What does Apple’s iOS 15 Update mean for Email Marketing?

When Apple announced the new iOS 15 update, the collective shock from digital marketers and brands alike could be felt across the country. Blocking email open rates? Surely not. While I understand the genuine concern for privacy and data issues, I did not see this coming. Is this the end of email marketing? 

What is changing in the new update? 

Included in the update is a new privacy setting called Mail Privacy Protection. It is an opt-in feature in the Apple Mail app that works to mask IP addresses and block third parties from tracking email open rates or other IP data. The update will give users greater control over their email privacy. 

Here’s what we know

Ok, before we all completely freak out, let’s cut the melodrama and discuss this in perspective. Here’s what we know:

The iOS update is only available for iPhones, iPads and iPod touches. Android and desktop computers, including Macs, do not use iOS. 

As of November 2021, just over 56% of mobile operating systems in Australia were iOS, and 28% worldwide

60% of email opens are from mobile devices. However, this number does not take into account which app they open them from. Remember, a lot of people use their email provider’s app on their phone! 

It’s not all bad news. By just looking at this data, around 33% of Australians will open their emails on an iOS device. And think, from this percentage not everyone will opt-in to the new privacy settings. We can work with this. You can breathe. 

How Email Marketing Works

Traditionally, email marketing works by placing an invisible image, called a pixel, in the email. When an email is opened, the pixel loads and is counted and documented. Opens not only tell us how many people open your campaign, but also help us estimate a contact’s location, the time zone in which they are in and the type of device they are using. If a contact enables Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection, Apple Mail will preload pixels, even if the email hasn’t been opened, suggesting 100% open rates for their users, giving us unreliable open metrics. Annoying? Yes. The end of the world? No. Here’s why. 

Time to Innovate

While this change will have an immediate impact on how businesses measure their email marketing, it may actually prove to be beneficial in the long run. Not being able to track accurate open rates just means we have to change how we devise strategies and learn to understand our customers better. 

This is a positive development for the customer experience. Sure customers want privacy, but they also want personalisation. All businesses could be better at building client relationships, no matter how good they may think they are. Now is the time to build on the data you have on hand and work towards understanding what is relevant to your customers. 

Your most successful campaigns may not even try to sell anything. Customers love informative and entertaining content, and appreciate not having products pushed at them 24/7. Get creative and find ways to sell your brand in a way that your customers respond to. In order to do this, you must know who your customers are. They will tell you what you want to know when they believe in your brand. This means establishing trust, and with trust comes conversions. 

Click Through Rate is the new Open Rate 

Sure, opens fuel automations. But, if we are being completely honest with ourselves, we know deep down that the open rate (for the most part) doesn’t mean a whole lot (digital marketers don’t come at me). From a true strategic standpoint, clicks and associated behaviour on the website are a far better representation of our customers’ intent than opens. 

Really, what does someone opening my email tell me? Ok, they were interested enough to open the message, but then what? 

We hit our KPIs when our customers click or convert. You don’t make money from opens, you make money from clicks and conversions. Take a close look at how you design your email newsletters and direct emails. Are they optimised to encourage clicks? 

The trick here will be finding the balance between providing value within the email itself and encouraging people to click back to your website. In this regard, Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection will actually be a good thing. It is going to force publishers to make changes to their email marketing that will actually enhance the customer experience. 

Like the great Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it”. Progress is inevitable. Right now we are staring at the fork in the road for email marketing and it’s time to take it. No good marketer turns their back on change. Adapt and surge on. 

Need help with your Email Marketing?

Here at Adventure Digital, we specialise in email marketing. Let us help you create purposeful email campaigns that your customers will engage with. We create powerful automations that let you send the right message to the right people, which is extremely effective for lead nurturing, and ultimately drives sales. 

If you need help improving your email marketing game, get in touch with us today. 


Leanne O'Sullivan

Digital Sherpa & CEO
I help businesses grow through strategic digital marketing.​ I am the founder, CEO and Digital Sherpa of Adventure Digital – a marketing agency based in regional NSW, servicing clients all over the Australian eastern seaboard. I’ve made it my life’s mission to help you grow a sustainable, enjoyable and profitable business.

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