With IOS 15 starting to roll out on Monday 20th September we are going to see a number of impacts to email through Apple Mail Privacy Protection.

In this guide we explain what it is, how it works and the actions you need to take.

What is Apple Mail Privacy Protection

  • Apple Mail Privacy Protection will be rolled out to their Mail app on iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey devices between September and November 2021
  • It has been in ‘beta’ for the last few months so we have developed some understanding of how it works but until it is fully released we won’t be able to say definitively.
  • Apple says “Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. [It prevents] senders from knowing when they open an email, and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.”

How it works

(this is taken from Litmus Blog which gives very good explanation of how they think it will work)

When someone first opens up the Apple Mail app they get the options to protect or don’t protect mail activity. Protecting mail activity will turn on Apple Mail Privacy Protection.

Apple Mail Privacy Protection and Email Marketing

If it is turned on Apple will first route emails through a proxy server to pre-load message content—including tracking pixels—before serving to readers. Even if readers don’t actually open those emails.

  1. When the subscriber’s Apple Mail app starts up, it triggers a download of the email to their device from the sender’s web host or email service provider (ESP).
  2. At that time, and generally before the email is read, Apple caches all of the images in the email, creating a copy of the images to a new location on the Apple Privacy Cache with an IP address assigned to the general region of the subscriber instead of their specific geolocation. Testing showed that subscribers must be connected to a wireless network with the Mail app running in the background for this to happen.
  3. This caching process requires Apple to request the images from the ESP server—including the open tracking pixel—which makes the ESP think the email has been opened.
  4. If the subscriber actually opens the email, it triggers a request to download and display the email’s images, but instead of coming from the sender’s web host or ESP server, they’re coming from the Apple Cache. So, senders are still left in the dark.

This affects any email opened from the Apple Mail app on any device—no matter which email service is used such as Gmail or a work account. However, this shouldn’t affect other email apps used on Apple devices like the Gmail app on an iPhone.

Apple Mail Privacy Protection and Email Marketing

Apple Mail Privacy Protection and Email Marketing

What are the impacts?

  • Open rates will go up and you will no longer be able to use opens as a reliable metric for email performance.
  • You will not be able to tell who opened your emails, when, and where via Apple Mail.
  • Customers who use click to open (CTO) rate reporting will see a reduction in this rate as open counts will go up.
  • The accuracy of device reporting will degrade following the launch
  • The last open date will no longer be a good indicator that a user is engaged if they use Apple Mail. Filters that use last open date to drive campaigns will not be accurate.
  • As the emails are cached by Apple, the IP Address and hence location of the opens is not accurate. The Google changes a few years ago had the same impact on device reporting. This will now impact Apple users
  • Automations that use the last opened date will be impacted by this change. Journeys that use ‘opened email’ in a decision step will be impacted.
  • If your email provider uses opens to drive subject line testing to pick the winning subject line then this will be impacted. However, in theory if the same number of Apple Mail users are in each test group then the open uplift from Apple Mail Privacy Protection will be the same in each test group so impact may not be that big.
  • If you use historic email open times to drive when you send emails then this will not be accurate going forward. Apple is generating an open at the time that the Apple Mail app starts up or at a random time if it is running in the background.
  • Live email content that updates when the user opens an email will be impacted as the image is cached at the time the user opens the Apple Mail app. This will impact things like count down timers and live weather

What you need to do now

  • Find out the potential impact to your email marketing campaigns by working out how many of your contacts use Apple Mail to read emails. If you don’t have many Apple users then you may see very little impact.
  • Do a clean up of your list using last open date before Apple Mail Privacy Protection
  • Review all automations and use ‘clicked an email’ instead of ‘opened an email’ as a trigger in customer journeys
  • Create locked down segments that use ‘last open date’ so that you can carry on using them, at least in the short term
  • Start tracking click-through rate over delivered now so that you have a baseline report for campaigns moving forward.

What you need to do next

  • Consider using new style content in your emails to drive engagement and get clicks. Test new creative and calls to action that get feedback on your emails e.g. Did you enjoy the content of this email?
  • Look at using additional performance metrics like clicks and conversions instead of just opens. The Pure360 Campaign Revenue Analytics Dashboard gives revenue conversion attribution for ecommerce customers so you can see exactly how much money each campaign made.
  • Consider adding SMS to your marketing mix. SMS open rates are extremely high. Pure360 can build you mobile specific landing pages which can be used for offers, discount codes, new product launches, surveys and competitions.
  • Focus on collecting zero party data – data that a customer freely and proactively shares with you
  • If you send informational emails which do not look for clicks or conversions, consider adding calls to action to your emails so you have a robust performance metric going forward.
  • If you use live content in emails you should review how this impacts the customer experience

What are Pure360 doing?

We are currently reviewing a number of changes in the platform to help users understand the impacts of Apple Mail Privacy Protection. These include reporting improvements, new conversion tracking metrics and A/B testing.

Further Reading

What Mail Privacy Protection Means for Email Marketers [UPDATED]

4 Insights on the Not-Immediately-Obvious Impacts of iOS 15 Mail Privacy Protection Changes

What Apple’s Upcoming Privacy Changes Mean For Email