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iOS 15 Impacts on Email Marketing: What Independent Business Owners Need to Know

Apple’s upcoming iOS 15 update will have impacts on email marketing, but it’s a great opportunity for small businesses to reassess their email performance. Though there’s still much we won’t know until the update rolls out, we’ve laid out some of the coming changes to help you get prepared.

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Apple’s Changes to Email Marketing in 2021

So, what are the updates that we may start to see soon?

Whenever iOS 15 rolls out, it will include a privacy update for Apple Mail. When a user has Apple Mail, any email sent to their inbox will automatically download and cache to Apple’s privacy server. By caching all the email content before you open it, Apple is triggering all of the tracking pixels that would otherwise trigger only when you opened the email. 

Apple is implementing this change to cut down on email tracking and overall improve user privacy. While some may feel that different types of email tracking is intrusive, the change will, unfortunately, impact baseline analytics that many marketers and business owners track today. 

The email caching will start to happen right when emails are sent, impacting any analytics that rely on opens. Though iOS 15 hasn’t rolled out yet beyond the beta, initial studies show that the change will inflate email open rates from nearly anyone who has an Apple Mail account, making email opens an unreliable metric to analyze.

Who Will Be Affected by iOS 15?

So far we know that anyone who has downloaded iOS 15, logged into Apple Mail, and opted in to the new privacy option will be impacted. Some testing has shown that the update will affect you even if you log out of Apple Mail after opting in.

The privacy update won’t roll out automatically for everyone – Apple users will still get a choice. Yet, the prompt that some beta users have seen so far asks if you want to “Protect mail activity” or “Don’t protect mail activity.” Though the specific language may change, with this type of prompt nearly everyone is expected to adopt the update. 

The iOS 15 impacts will have the biggest effect on email marketers who communicate with large audience segments. Yet, anyone who uses email marketing and relies on open rates to track performance may be affected.

How Will iOS 15 Affect My Business’s Email Marketing?

For your business, the bottom line is that the iOS 15 updates will affect your email open and location data. Once the update is implemented, open rates and geolocation won’t be totally reliable anymore, which can affect your performance reports as well as the way you segment your audiences and email lists. 

If you use email opens to gauge who to communicate with, you won’t be able to do that moving forward as a reliable indicator of who’s interested in your content. For example, some business owners may remove users in their lists who haven’t opened an email in a certain period of time. With the new update, you may have data that shows users have opened emails even when they haven’t. 

Because open rates won’t be reliable anymore, you won’t be able to accurately test anything that relies on open rates. For example, testing subject lines won’t be completely possible since it will seem that some users have opened a certain version even if they didn’t yet. 

But – deep breaths! It isn’t the end of email marketing as we know it. In fact, for most independent business owners, clients who use Apple Mail is a relatively small segment of their entire email list. Also, engagement email analytics such as click data will not be affected at all.

This update is an opportunity to reassess what’s inside our emails and ensure the content we’re serving our customers is relevant and valuable beyond simply an open. After all, it’s the action a customer takes once they’ve read the email that will make the most impact on your business in the long run.

HoneyBook Lifecycle Marketing Manager, Meli Musson

How Independent Business Owners Can Prepare for iOS 15

The best way to handle change is to prepare for it! Before the iOS 15 update happens, start gathering more information about your email audiences. Since email open data is the main marketing metric that the update will affect, you can start focusing more on after-the-open analytics. You’ll still be able to track the following accurately, along with many other metrics: 

  • Clickthrough rate – The percentage of readers who clicked on one or more links in your email content.
  • Conversion rate – The percentage of readers who clicked on a linked and performed an action. The action will depend on your business goals, and it could be anything from making a purchase to downloading a digital product. 
  • List growth rate – How your list grows over time, which can help you determine the success of your lead generation strategies.
  • Opt-out rate – The percentage of your email audience that unsubscribes from your lists. 

By focusing more on the after-the-open analytics, you can better understand your audience’s engagement and interests. This type of reporting is even more positive in the long term since it helps you move your leads or clients toward conversion.

What Is the iOS 15 Timeline?

Heading into September 2021, we aren’t positive about the iOS 15 timeline. However, Apple’s new iOS systems are generally released soon after their launch events, where they announce new products and updates. Apple’s next launch conference is scheduled for September 14, which means we can likely expect iOS 15 to start rolling out toward the end of the month. 

Based on Apple’s previous software updates, we also know that adoption is typically quick for most users. We can expect a majority of users to opt in to the software update within about a month.

What to Communicate With Your Clients

Opting in to iOS 15 will be up to your clients’ personal decisions. However, there are a couple of things you can do to keep your clients informed and make the changes easier on you. 

If you work one-on-one with most of your clients, you can encourage them to save your email to their contacts to make sure they never miss a message. This can help ensure all your email is delivered throughout the transition if you have specific automations set up that rely on opens. 

If you have several email lists, you can start using a double opt-in to ensure you’re communicating with engaged users. A double opt-in just means you’re checking with them twice that they want to be on your email list. The first step happens when they provide their email, and the second opt-in is something you can email to double-check that they want your content. 

If you’re a HoneyBook member, rest assured that we’ll notify you if we believe any metrics available to you in HoneyBook have been impacted.

New Opportunities for Email Marketing Moving Forward

While the iOS 15 impacts will affect how we measure email marketing, it still opens the door to new opportunities. Moving forward, independent business owners can dig deeper into their email analytics to better understand their leads and the type of client experience that works best with their audience. Regardless of your industry, you’ll have the opportunity to pivot your email reporting to gain more insights!

The information in this article is based on the public information we currently have from Apple as well as external research. We will continue to update with more information as it becomes available. 

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