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Email Marketing - Changes to Apple's Privacy Policy

Updated: Oct 13, 2021

iOS 15 is finally here, and many marketers have been bracing for the impact of changes Apple included in this update, primarily around the increase to Apple's customers' control over how they interact with and what data is shared with websites they visit. They call this 'Mail Privacy Protection.'


The bulk of these changes were announced in June and affect Apple's native mobile Mail application and Siri – if you use a Gmail app to access your emails from your iPhone, this shouldn't impact you yet.


What do these changes mean?

Now, Apple Mail app users can turn on "Protect Mail Activity," which activates an invisibility cloak that:

  • Blocks pixels from collecting information on users

  • Hides IP addresses detected during email image loading

  • Privately loads all remote content.

What are the impacts of these changes?

According to statcounter GlobalStats, an estimated 52.73% of Canadian's used an iOS operating system device in August 2021, so small businesses will feel the impact of these changes in one way or another in their marketing efforts.

As a consumer, I am excited about the updated Hide My Email feature that lets Apple users create a randomized (AKA burner) email address when registering for an app or website. Emails sent to that address will be forwarded to a personal email account but prevent tracking the same consumer across different platforms without hindering promotional offers from preferred brands. I also liked the idea of not having my information shared without my consent. Another benefit could be the ads that make us feel like our devices are eavesdropping.


On the other hand, these changes mean a shift in the metrics we use to track the success of our campaigns as a marketer. At a high level, losing this information means we have a less accurate picture of marketing campaigns' effectiveness and who your audience is.


Looking at Hide my Email, this feature makes it challenging to:

  • Distinguish between legitimate and burner email accounts

  • Correlate email matching with offline purchase data

  • Accurately measure bounce rates due to deleted email addresses

  • Control access and usage of one time sign-up offers and free trials.

Diving deeper, the new Mail Privacy Protection can prevent the sender of email marketing campaigns from seeing if the email was opened – AKA open rates.

Open rates have been a critical metric for many reasons. They allow us to:

  • Build effective email automation and targeting based on retention and re-engagement – did an active customer/lead open the email, and if they haven't opened the last few, did they open this one?

  • Identify how many subscribers received and opened their email? – shows us the relevance of subject lines and content to our subscribers

  • Create segmentations based on engagement – what content customers engage with and what types of content should be produced

  • Maintain healthy subscriber lists (you can read more about subscriber lists by checking out our second post in this series) – remove those who wish to receive our content and those no longer interested.

The protection also allows Apple customers to mask their UP address, preventing us from linking online activities or determining their location. These two changes significantly impact our ability as marketers to implement optimization and personalization in our email marketing campaigns.


Optimization is affected as these changes hinder A/B testing, reduce our data - which impacts optimum send time and provides false insights into engagement rates - impacting our ability to maintain healthy subscriber lists.


Personalization is affected by limiting our ability to send content tailored to a particular subscriber, send targeted re-engagement campaigns, and to use automation to lead subscribers down the sales funnel.


The ripple effect looks something like this:

So, what do we do?

The impact on the data collected for each business would be different depending on how many of your subscribers use an iOS device and Apple Mail.


One way to gauge how many of your subscribers might be using an iOS vs a Google / Android) based operating systems is to look at web analytics. You can gather these insights by using your analytics tools (we use Google Analytics for our clients) and seeing the device and operating system web users use to access your site. If only 10 percent of your web traffic over the past 3-6 months were iOS operating systems, historic metrics will remain good indicators and provide reasonably accurate insights.


Beyond this, it's important to keep in mind that there is no way to tell how many iOS users use Apple Mail and how many of those will choose to turn these settings on. This means that open rates and location data are not extinct measurements – just a little less reliable than they used to be.


With all this said, some other ways to obtain insights on your users and measure campaign success are:

  • Surveys that offer discounts or neat prizes as incentives for participation

  • Engagement indicators like:

  • Click rates

  • Correlation between content featured in email marketing and visits to connected landing pages

  • Conversion rates like promo code usage

So, long story short, marketing metrics are continually pivoting and adjusting, especially as privacy is a huge topic and concern in our society. For example, Apple plans to update its premium iCloud storage/ cloud computing service soon to offer Private Relay. This internet privacy service encrypts web browsing data and assigns anonymous IP addresses making it more difficult for websites to track users.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to enact these changes on your own iOS device (don’t worry, we won’t hold it against you), follow the links below:


Hide my Email Address

Mail Privacy Protection


We'd love to hear your thoughts and any impacts you've noticed in the past few weeks since the launch of iOS 15.




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