Despite privacy changes in iOS 15, email remains an effective tool — when used the right way.
We all knew this time would come — Apple had been talking up its Mail privacy updates for some months. And now with the official release of its new operating system, we can start bracing ourselves for updates to Apple Mail tracking in iOS 15.
Part of Apple’s increasing push to position itself as the “privacy good guy” in the world of big tech and big data, the iOS 15 Mail updates are the next round of changes to come down the pike since Apple rolled out its “opt-out” dialog for third-party app tracking in iOS 14.5, a move that spurred an ongoing tiff with Facebook. And while others in the space may reiterate their commitment to privacy, we haven’t seen much, if any, action. For example, Google recently delayed its planned retirement of third-party cookies, now slated for 2023.
On the privacy docket for the upcoming iOS 15 release are several changes that will affect email marketing results, as well as more blows to third-party apps. The biggest changes include the App Privacy Report which details how often apps have accessed a user’s location, photos, camera, microphone, and contacts, and Mail Privacy Protection which hides a user’s IP address and loads remote-stored content, such as email images and graphics, privately.
IP Address Tracking in iOS 15
While hiding IP addresses from Apple Mail in iOS 15 is substantial it’s not as scary for email marketers as it may sound in the company’s press releases.
Although IP addresses are masked by Apple Mail in iOS 15, the app still sends back a random IP address from the same region, meaning that marketers will be able to analyze geographic data as it pertains to their campaign performance. This is good news for campaigns, but also a smart compromise by Apple.
It also begs the question, “Did we ever really need to see the exact IP address?” Some hyper-local businesses may argue the contrary, however, just how large of a radius the region will cover remains to be seen.
iOS 15 Will Affect Email Open Rates, but Does It Matter?
Another change that has some advertisers up in arms is the effect Apple’s privacy updates will have on open rates from emails read using the Mail app. For those marketers that relied on open rate to determine the efficacy of their campaigns, this data now will no longer be available from Apple Mail users.
While open rates were useful to gauge the success of subject lines in A/B testing, were they ever really an accurate metric to determine the overall effectiveness of an email campaign?
For us, it a metric we can live without.
Just because a user opened your email doesn’t mean that they processed its contents — or that they’ll be so moved by its content to take action. There are actually much more reliable metrics that better gauge an email campaign’s effectiveness, like clicks, landing page visits, downloads, form submissions, or even purchases.
In some ways, the open rate metric was more of a “nice to have” that could show good short-term results without having much bearing on long-term goals or other more tangible markers of a campaign’s success. Staying “top of mind” is important, but eventually that association needs to drive an action.
Click Tracking in Apple Mail
Although iOS 15 will affect open rates and IP address tracking, it doesn’t affect email click tracking. UTM codes are still alive and well. Email marketers can see if a user clicked on a link in an email, and they can still use Google Analytics to see how a user accessed and interacted with specific landing pages.
Arguably, clicks have always been a more important metric than open rates. They give much more insight into the effectiveness of your digital strategy. Click rates show if your email was able to drive action, and tracking individual links can bring even more valuable insight when you analyze what prompted those clicks in the first place.
Marketing & the Art of Relationship Management
All the recent buzz around Apple Mail tracking in iOS 15 underscores the fact that some of the fundamental best practices that can be easily forgotten when we have such advanced tools at our finger tips. Yet building a customer relationship based on trust always has been and always will be key.
When you think about it, we’ve only had easy access to such vast amounts of data for a relatively short time. Facebook launched ads in 2007, and it wasn’t until 2008 that the App Store was launched and marketers could start pulling third-party data from those apps. While digital advertising and the internet have always had a mutually beneficial relationship through the use of our personal data, traditional platforms were never privy to such private information without first doing extensive legwork to obtain that information.
So to the advertisers that are concerned about the wave of privacy changes coming, I would pose these questions: Are you providing valuable content to your audience? Are you doing the legwork to build a strong list, or are you taking shortcuts?
Because if you continue to provide valuable content and build a meaningful relationship with your audience, results will follow — no matter if you know the user’s exact IP address or not.