Content Marketing Manager
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Apple recently released new details about their upcoming iOS 15, iPadOS, and macOS updates coming this fall. With these, the impact on email marketers will be significant.
Coming with the update is the Mail Privacy Protection feature for their mail app. This feature will require users to choose whether they would like to protect their inbox privacy. This launch, expected sometime between September and November 2021, will disrupt the email marketing industry for ecommerce marketers with customers using Apple.
- Email opens on Apple Mail will no longer be tracked.
- Apple Mail users will be able to hide their IP addresses.
- iCloud+ users will be able to hide their email addresses.
This means that the metrics and best practices that we’ve been using for email marketing over the past 20 years will all change in just a few months.
So what are you going to do now?
It’s time to change our thinking and re-shift our focus away from open rates. Instead, it’s time to look at the metrics that will still make a significant impact for your ecommerce store—especially in how we determine what ‘engagement’ means.
For years, we’ve been segmenting our customers by engagement, and defining part of that engagement by open rate. With that no longer being a possibility, it’s time to rethink the way we segment our customers.
In this piece, we’ll outline how this will impact segmentation, and what segments you should focus on now to prepare for the iOS 15 update.
How iOS 15 Will Impact Segmentation and Targeting Email Campaigns
A lot of the conversation around these changes will focus on open rates. But segmentation and targeting your email campaigns will be changing too.
Segmenting inactive subscribers
Previously, to clean your email list, we’d suggest segmenting your inactive customers—those who didn’t open a campaign in a certain amount of time. You’d then send a reactivation campaign, segmenting out those who didn’t open that last campaign to be deleted.
However, given that Apple iOS 15 won’t show open rates, you might end up segmenting out engaged customers if you use this method. Or worse—you might end up keeping inactive customers who no longer wish to hear from you, leading to higher spam rates and poor deliverability.
From now on, we’ll have to opt for different ways of measuring engagement.
With clicks being your first look into email engagement following iOS 15, you may have to change the way you implement these campaigns. For example, instead of measuring whether a customer opens an email, place a CTA in your email stating “Yes, I still want to hear from you.”
Gauge interaction based on active interaction, versus passive interaction. This way, you’ll be able to keep sending to the customers who are still manifesting active interest.
Will this weed out contacts that may have been convinced at a later date? Perhaps. However, it’s far better to lose the few contacts that may have opened your campaign, than to send to those who are inactive, or worse, feel that you’re spamming them.
Optimization based on send time
Without a reliable open rate to look towards, it’ll be difficult to determine how long it has been since a contact has or hasn’t engaged with an email. Naturally, this includes any countdown timers, which will be inaccurate if cached by Apple.
From now on, more active responses will be the only way of starting a countdown until re-engagement can start. Unfortunately, this might result in undesired side-effects. Some potential customers may be automatically lumped together with completely inactive contacts.
For example, any customers who simply open an email but don’t interact with it will essentially be seen as customers who never opened the email at all.
You’ll have to ask yourself what you consider to be the initial point of engagement. Will it be when a customer first signs up for marketing? Will it be when they first click on an email? Or will it be when they engage with your website?
Whichever point of engagement you choose, a lack of open rates means you can’t optimize marketing efforts based on send time. And here’s where you face a fork in the road—do you opt to remove some of your reliance on automation and simply send contacts emails en masse? Or do you decide to be stricter with your emails and strictly rely on automation from engagement?
The smart money’s on the latter, even if it might rely on lower metrics. The former runs the risk of a higher rate of unsubscribes, or worse, spam reports.
Rely on RFM Analysis
Some merchants may lament the loss of open rates due to how simple they were to measure success. While it’s true that they were the easiest rate to monitor, this didn’t make them the greatest or most accurate measurement of success.
With easy open rates disappearing, now might be the time to brave the more complex and telling method of measurement—RFM analysis.
Recency, frequency, monetary—these are the core metrics of an RFM analysis. There are many moving parts to an RFM analysis, including calculating your customers’ average order value (AOV) and their average repeat purchase rate. Once you’ve done this, you can place them into certain stages of a lifecycle map.
This entire process takes a lot of work. However, it leads to considerably more effective retention marketing. We’d call this a smart move for merchants at the best of times. But now we have the looming threat of open rates vanishing.
Suddenly, it’s looking likely that the reliability of RFM analysis will become essential to ecommerce marketing.
The Return of Teasers
Click-through rates (CTR) and other customer interactions will soon become the sole methods of gauging active contacts. With this, it’s likely that we’ll see a return of dreaded clickbait-like content. To create an accurate view of an audience, merchants may have to resort to tantalizing content that invites users to engage with emails.
The likes of ‘Click here to find out more’ are sure to return, but as a merchant you need to ask yourself—are these techniques worth the trouble they bring?
Few contacts engage with this kind of content in a positive light. They’re more likely to irritate potential customers and are often red flags. Messages that try to lure contacts in are often seen as spam-worthy emails that deserve to be relegated to blacklists.
To avoid this fate, let’s look at what productive tools you have at your disposal. Whether it’s preparing for post-update email marketing or bracing for bold new campaigns—let’s examine the segments to implement before and after iOS 15.
Segments to Update Before iOS 15
With the iOS 15 update set to land between September and October, you’ll have time to prepare. This means that you don’t need to abandon all of your current and future campaign plans.
Rather, you can make some changes to them to keep them relevant—before and after the update.
Conduct List Cleaning
With an easy metric leaving soon, there’s never been a better time for a little spring-cleaning. Taking a look at your contact list and then engaging in some email list hygiene can make good use of open rates while they’re still around.
Soon, it’ll become more difficult to ascertain which contacts are active and which aren’t. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to engage in some traditional list cleaning before it’s too late.
List cleaning efforts set the bar for inactive customers at varying time frames. Some opt for six months, others for a full year. Of course, each merchant and store is different. Some may place this inactivity benchmark much closer or further away from the last engagement.
Ultimately, it’s up to the merchant to determine when they view a contact as inactive.
While the time period to judge contact activity may remain, it might be worth adjusting your list cleaning start date. To be more accurate, you have two prime options here:
- Aim to start your list cleaning schedule just before the update launches. Feature a CTA or opt-in element. This will allow you to get a clearer image of who’s still active in your list after the update drops.
- Aim to start your list cleaning schedule so that the campaign ends just before the update. CTAs or opt-in elements can still be a part of the emails you send. However, you’ll be able to get one last open rate measurement before they disappear.
Update Segments to Monitor CTR
As aforementioned, it seems like the next easiest metric to monitor will be CTR. These will be the new benchmarks in which engagement is measured.
Apple will report 100% of emails opened post-update—essentially rendering open rates useless. With this in mind, it’ll come down to a more solid metric to showcase actual engagement.
You should update segments’ reliance on open rates now, while the transition is still happening. Once you’ve done this, you can set the timers for re-engagement to activate whenever contacts click on an email, rather than open it.
Naturally, you can change the metrics from open to anything you’d like. You could opt for retention marketing based on conversion rates or customer purchases. Remember though, this would limit your outreach to new customers a fair amount.
A/B Testing Segments
Previously the benchmark for measuring A/B success, the lack of open rates will mean that our approach to testing subject lines will need to change. A/B testing won’t also fade away, only our current version of it, as each email will need a new metric assigned to success rates.
The first obvious candidate for this is CTR. Although it will be less controlled than with open rates, measuring engagement with CTRs will still yield results. This is true whether you’re testing different subject lines, email content, or even both.
The second candidate, which acts as a much clearer measurement of success, is using conversion rates. Of course, this rate will be much lower than open rates, but they will undeniably give you a picture of what’s resonating with customers. From here, it would be a test of determining what exactly led to conversions.
You can opt to use A/B/C/D tests, rather than A/B tests. For example:
- Subject line 1 with content 1 (such as several CTA buttons)
- Subject line 2 with content 1
- Subject line 1 with content 2 (such as banner ads and clickable images)
- Subject line 2 with content 2
Examining what works with each variant will clearly provide valuable insight—for those willing to experiment with them.
It’s worth noting that A/B testing will still be a viable means of testing marketing strategies before the update. So if you want to do some testing, you better get testing now. Just remember that others will likely be rushing to do the same.
So, you have to ask yourself whether adding your emails to the pile will yield much insight. Do you want to be a drop in the last wave of A/B testing that will be washing over contacts? Or do you want to spend some time focusing on research and crafting your post-update campaigns?
The choice is yours.
Part of the Mail Privacy Protection states that Apple users will be able to hide their IP addresses. This means that certain types of segmentation will become proverbial brick walls—namely, geographic segmentation.
Geographic segmentation doesn’t rely entirely on an IP address, but many elements of it do. For example, geographic segmentation targets audiences via:
- Primary location
- Climate and season
- Cultural preferences
With a customer’s primary location, this can vary from an exact location to a customer’s general location, such as within a city. The former is certainly something that will be lost when IP addresses aren’t available to merchants.
With parts of geographic segmentation disappearing, consider pursuing different forms of customer segmentation. If you haven’t already been segmenting customers, experiment with the following customer segmentations:
- Behavioral: Behavioral segmentation targets customers depending on how they interact with a website.
- Demographic: Demographic segmentation targets customers according to universal aspects. This includes age and gender.
- Psychographic: Psychographic segmentation targets customers by using personal customer information. This includes their personality and lifestyle.
These adjustments can save a campaign that has come to rely on IP address information. Better yet, it opens the door to possibly making campaigns more focused on specific audiences.
Segments to Implement After iOS 15
If too many gears are already in motion, and you can’t make adjustments to any campaigns, it’s time to look at post-update marketing. Thankfully, there are still many ways you can effectively engage in email marketing—even without open rates or access to IP addresses.
These methods of altering segments can work wonders before the update but are ideal for post-iOS 15 email campaigns.
Any good ecommerce merchant knows how powerful the tools of SMS and social media can be for marketing. If your marketing strategy doesn’t make use of channels other than email, now is the time to engage with it.
Our very own studies have shown not only that SMS marketing is effective—it’s on the rise. They saw an incredible rise in use in 2020, shooting up approximately 400%, with an incredible 100% increase in conversions.
Similarly, web push notifications saw an impressive 27% conversion rate—numbers that could not only make up for the lack of open rates, but increase sales more than ever.
By making use of tools like SMS, you can bypass what needed open rate metrics pre-update. For example, sending feedback and review requests to those who have purchased in the past. Previously, this might have needed confirmation that a customer simply bought something and didn’t open any emails.
After all, open rates were never available for SMS campaigns. The lack of metrics never hindered their effectiveness. By sending a follow-up SMS, these customers will be contacted in a method that’s likely to see engagement.
The key takeaway from many approaches to post-update marketing is that it will be more important than ever to focus on retention marketing and the customer journey.
This is true whether it’s real-time personalization by using behavioral segmentation or using post-purchase marketing.
Whatever you opt for as a merchant, it would be wise to focus on having the customer at the center of any marketing campaign.
Your marketing messaging should reflect this too. This can apply to email marketing, SMS, or using any other channels at your disposal. By understanding what brings a customer to your store, you can begin crafting marketing campaigns that reflect that.
It’s also worth remembering—with any kind of retention marketing, you’ll find that open rates often play the smallest roles.
Proven customers are more likely to be active and engaging. Luckily, segments can be set-up to trigger according to different conditions. Even if they don’t open an email, you’ll be more likely to see success by sending a follow-up email at a later date.
Likewise, if you adhere to different metrics, such as CTR, you’ll be able to adapt your marketing to their customer journey more accurately.
Clear Opt In/Opt Out Measurements
Finally, one of the primary ways open rates normally help is by gauging whether a contact is active. Inactive contacts will naturally result in unopened emails. These will eventually call for list cleaning.
However, open rates usually made these cleaning efforts easier. So, how does a merchant bypass this problem?
The solution is simple—make it easier for new contacts to sign up and inactive contacts to drop out.
- Clear opt-in: Make your opt-in process more than simply inputting details. Ask for potential contacts to give permission for specific marketing, for store news—whatever you and your store offers.
Lists that need interaction to complete a sign-up will require a contact’s attention and express consent. This will likely result in lower bounce rates, spam reports, and unsubscribes.
- Clear opt-out: Don’t be afraid of contacts leaving your mailing list. Save yourself the task of list cleaning later and increase your engagement rate by removing inactive contacts.
If contacts haven’t engaged with any emails sent, set up a trigger to send them an email asking if they want to unsubscribe. If they do, you’ve lost an inactive contact. If they opt to stay in, that’s more engaging than just opening an email.
It’s clear that both the immediate and potential effects of the iOS 15 update will bring new challenges to email marketing. However, as we’ve already seen, there are plenty of ways to prepare for it—and even thrive after it.
Omnisend offers tools and features that make it the ideal platform for handling whatever brave new world awaits us ecommerce merchants. With each update, the platform’s capabilities change, grow, and adapt.
If you’re worried about what the iOS 15 update means for your ecommerce email marketing, try Omnisend for your store with a free trial.