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Apple: How Does iOS 15 Impact Email Marketing?

Apple: How Does iOS 15 Impact Email Marketing?

Apple recently deployed the latest version of the iPhone operating system: iOS 15. It offers serval new features, including three that everyone’s talking about and that are causing concern among marketing professionals: Mail Privacy Protection, Hide my Email and iCloud Private Relay.

They all aim to reinforce the protection of personal data and privacy.

This article will take a look at these new features and how they impact email marketing. We’ll end with a few ideas to move forward and adapt your marketing strategy to these new challenges.

The 3 iOS 15 Features that Reinforce the Protection of Personal Data

Here are Apple’s three main iOS 15 features to reinforce users’ privacy:

Mail Privacy Protection

Senders (i.e. businesses, you) can no longer know if emails sent to iOS 15 users have been opened or not. This is the end of email open tracking for Apple customers. It is now impossible to know when and on what device the emails were opened. The location is also hidden.

In other words, all sent emails appear as opened in your emailing software. The open rate of Apple emails is now 100%, so it is impossible to calculate the real open rate of your email campaigns.

It should also be noted that this doesn’t only apply to emails sent by iCloud, but all emails received by Apple email readers.

Hide my Mail

iOS 15 users can sign up to services with randomly created email addresses to keep their personal address private. Apple tells users that the “Hide my Email” feature “instantly generates unique email addresses that automatically forward to your personal inbox. You no longer have to give out your real email address when you fill out a form on the Internet or sign up to a newsletter”.

This feature further complicates tracking Apple users…

iCloud Private Relay

Things always come in threes, as they say. Apple has also integrated “iCloud Private Relay” in iOS 15. This feature enables users to connect to any network and surf with Safari in a more secure and private way. As Apple says, this new feature ensures that “traffic leaving your device is encrypted and uses two separate internet relays. As such, no single entity can combine IP address, location and browsing activity into detailed profile information.”

This feature enables Apple product users to remain anonymous when they’re surfing the internet (as long as they’re using Safari).

The Impact of iOS 15 on Email Marketing

Each of these three features significantly impacts email marketing. Let’s take a closer look.

The Impact of “Mail Privacy Protection” on Marketing

As mentioned briefly earlier, this feature prevents calculating a reliable open rate. IOS 15 seriously compromises this well-known marketing indicator. All emails sent to iOS15 users now appear as “open”.

It’s easy to see how Mail Privacy Protection completely distorts the open rate when you take into account that more than 90% of emails on mobile phones are opened on iPhone, and more than 60% of emails on all devices are opened on Apple iPhone or Apple Mail.Yet the open rate is a key indicator in marketing (or should we say, “until now”…). There are several use cases, in particular:

  • This is one of the main performance indicators. It allows to measure the effectiveness of a campaign, its relevance and the interest it has aroused among recipients.
  • It is also a “trigger” used in Marketing Automation to automatically trigger actions and send messages. Automated scenarios using the open rate as a trigger are directly impacted by iOS 15.
  • The open rate is an important variable to measure the engagement of recipients. This engagement measure is used as a variable to set the level of marketing pressure, for example.

Note & Warning: With “Mail Privacy Protection”, 100% of emails sent to iOS 15 users appear as open. This could lead you to believe that all your users are engaging and to apply too much marketing pressure, which could lead them to unsubscribe or move your emails to spam, which damages the sender IP address’ reputation. Which is why we recommend gradually stopping the use of this indicator (open rate).

The Impact of “Hide my Mail” on Marketing

The quality of your contact base is at stake here. An iOS 15 user can now use a “fake” email address to sign up for a service or newsletter. For Apple users, registration emails are no longer reliable IDs.

Databases are therefore now made up in part of email addresses “created for the occasion” and which are not the personal addresses of the subscribers.

The Impact of “iCloud Private Relay” on Marketing

With iCloud Private Relay, it is no longer possible to track the location of iOS 15 users. This feature impacts marketeers who leverage user location data.

This feature also prevents tracking the location of your email recipients.

How Can You Manage the Consequences of iOS 15 on Email Marketing?

We’ll end with a few ideas on how you can update your email marketing strategy (and, more broadly, your marketing strategy) and therefore manage the consequences of these new iOS 15 features. We recommend you start thinking about this now because these features may apply to all customer emails within the next few years. After all, privacy and the protection of data are likely to be strengthened over the coming years.

We’ve divided up our tips and good practices into two categories:

  • Quick actions to implement to adapt to iOS 15 in the coming weeks and months.
  • Bigger transformations… or how to reinvent your marketing strategy and practices.

Quick Actions to Implement to Adapt to iOS 15

As we’ve already said, iOS 15 mainly impacts the open rate. Your open rate no longer reflects your contacts’ engagement rate. You need to find other metrics to measure customer engagement. The reactivity rate? No, because the reactivity rate measures the number of “clickers” among the “openers”. If you don’t know the open rate, you can’t measure the reactivity rate.

So, what’s the alternative? The email click rate. The click rate is a more meaningful indicator anyway. It is more difficult to convince a recipient to click on a link in an email than to open the email. Not to mention that you can open an email without reading it. The open rate is dead, long live the click rate! That’s the first point.

Second, you should no longer use the open rate as a metric for you’re A/B Tests, as a segmentation variable or as triggers in your automated scenarios. Again, you can use the click-through rate instead of the open rate.

It’s worth noting that the end of the open rate actually impacts all aspects of marketing, including digital advertising. Advertising models based on whether or not emails are opened are no longer precise. It’s also going to be more difficult to adapt marketing pressure to an IP address.

In other words, gradually ending your use of the open rate should be a priority, on every level.

Long Term Transformations

In addition to these quick actions to implement now, the release of iOS 15 could be the opportunity to think about more long term issues. iOS 15 is reinventing customer marketing.

Here are a few things to think about:

Don’t Only Rely on Email

Email is still the main communication channel used by companies to communicate with their leads and customers. Which makes sense, it’s a cheap channel with a great ROI.

However, it’s time to diversify your communication channels and not only rely on email. In an omnichannel world, it no longer makes sense to focus only on email. Take mobile phones – there are other ways to reach your contacts: SMS, instant messaging (Messenger, WhatsApp), mobile apps.

Apart from mobile, new dialogue channels are appearing and becoming more popular. Take chatbots for example. They’re no longer just “gadgets” and more and more efficient to reach your audience and process requests. Not to mention social media! Maybe email is destined to become less important anyway. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Either way, it’s important to prepare for this by diversifying your communication channels.

Develop Customer Knowledge to Improve Marketing Relevance and Personalisation

The open rate has always been used to measure your customers interest in your marketing solicitations. If a customer opens an email, they’re likely to be interested. Customer email behaviour generates engagement data that is widely used in marketing for segmentation, targeting communications and managing pressure.

It’s probably going to become more and more difficult to track customer behaviour based on your messages. Which leads to another question: “How can you do marketing segmentation and targeting?”. In other words, how you offer engaging and personalised content when you don’t have any precise feedback on the level of engagement?

The quick answer is Customer Knowledge. By getting to know your customers better, their characteristics, preferences, habits, needs and expectations, you can implement an ultra-personalised and efficient form of marketing.

The release of iOS 15 could be the opportunity for your company to further develop your Customer Knowledge.


The protection of personal data and privacy is a good thing. We wouldn’t go as far as blaming Apple for rolling out these new features. The release of iOS 15 has a significant impact on marketing practices, particularly email marketing. As we’ve seen above, the open rate will soon become an obsolete metric. This is a big change when you know how important this KPI is and how it is used at all levels. But this evolution can be seen as an opportunity, a chance to review your marketing strategy in depth. There are, of course, other areas that you can work on, but we believe that the following two transformations are key:

  • The development of new channels and the enrichment of the customer experience.
  • The development of Customer Knowledge to personalise communications and offers.

Over to you!

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