Apple’s new email privacy settings, and how they affect you


There is big news happening in the marketing world of email, and we’re here to break it down for you. Apple, in all it’s privacy strengthening attempts, has made it so companies will no longer have access to see when their respective emails have been opened by clients. Let’s get into the good and bad news, and what this means for the future of email campaigns overall.

What is the policy change

The IOS 15 update launched on September 20th, and only affects Apple email users. If they choose to opt in to prevent data tracking by “protecting mail activity”, say goodbye to tracking pixels or small image indicators that let you know when an email has been opened and downloaded. This setting will hide IP addresses and privately load all remote content.  While there is an option to turn off this feature, the notion users would actually go in and change the settings will probably be as successful as the Donner Pass shortcut.

Brace for the bad news

Ok. So. Let’s get straight into it.

  • Email opening rates and click-to-open rates are now unreliable (obviously). Email data will be preloaded for everyone who subscribes to this privacy feature, so open rates will likely be artificially high without knowing the actual percentage of people who opened the email. This all affects follow up email campaigns to unopened emails and unresponsive clients. Many automated email campaigns are also on the chopping block since they are triggered based on who opened a message. A/B testing is also going to take a hit, since unreliable open rates render this method of market testing obsolete.
  • A user’s IP addresses will be hidden when browsing safari and therefore will not allow people to send geographically-targeted emails. Local products and businesses who rely on targeted location ads, as well as demographic information will suffer.
  • Users will now be able to create “fake” email addresses when interacting with a business, like filling out an automated form. Because of the open rate issue you won’t know if that fake email address is inactive in order to properly scrub a list. Without scrubbing you run the risk of continuing to email inactive contacts and being marked as spam which is not a great place to be.

But what’s the good news/ easy tips and tricks

Great, so should you just throw your computer out the window because email is dead? Not necessarily. Here are a few stats, and tricks to get the information you need without relying on opening rates.

  • Prior to this change, just because someone opened an email, didn’t mean they actually read it. In fact, email open rates didn’t even make it into the top 5 metrics for monitoring consumer trends ( unlike conversion rates, list growth rate, overall ROI, click rate, and forwarding, all of which you should be measuring).
  • Despite all the fact that an estimated 30-50% of users use Apple mail, emails still have the highest ROI of all forms of marketing; they even beat out social media. While open rates are now unreliable, this feature does not impact total clicks throughout a sent email. You’ll still be able to monitor when a link is clicked, which we’d argue is a better indicator anyway since it means your message was opened and read and action was taken.
  • But what about follow-ups for opened emails? Shift instead towards putting in at least one link, and sending future follow-ups to those who are clicking.
  • Make automated campaigns time based (follow up every 3 days) and/or combine that timeline with click rates. How to garner better click rates, you ask? This one’s pretty simple; Draw people in with a catchy subject line. Make the clickable button pronounced, and easy to spot. Come up with surveys or polls that can be taken in the email. Surveys could also help you in terms of locally targeted ads, or you could always include location information during a sign up process.
  • When it comes to purging, there isn’t a really good solution for this because it relies so heavily on open rate; however, if you’re concerned about a clean list you could segment people based on clicks after a certain amount of time has passed or emails have been sent. Also, for those who rely heavily on email, you might want to scrub lists now while you still have accurate data.
  • We also recommend encouraging people to add the details to form fills upfront so that customer data is already collected and can live in your CRM forever and ever. This way, emails are barely a factor at all in terms of targeted marketing.

Do all this and you’ll be wondering why you ever used open rates in the first place. And if all this still sounds like way too much, drop us a line, we love crafting a good email smorgasbord.