iOS 15: Bringing Privacy To Email Marketing

|by Lewis Jackson

Apple announced their latest operating system, iOS 15, in June. The update will bring with it new privacy features to email, allowing the user to hide data such as their IP address taken by tracking pixels, and create also disposable email addresses.  

While tools to do this have been in existence for some time, this marks the start of a well-known brand bringing awareness to the privacy topic which could prove to be a catalyst for other tech giants. Only a month after Apple’s announcement, DuckDuckGo also introduced their own new tool Email Protection.  

As an email marketer, you might be anxious about this – and that’s to be expected. How can you adapt when you can no longer rely on data collected from your emailing contacts?  

In this blog, we discuss how this change may impact you from the way you engage with your audience to the way you report and how you can embrace the update. 

Email tracking explained  

Email marketing tools use a few methods to track recipients: 

  • Opens are tracked using a 1x1 transparent image known as a tracking pixel – this is unique for every email sent. When you open the email, it downloads the image from the server hosting them, effectively confirming the open. Device data such as device type, IP address and email client used are also tracked through this method. 
  • Clicks are tracked through a method of converting a normal link to one that’s unique. On pressing this link, the click is tracked, and it then redirects you to the correct web address set in your email campaign.  

Why do you need to know this? Apple’s new privacy tool loads the images by default through a series of proxy servers. This will result in opens being tracked when there has been no interaction with the email. It will, in effect, add noise to email engagement reports. DuckDuckGo’s solution will remove the trackers.  
It’s worth noting that there have been limitations and privacy tools available for some time that you’ve been battling against as a digital marketer: 

  • Some email clients such as Outlook block image downloads by default, while others download all the images even if you’ve not opened it 
  • Plain text emails have no images and are therefore unable to track opens 
  • Cloud security software will sometimes scan links in emails to check they’re not malicious, effectively counting false positives against your reports 
  • Device data can easily be masked using a VPN which has become more commonplace with many people working from home 

What do I need to consider before the update? 

To prepare for this change, you need to look at what could happen to the contacts where you cannot accurately track opens. 

Wired Plus will track opens on emails. These opens can be used to enrol or influence a contact’s path in a workflow or add/remove people from a segment. It’s important you check these rules to ensure that if an open isn’t tracked accurately, that their email journeys are still applicable.  

Let’s look at an example where a workflow is set to re-send an email based on contacts who have not opened the first email. If your second email is simply a duplicate, you might want to check whether there have been any clicks registered on the email as well as an open. You could also ensure the second email is still relevant, even if an open has been tracked on the second email. 

You might also have a re-engagement campaign based on contacts who have not opened in a set amount of time. As above, you’ll now also need to look at the click data to ensure it's accurate since opens could be falsely tracked. 

What do I need to consider after the update? 

After the update, your open rates will naturally increase over time and settle into a new normal. This will particularly be the case for B2C businesses as your contacts are more likely to be looking at emails on their phones – a market that Apple has a sizeable share in.   

Your click-to-open rates will likely go down as there will be more opens tracked. This means that direct comparisons of key email marketing metrics before and after the update should take this into consideration. 

Split testing will still be relatively safe to do on open rates as this only impacts Apple users so the law of averages will apply (unless you’re specifically targeting Apple device users of course). 

What else could I be doing? 

Digital privacy has been a big topic over the last decade. With more accessible privacy tools and more legislation introduced to ensure consent is provided before you can store and track data, we don’t see the pro-privacy movement slowing down.  

For digital marketing, however, this could cause barriers when you want to tailor your marketing efforts. So, what can you do to overcome these challenges?  

Your dependency on tracking technology needs to reduce and instead, the focus should be placed on your audience. Here are some ways to do that: 

  • Let your customers decide: You can let your customers decide by introducing a preference centre. If you had no tracking available, you would still be sending only relevant content.  
  • Feedback surveys: Use surveys to ask your audience about their experience with your marketing. This is a great way to get first-hand information that can help you make positive changes. 
  • Use purchase history data: This data will be stored to fulfil your services, and this will allow you to send emails based on purchase history. 
  • Introduce personas into your email marketing: Personas are fictional representations of your audience based on a variety of attributes. Breaking these down into key segments will allow you to tailor your marketing further. 

Final thoughts  

This is a change we must embrace, and it will inevitably become the focus for other email client providers in the future.  

There are things you must consider before and immediately after the update, but there are ways you can give more control to your audience on what they do and don’t like. This will give you increased insights into your customers and provide guidance on what marketing methods are valuable to them.  

To find out more about how we can support you through these changes, book a demo of the Wired Plus platform.  

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