iOS 15 Email Marketing: Adapting to Increased Privacy

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The upcoming iOS15 update will create some changes in how email marketers use opens to track success and retarget their audiences — but as we all know, adapting to change is part of operating in the digital landscape. Here is what you can do to prepare for the impacts of iOS15 on email marketing before it launches on September 20.

How will iOS 15 impact email marketing?

The tl;dr: after the iOS15 and macOS Monterey update, users who opt into privacy masking through Apple Mail will appear as “opened” regardless of what the user does and some users will be able to mask their email addresses. 

From what we know ìof the changes so far, the biggest impacts will be on open rate statistics and the ability to A/B test subject lines and preheader text.

Email Opens + User IPs

Apple’s statement on the changes 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.”

Basically, this means that email marketers will not be able to connect online activity across the web to an email subscriber using their IP address, it will also mask information such as the user’s location. Additionally, all emails to Apple Mail users who opt into the privacy settings will appear as opened in your email marketing platform. 

According to the email marketing experts at Litmus, more than 90% of Apple’s Mail app users are expected to opt in to Mail Privacy Protection, despite it only being available in newer devices and operating systems (iOS15 and macOS Monterey). 

Masked Emails

Users that pay for Apple’s iCloud service will have additional privacy options including the ability to give websites a “fake” email address and have the emails forwarded to their real one. Basically, the user will still get your emails but you won’t have their real email address in your database. 

Iphone screen showing a pop-up that prompts users to "Hide my Email"
Image courtesy of Apple

What can I do to prepare before the iOS15 changes?

While open rate is a great statistic for assessing subject lines, luckily click-through rate still reigns supreme among email data. The new operating systems will be available to the public on Monday, September 20, so you still have some time to prepare your account. 

1. Benchmark Data Now

Audit your email account to get an understanding of your average open rates currently, and dive into the data to gather trends from your high and low performers. Some things to keep an eye out for:

  • Day of the week with best and worst open rates
  • Time of day with best and worst open rates
  • Trends in subject line copy (action-oriented words, emojis, merge tags)
  • Preview test copy

After the changes go live this fall, you can reaudit your account once you’ve sent enough emails to get an idea of new trends—if you see a noticeable change, you can adjust your benchmarks. Likely, your average open rate will increase and you’ll need to set news goals around email opens.   

2. A/B Test

Now is a great time to start A/B testing copy for subject lines and preheader text as often as you can. Knowing that subject line A/B tests will be less effective in the future, you can use the remaining time to get a sense of what content is resonating with your audience.  If you’ve never tried emojis in your subject line, now is your moment. 

3. Use your UTMs 

Remember that part about pixels and masked IP addresses? UTM tags don’t rely on either. Instead, the UTM tags are snippets of code added to a URL to let you track where a user followed a link to your site. If you’re running multiple campaigns at once, this can be effective for assessing which clicks are driving the most traffic and revenue to your site. Most email marketing platforms will automatically add UTM tags to any links in your email, but you’ll want to make sure you have Google Analytics set up so you can understand which emails are driving clicks and revenue to your site. No matter what email client someone is using, you’ll be able to see how many clicks a UTM tagged URL brought to your site.


The Nonprofit Organization’s Guide to Email Marketing

From lead generation to email segmentation to A/B testing, this guide is a one-stop-shop for bringing your email marketing strategy to the next level.

What changes to email should I make after iOS15?

Many email marketers will resend a campaign with a new subject line to everyone who did not open the first email. Whether the person was on vacation, too busy to get to the email or your first subject line didn’t grab their attention, this is a favorite practice of email marketers to retarget their audience without burning out the people who are already engaged. 

Since you won’t be able to retarget anyone using Apple Mail with this method, you’ll have to come up with a new plan. 

1. Retarget Non-Clicks

Try sending a total B version of your email with the updated subject line, headers, and imagery to retarget users who may have missed out on or not clicked with your first email. The key here is to update both the subject line and the parts of the email the users were likely to scan if they did open it. The last thing you want is someone thinking you sent them the same email multiple times by mistake. 

2. Segment iOS users

We already recommend you segment your users for more effective targeting. Your email marketing platform may let you segment users by their email client. By segmenting Apple Mail and iPhone users into their own message, you can still effectively A/B test and retarget users in the rest of your list. 

3. A/B Test Email Content

Opens aren’t the only metric for A/B testing—testing for clicks and conversions lets your audience tell you which content inspires them the most. You can A/B test any part of your email:

  • Header copy
  • Body copy
  • Button styling (shape, copy, color)
  • Imagery
  • Layout: Try flipping sections to see what flow works best

The trend towards increased privacy is likely to stick. We already saw increased privacy for advertising on iOS devices earlier this year, and Chrome plans to deprecate third-party cookies in 2022. There’s clear user demand for increased privacy and we don’t expect it to stop any time soon. By sticking with audience-focused communication to your stakeholders, you should be able to weather anything these changes throw at you. This is just another case of our audience letting us know how they prefer to be communicated with — don’t let iOS15 slow down your email marketing strategy for good.