The IOS 15 Drop: Email Marketing Implications And Solutions You Need To Know


First it was App Tracking Transparency. Now it’s anonymizing end-user data.

When will Apple stop taking a bite out of consumer shopping behavior?

While paid social channels like Facebook / Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, etc., have taken the greatest hit since spring’s iOS 14 rollout, Apple’s just-released software update threatens consumer behavior tracking for yet another pivotal channel in the advertiser’s arsenal: Email. 

Continuing along its quest to create a privacy-first / data-tracking-last world, Apple released iOS 15 this past Monday to its one-billion-plus users. Given the impressive 85%+ adoption rate of the preceding updates, it’s likely this one will also grow quickly in popularity, making it critical that email marketers understand what’s changing, who’s impacted, and how to work around the implications. 

Operative words here: “work around.” Why? Because despite its ramifications, email is not dead. 

After Apple’s June announcement, MuteSix offered preliminary iOS 15 insights and solutions to help prepare email marketers for its impending release. Now that Apple users around the globe are tapping the download button, we are here to help email marketers navigate this new landscape so you can not only salvage your email marketing efforts, but take them to the next level. 

What Are the Email Marketing Implications of iOS 15?

Email marketers face three predominant changes with the new operating system, each enhancing privacy for the user, but posing unique challenges for advertisers. 

Mail Privacy Protect

Mail Privacy Protect prevents marketers from knowing when a user opens an email in the Apple Mail app. It also conceals users’ IP addresses so they can’t be linked to other online behavior. 

Hide My Email

This long-requested feature allows Apple Mail users to generate unique, random proxy email addresses for social media and e-commerce sites, thereby not having to provide their real email addresses. 

iCloud Private Relay

Offered as a part of iCloud+, this feature is Apple’s own virtual private network (VPN) that essentially makes users untraceable while they browse Safari. 

How Do These Changes Affect Email Marketers?

With these three new privacy-centric features come some pretty high hurdles for email marketers to jump over. But they can–by leaps and bounds–if they’re aware of the implications and know how to reconcile them (more on that below).

Loss of Open Rates

With Mail Privacy Protect, email marketers face a slew of tracking limitations. Perhaps most importantly, they will now no longer be able to track the holy grail of email marketing: open rates. That’s because with iOS 15, users are able to turn off open tracking. By losing the ability to track opens, marketers will also miss out on the segmenting capabilities that come with them. 

Additionally, open rates may appear inflated, as any Apple Mail client who receives an email will be defaulted to an open, which will not paint an adequate picture of an email’s performance. Email deliverability will thus also suffer, as open rates will no longer be a dependable indicator of a list’s health. 

IP Address Blocking

Mail Privacy Protect also allows users to block their IP addresses–meaning marketers can no longer link these IP addresses to users’ online behavior. Such cross-site traffic provides key information necessary for segmentation, optimization, and targeting. 

Loss of Unique Email Addresses

With Hide My Email, Apple Mail users will use a proxy email address rather than their real one. While these emails will still be unique and align with purchase activity on a site, marketers may lose the ability to tie that information to previously created accounts that could be under a different address. 

Loss of Geo Locations

With iCloud Private Relay, a user’s approximate location is concealed, and instead, a broad location is revealed. This will have an impact on the accuracy of regions and timezones, which will in turn have an effect on IP address geo-targeted segments, as well as “sending by local timezone.”

What Are Some Workaround Solutions to iOS 15?

So should email marketers panic? No. Instead, they should pivot, following a few of our top recommended workarounds.

Create More Engaging Content

Given the current state of email marketing, now is the time to make every email count. Generate carefully conceptualized, higher-quality content that users look forward to opening. Run surveys and polls via pop ups to find out what customers want to receive and deliver that content. 

Invest in your creative and dispose of the templated emails that more often than not sit unticked in users’ inboxes (if they don’t make their way to spam first). Create attention-grabbing subject lines, compelling calls to action (with link tracking to gauge performance), engaging headlines, relevant information and hard-to-ignore offers, attention-grabbing visuals, and as many personalized touches as possible. 

Look to Lower-Funnel Metrics

With the disappearance of the open metric, now is the time to turn to lower-funnel metrics, such as clicks, site visits, conversions, purchases, recently added, and active onsite, to build out engagement segments. Now that upper-funnel metrics are less reliable, focus on gauging success that results in customer actions beyond simply opening an email. 

Divvy Up Your Email List

It’s estimated that about 30-50% of your email list is using Apple Mail and Apple devices to open emails. Since these are the users whose opens cannot be tracked, it’s important to weed them out from the rest of mail users to better understand how dramatically your list is being impacted. In order to get an accurate picture of your email marketing performance, we recommend splitting your sends by Apple Mail and non-Apple Mail segments.  

Get Clever With Segmentation

In order to get a true before and after look, you can create segments around “opened before X date” and “is showing opening since,” which would show you which users didn’t open before the iOS changes. If they’re now showing as an open, this is someone who is inflated, so you could suppress them because they were genuinely disengaged and could thus be segmented into an unengaged segment.

Double Down on Your SMS Efforts

As email takes a slight step back in a post-iOS 15 world, we recommend that marketers begin collecting phone numbers as well as email addresses, and leaning more on SMS. It’s an incredibly powerful channel that can garner 4,600% ROI and 2-3x more click-through rates than email. Plus, since it relies heavily on click data and not open rates, it is not impacted by iOS 15. What’s more? Those click rates are about as reliable a metric as they come and reveal what makes a consumer take action, which is ultimately the most important piece of the marketing puzzle.

Final Takeaway: Email Marketing Is Different … Not Dead

Apple has not destroyed email marketing. Instead, Apple has challenged email marketers to think more strategically about their efforts. By improving your creative, recalibrating your metrics, and leveraging SMS, iOS 15 will not get in the way of the main goal of email marketing: To build relationships with leads, customers, and past customers.

Now, more than ever, it’s critical to team up with an agency like MuteSix, who proudly partners with Klaviyo, the premier SMS and email marketing software platform for e-commerce campaigns, so you can both create the right email and SMS content and target, segment, and measure strategically. 

Want to head into Q4 with a strong email marketing campaign despite iOS 15? Reach out to the MuteSix Lifecycle Marketing and StudioSix creative experts today by dropping us a line

Special thanks to our friends at MuteSix for their insights on this topic.
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