September 14, 2021

iOS 15 – What it means for advertisers

Last month, Apple caused a stir among advertisers when they announced a host of upcoming iOS 15 privacy updates to give consumers more control of their data. Similar to Google’s announcement that they’ll be eliminating tracking cookies in 2022, this follows a rising trend in big tech of stepping up privacy protections for users.

Launching in mid-September, the new software aims to further conceal email users’ data from tracking tools and email marketers. The planned changes will force marketers to develop alternative solutions to attract new customers and engage with existing ones. 

Here’s a quick summary of the most significant updates in iOS 15:

iOS 15 New Privacy Features

  • Mail Privacy Protection (free) – Apple Mail will allow users to opt-in to mail privacy features that mask IP addresses and block third parties from tracking email opens or other IP data. Apple hasn’t explicitly said whether Mail Privacy Protection will be an opt-in or automatic feature, some iOS beta testers have shared screenshots showing the Mail app prompts them to turn Mail Privacy Protection on when they enter the app.
  • iCloud+ (subscription) An iCloud+ subscription will now come with additional privacy features including a VPN-like Private Relay feature, which prevents sites from tracking Safari users who opt-in.
  • Hide My Email (within iCloud+) – An email address-cloaking feature that will enable users to give sites a “fake” email address. While promotional emails sent from brands to the fake address will still go to someone’s inbox and shouldn’t impact important communication, brands will not be able to see the person’s actual address unless the contact shares it.

It’s worth noting that while Mail Privacy Protection is free, Private Relay and Hide My Email require users to buy a service. The subscription cost will likely deter some people from using these features. Before marketers hit the panic button, there are a few other important things to keep in mind.

The Change Will Not Impact All ESPs

Although Apple Mail and Apple mobile devices make up over 35% of the email provider market share globally, Google, Outlook and other email providers have not announced similar privacy moves. 

The open and IP data from these email providers will still offer solid tracking information for advertisers.

Open-Rate Goals May Need to be Adjusted

Although open rates aren’t going away any time soon, a large chunk of email audiences might become untrackable. Because of this, new low, average, and high open rates will likely need to be determined and potentially lowered or adjusted.

Over the next few weeks, the Schaefer team will be auditing iOS users’ opens and clicks to help us estimate how they could change after the rollout. We also plan to track email open rates after the rollout to see what new averages look like based on hard data.

Email Marketing Data Can Still be Leveraged

While open rate is a key email marketing metric, it’s certainly not the only data we use to determine if an email campaign is successful. Open rate is just one of many metrics we look at. A few others that we will continue to focus on, even if open rates are impacted:

  • Clicks and click through rates
  • Website traffic from email
  • Click maps 
  • Unsubscribe & bounce rates

On top of leveraging KPIs that are less impacted by Apple’s change, we will also continue to use email benchmarks to see how email rates compare to that of other brands in similar industries.

There’s Still a Lot We Don’t Know

There’s not an official date for when iOS 15 will launch, but we can expect it to release a few days after the September Keynote Event, scheduled for September 14th (past iOS release dates have been between September 16 – 19).

Although some new features have been announced, there’s still a lot we don’t know about how the new OS will impact email and IP address tracking.

Over the next few months, our team will continue following updates from Apple and considering solutions if there will be a major open rate impact. 

Schaefer’s Take

While we know this change will impact how we report on email campaigns, we believe this will be a positive change for user experience. At the end of the day, we think buyers should be in charge of what data they share, not sellers. 

Today’s consumers want BOTH privacy AND personalization. They still want content that is targeted and messaging that aligns with their interests. Advertisers will now have to get even better at building real relationships and earn the right to learn who their audience is and what they’re interested in.

As always, our team is committed to taking the time to consider what is best for our clients and their customers. Our priority will be to support our clients by continuing to create highly meaningful email campaigns that drive interest and engagement. 

We’ll continue to update our clients as we learn more about these new features and their impact on campaign reporting.