Email Analytics 101: Part 1 – What is iOS 15 & What does it mean for your Email Marketing?

SpareMyTime VA & email marketing specialist, Lizzie Mathews, explains why you can’t rely on open rates in email marketing anymore

In September 2021, Apple released iOS 15, their latest software update. With it came Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) and the ability for users to take more control over their email privacy. As an individual owner of an Apple device, there are of course benefits with iOS 15. As a business owner perhaps you haven’t considered the impact of iOS 15 on your email marketing, especially on open rates. 

In this blog, I’ll take you through everything you need to know. 

ipad, pen and apple iPhone lying side by side on dark background
Nana Dua via Canva

What is iOS 15?

Since iOS 15 was released, Apple Mail users now have the option to turn on Mail Privacy Protection (MPP), which limits the ability to accurately determine: 

  1. Whether or when an email has been opened 
  1. Where a contact is located when they open it 
  1. The type of device and email client a contact is using when they open it 

iOS users will have seen the following options, and due to the wording, it doesn’t seem to make much sense to opt out of it!

Mail privacy protection: protect mail activity or don't protect mail activity. Tick box selection

What’s the impact on my email marketing? 

According to Litmus, Apple iPhone and Apple Mail take up a whopping 57.2% of the market share 

(although the stats may be a little lower for Europe than the US). And the latest stats suggest take up of MPP is around 97% among all iOS 15 users. (SparkPost website, Feb 2022). 

Bearing in mind that between 40-50% of all email goes through the impacted environments (or even up to 57.2% based on Litmus’ stats above), it means that we won’t be able to accurately track opens on half of all email opens.  

Klaviyo have reported seeing open rates up roughly 15% across their platform since September 2021. 

Email opens have become unreliable as a measure of engagement 

Those increased open rates that you’ve been so proud of recently? Unfortunately these will need to be viewed with caution.  

The Apple Mail app reports 100% open rates on emails for contacts who have MPP enabled. This is because MPP ‘opens’ every single email a contact receives.  

This is resulting in inflated and inaccurate open rates, and as more Apple device users download iOS 15 and switch on MPP, the impact on your open rates will become even greater.  

You can no longer confidently rely on email opens as a key performance indicator (KPI).  

What is the impact on your email marketing? 

  1. Subject lines

Your open rate was among the most important email marketing metrics as it showed whether your audience was interested in your messages or not. More specifically, analysing this data helped you to optimise your subject lines and improve your email copy. With the lack of open rate data, we can’t really know if iOS users interact with your campaigns or whether the subject lines resonate with them.  

  1. A/B testing 

Following on from above, running automated A/B tests for subject lines based on opens will not be accurate if you have subscribers using Apple Mail. The test might receive a large number of unconfirmed opens, which will skew the results. For more accurate testing, use click rate as your metric for success. 

  1. Automation triggers 

Automations based on opens will need a rethink. Campaigns such as lead-nurturing, auto resend to non-openers, re-engagement, and send time optimisation will be affected, since open rates are no longer reliable. To combat this, you may want to consider changing the email triggers to time-based rules or clicks instead of opens. 

  1. Segmentation and targeting using IP addresses 

Segmentation and targeting that uses IP addresses, such as abandoned cart emails or emails targeted at specific locations, won’t work as well anymore. IP addresses of Apple mail users will be masked so they can’t be linked to their location or online activity.   

  1. Subscriber list

Email open data will no longer serve as a way to gauge email list health and subscriber engagement. There’s no way to know if opens are genuine or not, so this can’t be used reliably to clean up lists on its own.  

You should still look at opens as one metric for removing inactive subscribers (after all, those who don’t use Apple Mail will still be tracked). However, you will also need to look at who isn’t engaging in terms of clicks, purchases, alongside how long they’ve been on your database. If someone has been on your list for six months and never once clicked, do you want them on your list? This will need to be analysed for your business, as the length of time from first contact to customer may be longer or shorter than six months. 

Hold on a minute, why have I noticed lower email open rates then? 

If you’ve been noticing lower opens since September, rather than higher, and you’re using ActiveCampaign, there’s an explanation for that! 

I too had been puzzling over why the open rates had been going down every week for a couple of my clients using ActiveCampaign, when everything I’d read about iOS 15 had suggested that open rates would be inflated.  

I discovered that ActiveCampaign have been able to identify those email opens that are from devices that have Mail Privacy Protection switched on in iOS 15 (or the equivalent for iPad or Mac). They are actively removing those ‘false opens’ from the email reports, unless the same device clicks a link, in which case it does record the open. 

What it means is that ActiveCampaign are not tracking opens from any devices that have MPP switched on – whether it is actually a real open or not. They can’t differentiate between a real open and a false one in those cases. Unless, as I mentioned above, the same device goes on to click a link in the email too. 

So, in actual fact, the open rate is very likely being reported as lower than it really is, and you’ll still have to be cautious with how much you rely on this stat. However, the good news is that if we see increases in the open rate, they are likely to be real – just perhaps a bit lower than they should be. 

You can read a bit more info here – https://help.activecampaign.com/hc/en-us/articles/4406572859282-ActiveCampaign-and-Apple-iOS-15-Mail-Privacy-Protection#email-opens-0-3 

A note for those using Klaviyo for their email marketing: 

Klaviyo has introduced some features that allow you to identify the impact of Mail Privacy Protection on your account, including being able to filter your opens by whether they are an ‘Apple Privacy Open’ in the custom reports and segmentation tools. You can find out more about that here. https://www.klaviyo.com/blog/apple-ios15-klaviyo 

But at the campaign report level, Klaviyo have opted to continue reporting open rates as is, and as mentioned above, have reported seeing open rates across their platform up roughly 15% since September 2021. 

So, now you know the impact, what can you do instead? 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series which will explain what you can do to mitigate the impact of iOS 15 on your email marketing.

Need help with your email marketing?

If you need help getting started with email marketing, making sense of your campaign reports, or improving your weekly newsletter, get in touch, we’d love to help! Email us at info@sparemytime.com for more details. 

More Articles