New iOS update will change email marketing rules

New iOS update will change email marketing rules

The latest Apple iOS update (#15) that rolled out in September 2021 will include new privacy options that allow users to shield their data—creating a new headache for email marketers who rely on that data to keep their advertising targeted and specific.

An estimated 30 to 50 percent of your email list uses an Apple device. For an iPhone or iPad user who opts in to the new protections, marketers will find it impossible to see:

  1. Whether someone has opened an email.
  2. What IP address they used while browsing on Safari (the most popular iPhone and iPad browser).
  3. Whether a customer has used a “disposable” email address.

Changes for the Apple user

As Apple device users are offered the iOS 15 update, the device will  ask if they want to “protect mail activity” or “don’t protect mail activity.” It’s highly likely that they will choose the greater privacy option with a simple click. Once the update is installed, the user’s experience will not change except that they’ll see an option to use a “disposable” email address when filling out forms, applications, or registrations. Responses to the disposable email addresses will be automatically forwarded to their concealed, actual email address.

How will this impact your business?

The “open rate”—the number of customers who actually click to open and at least glance at your email—will no longer be a usable metric. All emails you send will be marked “received” instead of telling you if the receiver opened the email. Open rates have long been used to test the effectiveness of memo lines and to create new email lists of potential customers who have opened previous emails. If you are using this metric now, you might see a big jump in your “open rate,” but it will actually be counting everyone who received the email.  

You won’t be able to send geographically-targeted emails by analyzing IP addresses. Safari, the browser built in to iPhones and iPads, will conceal the IP addresses of its users by automatically rerouting the server requests through a “cyber maze.”

You won’t know whether you have a potential customer’s actual email address, because of the freely available disposable email addresses. And because the system will conceal whether the mail you send is actually being read, it will be much harder to know when to purge an abandoned, temporary email address, which will then take up space on your email list forever.

Going forward

Where will information come from, if it’s not generated by browsing habits and open rates? The data you need is still out there—but more of it will have to come from the potential customer as they click through links within emails or on your company’s web site. This might require a shift in marketing perspective, but it should also result in better data, allowing you to send more meaningful marketing emails that will get better results.  

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