How The iOS 15 Update Impacts Email Marketing, Paid Ads + SMS

Laura Serino

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Apple released their latest mobile operating system update and it is packed with new features, most notably some major functionality around privacy that has had many marketers nervous.

It’s important to note that these feature updates are specific to mobile iOS devices (iPhones & iPad) and while this makes up a lot of users, it isn’t everyone.

These changes are going to have a drastic impact on both email marketing and paid advertising on Facebook.

But not on SMS!

Mail Privacy Protection

Many of the new privacy rollouts from Apple have been a long time coming. Consumers have been vocal about wanting more privacy when it comes to their mobile behavior and Apple has finally come through.

Mail Privacy Protection prevents senders from seeing if you opened an email using the default mail app on an iOS device. It also hides a user’s IP address and location. MPP does not affect users on a 3rd party mail app.

This change is among the most painful for marketers. An email pixel tracks whether a recipient opens an email and how often, resulting in the reporting of unique and gross open rates. Email marketers have long used this data to measure the success of subject lines, pre-headers, and overall subscriber engagement.

Early expectations were that open rates would fall and that marketers should lower their open rate goals. But open rates have actually skyrocketed since Apple pre-downloads content to their servers, making it look like an email was opened before a consumer ever sees it. It’s just another reason why open rates are no longer reliable and marketers will need to pay closer attention to other metrics, like click-through rates, instead.

A clean email database is another best practice that will be affected by this rollout. Without the ability to track open rates, this will make removing inactive subscribers even harder, which in turn could affect inbox deliverability.

It’s important to note that consumers updating to iOS 15 will be forced to make a decision on whether they want to enable this feature the first time they open the default email client. However, Apple iPhone is by far the most popular email client with almost 39% of the market share. If the majority of iOS users do choose to use these new features, this will make most of the email marketing stats brands rely on today largely inaccurate.

Hide My Email

This feature generates unique, random email addresses that automatically forward to a consumer’s personal inbox. A user can read and respond directly to emails sent to these addresses while keeping their personal email address private.

Although this won’t affect a consumer sending and receiving emails, they can quickly delete the randomly generated email address if they feel like they are starting to get a lot of spam. This quick-delete ability could result in increased bounces without offering marketers any information as to why a change was made to their preference.

Private Relay

iCloud Private Relay allows a consumer to effectively hide their IP address while browsing on Safari by routing all activity through two internet relays.

You can think of this as Apple’s VPN-like service for iCloud subscribers. Since these users will no longer be “fingerprinted”, retargeting ads will no longer be able to use the unique identifier (the IP address) in conjunction with other 3rd party data.

“When it comes to how data is used for marketing, consumers want personalization but they also want privacy. Most consumers aren’t aware of the difference between 1st party and 3rd party data when it comes to marketing, but they know what stalking feels like,” says Mindy Regnell, Senior Marketing Insights Manager at Postscript. “They don’t want to get hit with a retargeting ad on Facebook or a different website, but they don’t mind getting a follow-up email or text message for an abandoned cart.”

SMS Is More Important Than Ever in Your Marketing Tool Kit

Here’s where SMS can help. While channels like Facebook and retargeting campaigns rely on 3rd party data and cookies, SMS channels use 1st party data. Since Google eventually plans to block all 3rd party cookies in the near future, it’s increasingly important to move away from marketing funnels that rely on them.

“If you combine this with the spike in ads run during the holiday season, the cost of these ads will naturally increase as well. It’s more important than ever for merchants to find ways to invest in channels they own,” says Regnell.
The good news here is that marketing opportunities abound for SMS. If you’re worried about taking a hit in other areas of your owned marketing, SMS can help cover ground and make up for some of those losses.

“Just keep messages conversational so they don’t feel like spam. The difference between sending an email and text message is how quickly a consumer will see it and how likely it is to get lost in their inbox, says Regnell. “It’s no secret that text messages are seen faster and have a much higher open rate than email.”

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Laura Serino

Laura is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at Postscript. She honed her writing chops as a magazine editor in New York before moving into the ecommerce world as a copywriter for L.L.Bean. She led the content and community at eCommerceFuel, manufactured and sold her own skincare line and ran the marketing team at Bella Luna Toys before landing herself at Postscript. When she isn't writing about her favorite topic (marketing) she's hanging out with her two sons on an island off the coast of Maine. Follow her on Twitter at @laura_serino.