iOS 15 Rolled Out: New Privacy Features, Marketing Impact and Solutions

27 September 2021

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Denis is the founder of Viden/@Viden, a data-driven strategic digital consultancy, and one of the industry experts with over 10 years of experience in digital marketing, digital strategy, and science data.
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Building upon the success of the changes brought by its predecessors, on September 20 iOS 15 has finally become available along with its newest features, promising to deliver even more privacy and protection to its users. From the privacy dashboard to the cutdown on email tracking, the new update brings major changes to data transparency, customer acquisition strategies, and the user’s understanding and control of their data.

So, what does it mean for marketers and business owners, and how can we adapt to the ongoing changes? Let’s dive in.

Mail Privacy Protection

According to Apple, Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) is an opt-in feature that hides the user’s IP address, making it impossible for senders to link it to their online activity or determine their location, preventing senders from seeing if and when the user opens their email.

MPP only affects emails opened from the Apple Mail app, no matter which email service is used (e.g. Gmail), however, other email apps used on Apple devices will be unaffected.

(source: Litmus)

Due to the caching process that requires Apple to request data from the email service provider (ESP), including the open tracking pixel, and makes the ESP think the email has been opened, the open rates for Apple Mail are expected to be over-inflated. Based on the only 15% of Apple users allowing tracking worldwide, it’s fair to assume that most of the consumers will opt out of email tracking as well.

(source: Flurry)

So, what does it mean for email marketing? Given that Apple Mail is one of the most popular email clients, accounting for approximately 52 percent of all email opens in 2021, the introduction of MPP is going to have a severe impact on most email marketing strategies:

  • Audience segmentation and targeting based on the last open date are becoming near useless.
  • Automated flows and journeys that rely on someone opening an email need to get re-engineered.
  • A/B testing subject lines (or anything else) using opens to determine the winner or to automatically send out the winner don’t work as well anymore.
  • Send time optimization is now inaccurate if your email tool hasn’t reworked their algorithm to exclude opens.
  • Countdown timers will show outdated times as the cached version was pulled at sent time, not opened time.
  • Other content powered by opens such as local weather or nearest store locations also isn’t accurate.
  • Some interactive emails that reference external CSS don’t work.

Essentially, it means moving away from the reliance on the open rate as the main performance metric and its usage in audiences and automated algorithms, focusing on other metrics instead such as:

  • Link clicks and click-through rate (CTR);
  • List growth rate;
  • Conversions and conversion rate;
  • ROI.

What can you do today?

  1. Follow best practices for writing your email’s subject lines and pre-headers;
  2. Improve the CTR of your emails – don’t include your most valuable content into the email, but hook the reader with a teaser, so that they’d click the link and skip to your website to read on;
  3. Take advantage of interactive email features like polls and surveys.

Hide My Email

The setting allows users to hide their real email address when signing up for apps or filling out web forms by generating a random email address that forwards to their personal inbox.

(source: Apple)

While the feature makes it impossible to track the user across different platforms, brands can still reach and entice customers who sign up for offers and promotions with the right message.

This ultimately means that businesses and marketers have to focus on personalizing emails and SMS messages they send to their customers, as well as increasing the value of their offer.
To get people to share their personal information, the key is to convince them that what they’re getting in return is worth it. By studying their customer base, purchase intent, and preferences and using sign-up discount offers or sweepstakes, brands can build meaningful one-to-one connections with their customers.

iCloud Private Relay

iCloud Private Relay is a VPN-like feature, built into Safari, that encrypts the user’s internet traffic, assigning them an anonymous IP, which actively prevents third parties from accessing the user’s location and browsing activity.

(source: Apple Insider)

With Apple blocking all third-party cookies in the Safari browser, and Google planning a similar update in 2023, the new direction means moving away from third-party cookies and finding another tracking alternative, be it the usage of trust tokens, local storage, or any other technology that allows saving data on a user’s device from browsers (the way that cookies do it).

Despite the success of Apple’s previous updates, with only ~5% of the US and ~13% worldwide users agreeing to share their data, it’s hard to say if the new features will have the same effect. The major factor that contributed to the popularity of App Tracking Transparency was its effortlessness – the user only had to click a button to opt out of tracking.

With Hide My Email, users will have to remember the randomized email address while using non-Apple devices. Meanwhile, the Private Relay is a paid feature that costs extra, being a part of iCloud+, and is unlikely to be adopted at a large scale.

Conclusion

With the roll-out of new privacy features and the rising awareness among people about the use and safety of their data, we can only expect more privacy changes to come from Apple as well as other tech companies. Both businesses and marketers will have to adjust to the changes, reassessing and focusing on their goals when it comes to email marketing.

These changes along with the rising costs of user acquisition, make it even more important to develop a holistic approach to customer acquisition, with email marketing being just a part of a wider strategy.

Facing these changes, we are set on respecting the users’ privacy while still enabling our clients to deliver their message across all digital channels.

If you want to know more or have questions about your business case – feel free to reach out or book a strategic consultancy now.

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