The Impact of iOS 15 on Marketing

Due to release this fall, iOS 15 promises big changes for marketers, and (spoiler alert) they aren’t really changes for the better when looked at through a marketer’s lens.

Photo by Zhang Kaiyv on Unsplash

In keeping with recent changes on the part of Apple and other tech giants, user privacy seems to be a significant component of iOS 15. Specifically, it looks like users will be able, either automatically or by opting in, to prevent email senders from knowing their IP address and whether they actually opened an email or not. Here’s what Apple is saying about it: “Mail Privacy Protection hides your IP address, so senders can’t link it to your other online activity or determine your location. And it prevents senders from seeing if and when you’ve opened their email.”

Given the prevalence of iPhones and other Apple products, that last item is likely to have a huge impact on marketers’ use of open rates as one measure of success.

These changes don’t necessarily spell doom for marketers, but they will pose challenges and require a bit more effort to measure engagement. According to Will DeKrey, HubSpot’s Group Product Manager of Campaigns, iOS 15 is a step in the right direction for user privacy and points to the path marketers should take: “Buyers get to be in charge of the data they share; not sellers. And big corporations shouldn’t get to create markets for tracking and selling personal data, giving them an information advantage over smaller businesses. This means that each individual company, large or small, will need to get better and better at building trusted relationships with their audience, earning the right to learn who they are and what they’re interested in.”

Here are some concrete actions marketers can take to prep for and adapt to the expected iOS 15 changes:

1. Gather as much data as you can before iOS 15 releases.

That release could be as soon as September or as late as November…so get started on tons of A/B testing on subject lines, email content, personalization, etc. The more data you have about what works now, the better you’ll be able to engage with your audience later, when that data will be much harder to obtain.

Also, if it’s been a while since you’ve cleaned up your list, try to re-engage inactive contacts or remove them. Make sure you segment your list and aren’t just sending every email to everyone. Take steps so your emails are landing in users’ inbox (and not in promotions or spam folders). And make sure you’ve set up tracking to know when someone clicks on a link in your emails.

2. Adjust your expectations in terms of open rates.

There isn’t much you can do on this front until iOS 15 actually releases, but once that happens, take a few weeks to track open rates and then compare them to pre-release data to get some idea of how the new averages compare. Some bloggers have written that iOS 15 will mark everyone using the iPhone Mail app as having opened your emails, whether they have or not, so your open rates could be ridiculously (inaccurately) high post-iOS 15, if that’s the case.

3. Use other marketing data to measure success.

Whenever you can, share links to other content in your emails, including blogs, podcasts, landing pages, and special offers. The click-through rates are a great way to measure how engaged or interested your audience is. When sending users to your website, use tracking URLs to see how much traffic has come to your site from each email.

As usual, pay close attention to your unsubscribe rates. Obviously a big jump signals that you’re doing something that rubs people the wrong way, whether it’s the frequency of emails or the content. A consistently low unsubscribe rate tells you that at least you don’t seem to be causing offense.

4. Offer value to email recipients to entice them to share their opinions, desires, and personal information.

Ideally, this is a principle you already adhere to, but you may have to take it up a notch. Many users do want to see relevant content that is tailored to their needs or interests, and they are willing to provide information about themselves to ensure that they receive such content. But marketers need to offer something of value in return. This might take the form of providing discounts or chances to win a contest in exchange for users taking a short survey. Or it might mean sending emails offering pre-release access, or an exclusive recipe, or life-hack tips… This will vary depending on what type of business you’re in, of course, but the idea remains the same: Don’t expect to get something of value (consumers’ purchase preferences, for example) for nothing.

Until iOS 15 actually releases, we can only speculate on what will be involved in this newest iteration. But all signs are pointing to changes that give users more options for protecting privacy — and give marketers new challenges when it comes to measuring effectiveness. But remember — it’s challenge that drives innovation.

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