Apple’s iOS 15 Mail Privacy Protection and what you can do now!

What is Apple Mail Privacy Protection?

This month, Apple announced ‘Mail Privacy Protection’, a new security feature for Apple Mail that is expected to roll out with iOS 15 & macOS Monterey in late September 2021. 

Apple explains that “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” (Apple Press Release, July 7 2021). Thus, this feature allows recipients to opt-in to prevent senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about recipients.

How does Apple Mail Privacy Protection work?

All emails will initially be routed to a proxy server to pre-load content, regardless of whether the recipient actually opens the email. Thus, this is expected to inflate open rates because those using Apple Mail who are opted-in to Mail Privacy Protection will show as a unique open, even if they haven’t actually opened your email. As a result, the reliability of any activity dependent on email opens or open rates will be impacted. This may include but is not limited to A/B tests results, automations, journeys, and basic segmentation. Additionally, personalisation based on real-time engagement and location will also be impacted.

Apple iOS 15 Mail Privacy Protection
Apple iOS15 Mail Privacy Protection opt-in.

How will Apple Mail Privacy Protection impact my subscribers?

It’s important to note that the news about Mail Privacy Protection is still fresh, and only those with access to the iOS 15 Beta can currently use Mail Privacy Protection. According to research from Litmus, Apple has consistently dominated Desktop & Mobile opens, with Gmail leading Webmail opens. Moreover, while not every Apple Mail user is expected to opt-in to Mail Privacy Protection, we can expect a majority of users to opt-in as 96% of Apple users decided to leave App tracking disabled in the iOS 14.5 update.

What can I do about Apple Mail Privacy Protection?

To prepare your business, start planning now for iOS 15’s release in September. Segment and clean your subscriber lists, and identify any impact to your activities, strategy or reporting.

Define new northstar metrics to replace open rates and track value over time rather than one off engagements. Flip the funnel, instead of pushing leads top-down, focus on nurturing retention. Activities like website visitation and CTA clicks are more valuable and reliable indicators than inbox behaviour. Leverage Interaction Studio, Google Analytics, and the GA360 integration to drive relevant, personalised journeys that nurture your subscribers. Defining the goal (conversion metric) for each campaign will become imperative to your strategy.

Lastly, take a stoic’s perspective, ‘The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.’

If you are unsure what this change means for your business or require support in preparing for iOS 15, please reach out to your Datarati Account Manager or contact us here

We have summarised some key action points below:

  • Start a plan now and prepare to collaborate with the right stakeholders and departments
  • Clean your subscriber lists & data
  • Review ESP Reports to understand, benchmark, and plan for the impact (review domain breakdown)
  • Review existing activities (emails, journeys, automations) to identify those impacted that relied on Open, Open Time, or Location
  • Stay attentive to any increases to your unsubscribe rate and/or spam complaints
  • Understand northstar metrics to replace Opens, like Clicks, tracking & attributing these activities to Conversion and Customer Lifetime Value
  • Use Control Groups to highlight the impact of your activities
  • Ask customers to update their preferences on your preference and/or profile centre
  • Leverage Interaction Studio, Google Analytics, and the GA360 integration to increase relevance and personalisation of your communications and activities

Isn't this big news for Email Marketers?

Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection has piqued the interest of email marketers internationally. We applaud Apple’s leadership in protecting user privacy, as your average subscriber is now more than ever, aware of and demanding control over their own personal data. However, arguments are being made that the impact of this feature in the senders ability to understand user engagement metrics like opens, will likely result in deliverability issues for senders and an increase in unwanted emails for disengaged subscribers. 

An important consideration is the impact to personalisation, as research has consistently shown that users are more likely to share information to enable personalised experiences, and more likely to engage with, or purchase from, brands that provide such personalised experiences. So it will be increasingly important to consider how you can continue to personalise for your various customer segments, across the various touchpoints in your customer lifecycle. This includes considering the data, integrations, and channels required to enable deeper personalisation, that will likely be of more value to your customer than simple reengagement campaigns based on opens.

Worried Email Marketer reading about iOS 15 Mail Privacy Protection
Assumed initial reactions to Apple's iOS 15 Mail Privacy Protection


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