Apple’s privacy updates shipping with iOS 15 could mean the end of “opens” as a viable email marketing engagement metric. But as anyone who has been paying attention to the email marketing space knows, opens may already be one of the most unreliable engagement metrics. This update from Apple will force many email marketers to rethink the way they measure success — and that’s a good thing.
Changes to Mail in iOS 15
iOS 15 will include what Apple is calling Mail Privacy Protection, which will nullify email tracking pixels. This means email service providers (ESPs) will no longer be able to accurately track email opens. They also won’t be able to track geographic information, which is typically based on the IP address of the user that opened the email.
Worst case? Every email sent to an Apple Mail inbox could be reported as opened.
What This Means for Open Rates
Open rate is the number one email metric used by email marketers to define success. Open rates often drive powerful drip campaigns and are the backbone of list hygiene. Geographic information from IP addresses drives dynamic content widgets in more advanced campaigns. On the surface, with Apple Mail making up almost 50% of email client market share, this sounds like a huge loss.
Open Rates Were Already Suspect
However, open rates have been unreliable for a long time. Gmail has been caching email tracking pixels since at least 2013 as a way to speed up the email viewing experience for the end user. Gmail’s caching practice can take the form of tracking pixels being downloaded at point of delivery, even if the recipient never opens the email. Similar issues exist with geographical tracking based on IP address. If your ESP offers a map of recipients that have opened your email, all recipients using Gmail have been known to be grouped in Mountain View, California.
As of this writing, Gmail makes up almost 30% of email client market share. That means up to 30% of your audience’s open data could be inaccurate today.
There’s Still a Lot to Learn
Until iOS 15 rolls out, we won’t truly know the impact these changes will have on the way we measure engagement with email. It appears users will have the option to opt-in to Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection until users begin updating to iOS 15, we just don’t know how many people will adopt these changes. Keep in mind that changes come quickly, and it’s possible Apple will choose to automatically opt-in users to this service in the future.
Embrace Change: Double Down on More Tangible Metrics
To get ahead of the changes coming with the iOS 15 release, marketers can begin to shift the way they define a successful campaign. Focusing more on click rate will paint a better picture of your most engaged audience members. Personalizing content to individual recipients will drive email engagement higher. Even better, coupling your email campaigns with a platform like TUNE can give you engagement metrics beyond email, all the way to the point of conversion.
Privacy protection is a good thing for all of us. As marketers, it’s up to us to stay ahead of market trends and be the smartest marketers we can be. Start crafting a plan to modify your marketing strategy now to ensure your audience will receive the most relevant information from your brand.
Cale is a Senior Product Manager for TUNE and is focused on creating the best experience possible for TUNE users. Prior to TUNE, Cale worked in the email marketing space for 8 years, building tools to help marketers better connect with their audience. Cale has a background in design earning a BFA from the University of Tennessee.