Apple has released on September the 20th its newest software update* (iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and watchOS 8). In this article, we are focusing on the features with impacts on email marketing: "Mail Privacy Protection" available for Apple mail app users, and "Hide my email" feature for iCloud+ users.
The behavior and the impacts of those features may evolve. We are constantly testing the latest beta version available and we will update this article, whenever a new impact comes to our knowledge.
1."Mail Privacy Protection"
What is it about?
In a nutshell, it is a feature that prevents senders from seeing if and when users have opened their email as well as hiding the user's IP address so senders cannot link it to other online activities or determine the user's location.
Mail Privacy Protection implies a change in the tracking of email openings.
Now, let's have a look at what this may mean for you.
The tracking of email openings will be impacted.
|It is estimated that there are between 13 and 40%** of Apple Mail app users in the overall email market, regardless of their Mailbox provider (Gmail, Yahoo, Orange...) or their Apple device (iPhone, iPad, Mac...)..
Those users - providing they are updating their device to the latest iOS, iPadOS, MacOS - are prompted with this request when launching their Mail app:
If you take into account the wording of this message, there is a high probablity that many of them will choose the first option.
Here's what will happen now if users select the first option "Protect Mail Activity":
- When a user receives an email in the Apple Mail app, remote content is downloaded in the background BY DEFAULT - regardless of how the user engages with the email (that is to say, if the message has been read or not).
- All remote content downloads are also routed through multiple proxy servers, preventing the sender from knowing the IP address or device information of the user (e.g. mobile Vs tablet Vs desktop, OS...).
How are email openings tracked?
Openings are tracked based on images being downloaded. For some Mailbox providers such as Outlook.com for example, and depending on the settings of the inbox, openings will only be counted once images have been displayed. This happens via an opening pixel placed within the email (usually at the top of the email).
It is important to note that the email opened metric must be carefully used as certain Mailbox providers, some email clients, proxies and other anti-spam softwares are already pre-downloading or caching remote content of emails before the actual user initiates the opening. Those will therefore count as openings when they are in fact, not real ones***.
What will be the potential impacts for you as a marketer?
Opening rates will be less reliable
Based on our tests, it is possible to exclude Apple Mail openings from iOS15 from overall opening metrics. But we don't have any guaranty that it will remain so. As a member of the M3AAWG, Splio has made a request to Apple to confirm wether this will remain possible.
Send time optimization
As these technologies rely heavily on openings, it may now become inaccurate. For example, a tool that enables you to know the best time to send your email campaigns will have less accurate data to work on.
Dynamic images may no longer work
Dynamic images based on location (weather forecast) or the time of the opening (countdowns) may not work for the Apple Mail users.**
Emails using interactive content with external CSS may no longer work as intended.
Will other KPI's be impacted?
Other KPI's such as the click rate and online sales are not impacted by this new update and are still relevant. The sales tracker is be impacted either, as the tracking does not happen in the email but on the e-commerce.
What does Splio advise?
The campaigns which will be most impacted by this update are the following:
Active/inactive segmentation for inclusions or exclusions in any of your campaigns and Inactive reactivation campaigns
- Make sure to combine openings AND clicks for ensuring better results.
- Try and use other metrics when segmenting such as purchases or other types of interactions (your contact at Splio will be able to assist with the setup of additional interactions in Splio if necessary). Please note that other interactions than email behavior are not relevant to ensure the deliverability of your email campaigns.
- Incentivize clicks as much as possible.
- Now is the time to add other channels to your strategy, such as SMS or push notifications.
- If you notice that your opening rates are increasing after the release of the update, you should consider reducing the delay in your inactive filters.
A/B testing on subject lines
The best open rate on unique openers is an option available on manual campaigns only when selecting which criteria will be used for the automatic sending of the winner design.
You can find this option in: Scenario > New Campaign > Manual campaign > Add sequence > A/B Testing.
Our recommendation: Try A/B testing on the content of your email campaigns (on clickers) rather than on subject lines.
Follow-up emails on openers/non-openers in any of your marketing campaigns
When selecting an additional sequence after a first email action, you have the option to target users who have opened or not your first email, with a second email.
You can find this option in: Scenario > New Campaign > Create your first sequence > Then add sequence > Reactions.
Our recommendation: focus your follow-up emails on the reactions of your clickers and not your openers.
(more information on this will be provided as we do not have enough information at the moment on the topic).
What we do not know yet...
How will this impact email deliverability?
- "False openings" may generate additional unsubscriptions and spam complaints if marketers are not proactively using other KPI's and relying heavily on open rates. This depends a lot on the proportion of Apple users in your database.
- We do not know the impact this may have on Mail Box Providers anti-spam filters
To look on the bright side... we do know that most users using Apple Mail are "active" email addresses and usually happen to be the user's main email address. Why? Because people do not set up an inbox on their device if they are not using it!
2. "Hide my email"
What is it about?
Hide My Email is built into Mail, Safari, and iCloud Settings and is a feature that is available for iCloud+ subscribers only which is estimated to account for around 55% of Apple active users****
Essentially, this option allows users to instantly generate unique, random email addresses that forward emails to their personal inbox — so they don’t have to share their real email address when filling out a form on the web or signing up for a newsletter (see below example).
There were already many disposable email address providers, but with "Hide my email" we can assume that using a unique email address per service will become more common and in this case far more convenient as it will reach your inbox (and not a junk email box).
For websites and apps that were providing the "Sign in with Apple" (iOS 13 - 2019), it was already possible for users to hide the email address linked to their Apple account.
What will be the potential impacts for you?
Deduplication based on email addresses
Users who activate the "Hide my Mail" feature may become increasingly harder to deduplicate if an action happens through the email address (for example purchases happening in-store, in the e-commerce, or across brands for the same company).
This is an opportunity for retailers to improve their customer identification by incentivizing them to register online and identify them in-store using a Mobile Wallet Pass instead of an email address for example.
iOS 15: September 20, 2021
iOS 14: September 16, 2020
iOS 13: September 19, 2019
iOS 12: September 17, 2018
macOS Big Sur: November 12, 2020
macOS Catalina: October 7, 2019
macOS Mojave: September 24, 2018
** Calculating the market share of email clients is quite hard because images can be blocked, user-agents can be changed and can be the same between several ones. The Email Client Market Share report by Litmus is overestimating Apple Mail client because it is counting openings based on user agent and many apps like Outlook Mac and iOS, Spark are presenting the same user agent as Apple Mail. Please note that Apple has an important market share in Europe (24% for OS, 31% for Mobile Devices, 55% for Tablet Devices).
*** check the Limitation to email analytics article by Litmus
**** iCloud+ is the new name of a set of paid features (storage plans, Private Relay, Hide My Email). We calculated their % using appleinsider article and Busines of Apps report.