Expert columnists
March 9, 2022

How the New iOS Will Transform Email Marketing. Challenges and Solutions for Businesses

In the near future, we will see the decline of many important promotion opportunities when it comes to mailings via an email channel. The reason behind this is the new iOS privacy settings. Vladislav Pokusa, Product Owner at Mindbox, shares his advice for dealing with this issue.
Vladislav Pokusa

Vladislav Pokusa,
Product Owner

When it comes to email marketing, customer engagement is primarily measured by the number of email openings and clicks. Customers who open emails and follow their links often find such mailings very useful. A tracking pixel lets you keep on top of new openings with its unique image per email system, notifying you whether emails have been opened.

The iOS 15 update will give all users the option to enable the privacy option, which means all email images will be automatically loaded once received.As a result, the email will be tracked as an opened email, regardless of whether the customer has opened it or not.

This raises the question, who will be affected by the new update and how will it be possible to measure the efficiency of mailings sent via the email channel?

Litmus's research claims that in the US market, up to 46% of email openings are carried out from devices. This means that users of Apple iPhone (iOS Mail), Apple Mail (macOS Mail), and Apple iPad (iPadOS Mail) may be affected by the new privacy settings. Litmus reports that in August, the share of openings from these devices and email clients increased from 46 to 49.8%.

In Russia, the share of such devices is significantly lower. In the first quarter of 2021, Apple’s market share in smartphone sales was only 12.9%.

In other words, the new feature won’t impact everyone, however, this news is relevant for companies whose customers use Apple products. It’s important to note that if this type of privacy settings catches on, we could see it spreading to other email clients, for example, Gmail.

Consequences and Workarounds

In the future, innovations may lead to a number of changes.

Mechanics based on transparency tracking will stop working. Examples of these methods include re-sending emails to customers who didn’t open the first mailing; reactivation of customers who have not opened emails for a long time; cascade mailings (the customer is first sent an email, and then, if they don’t open it, a paid SMS). The click to open rate indicator will lose its value.

Solution: focus on other indicators, such as conversion rate, unsubscribe rate, and clicks on an email. However, it’s unlikely that the old mechanics based on openings will be replaced.

Algorithm accuracy for determining the Best Sending Time will decrease. The time at which a customer is more likely to open an email is now calculated based on data on past openings. When the privacy function is distributed, the algorithm won’t be able to learn from data on real openings and will eventually lose accuracy.

Solution: it may be possible to use other metrics to determine the Best Sending Time. For example, all the same clicks, redirections to the website, and online orders. Combining this data with a less accurate opening indicator could be a possibility.

A/B tests for the email subject will no longer be carried out. This is simply because it will be impossible to know which email subject customers open more frequently.

Solution: carry out A/B tests on other indicators, such as clicks and conversion rate to optimize other sections of the funnel. This is not a full replacement as the email subject and preheader are the main factors that affect whether or not a customer opens an email.

It will not be possible to unsubscribe or allocate customers who do not read emails to a separate segment. Improving the domain’s reputation and database organization depends on such information. Even Gmail recommends unsubscribing customers, who don’t read emails. However, with the loss of opening data, this will become impossible.

Solution: focusing on other criteria will help you understand audience engagement. In addition to clicks in emails and actions on the website, mailing quality indicators may be important here, including the unsubscribe rate, spam complaints, and mail service failures. Modern Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) allow you to obtain this information. What’s more, data on automatic openings allows us to see whether the email address is existing and valid.

Email Countdown Timers will stop working. The countdown will be displayed at the time when the email was received and the images were cached, not at the time of opening.

Solution: instead of an Email Countdown Timer, you can use more general phrases about the approaching end of the sale or a reminder about the imminent expiration of points.

It is also worth using personalization. Addressing the user by name, personalized banners, product recommendations, individual promo codes, order data and the time of expiring points will remain available and will not be affected by the innovations in any way. These parameters are generated when sending an email and do not depend on the time of its actual opening.

Determining a recipient's location, time zone, and device by IP address will no longer be possible.

Solution: determine this data using a tracker on the website, in mobile apps, by phone number, perhaps even by zip code. Modern CDPs and other marketing automation tools allow you to do this.

Although, the problem still exists

Apple’s new privacy settings haven’t really had an effect on the global market as a whole so far due to the small share of the brand’s devices. For the time being, it’s important to just keep track of how the changes affect your metrics and the mechanics’ work in practice. However, it is worth preparing for the fact that other companies, including Google, will follow Apple’s example.

Problems with tracking openings in mailings existed before, but they didn’t reduce their effectiveness too much. For example, in Outlook, image loading is often disabled by default, and this also prevents you from tracking such openings. Sometimes a corporate anti-spam filter opens emails and automatically clicks all the links in them, which also doesn’t make the situation any clearer for marketers.

Mailing systems working with an email channel are trying to adapt and develop algorithms that will allow for non-user email openings to be excluded from the statistics. For example, they are attempting to distinguish between automatic and manual openings.

If this method is implemented, the data will be more accurate. However, there will still be no information about user email openings once the privacy function is enabled, as the automatic opening will be filtered out, and we won’t know whether customers have actually opened the emails or not.