VPN-like feature stops websites from monitoring Safari users who opt-in and lets users know which websites they’re sending data to. Private Relay will make IP address-based email strategies, for example, time zone sends, less reliable.

Hide My Email

Hide My Email is also an iCloud+ paid feature that enables users to give sites a “fake” email address. Promotional emails will still go to the user’s inbox, but brands will not see the person’s actual address unless the contact shares it. Hide My Email may start to create additional growth in hard bounces.

iOS 15 Email Marketing Impact

What is Mail Privacy Protections’ Impact on Email Marketing?

Mail Privacy Protection prevents senders from seeing if and when a recipient opens an email in Apple Mail. It also hides a recipient’s IP address, so senders can’t determine their location. This change can impact open rate data, which will create a ripple effect for email marketing strategies that depend on this action in property records, list inputs and workflows. Because IP addresses typically have an associated geographic location, email sends by time zone may not be as accurate.

Open Rates Will be Inflated 

Open rates may rise significantly with no change in actual engagement. Email open rate metrics in HubSpot and other email service platforms will be markedly inflated for future sends, and any other processes that rely on open rate tracking will likely be impacted. 

Recommendation: Open rate will still be a metric to review; however, don’t make any significant decisions based on this data due to its reliability. Instead, shift your focus to more engagement metrics (clicks within the email, for example). The volume of data from engagement metrics will be lower than opens. However, it will show how users are actually engaging with your content in the email rather than indicating how many simply opened and viewed an email.

Unreliable IP Addresses

Real-time email tactics that rely on IP-based locations will be less effective. One specific area we’ll see impacted by this change is time zone sends that use IP addresses to identify the location and align send times to each recipient’s unique location. 

Recommendation: Continue with your current spend time strategy as we can’t get around Apple Mail privacy features.

How Does Hide My Email  Impact Email Marketing?

Hide My Email lets users share unique, pass-thru email addresses that forward to their actual personal inbox anytime they wish to keep their personal email address private. This functionality allows contacts submitting forms to choose to stay anonymous. Additionally, email contact level data may not be as clean as it has been in the past. Lastly, bounce rates will likely increase as the pass-thru emails are deleted and no longer used.

Rethinking List Hygiene

In the past, email engagement often placed heavy reliance on opens. The rationale was that if they opened the email, they were still interested in receiving messages from the brand. 

Recommendation: Engagement metrics like clicks will be a better measure of which users are engaged, and this will be important to consider when performing list re-engagement activities. If you have any workflows or lists set up based on open rates, audit them and make decisions as an organization for how you want to shift your list or workflow approach for each audience.

Increased Relevance of Personalized Content

This type of privacy-related update further validates the opportunity for increased personalization by allowing users more control over their content and email preferences.

Recommendation: Emerging tactics like Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is an innovative way to engage audiences and reveal insights about what matters to them.

iOS 15 Marketing Strategy Tips

Subscriber Form Audit

Review your forms (e.g., newsletter signup forms) and ensure subscribers clearly know what they’re signing up for, give proper consent, and confirm with a double opt-in.

List Hygiene Sooner Than Later

Consider a list clean-up if you haven’t done so recently. Follow the best practices for email list hygiene while you still have the data. Then set up a regular clean-up regiment to be done at least semi-annually.

Reimagine Email Marketing KPIs

Use other campaign performance metrics outside of open rate. For example, click behavior in email and website engagement such as visits and conversions.

Adjust Email Marketing List and Workflow Automations

Adjust your automations so your lists and workflows don’t depend on open rates and move towards clicks instead.

Develop Content By List Segments

Focus on engaging content by segmenting your lists to ensure the audiences are getting relevant messages and content.

Create a Subscriber Preference Strategy

If you’re not doing it already, create a subscriber preference strategy and aim to get preferences from users when they sign up (and consider launching an A/B testing approach to monitor conversion rate impact). Knowing how they want to be communicated with and what their expectations are from you as a brand can improve overall email engagement.

Apple’s iOS 15 update is another step towards protecting consumer privacy that is impacting digital marketers, and it won’t be the last. The update also has a silver lining – adapting to the change faster will give a competitive advantage while also providing a better user experience. Ultimately, learning from KPIs and continuously creating excellent content will help build lasting relationships with your customers.

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