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How publishers need to adapt to Apple iOS 15 email privacy changes

What's New in Publishing 07 Jul 2021 07:00

In June, Apple announced iOS 15 email privacy changes that will radically change the email programs of all publishers.

According to Apple, Mail Privacy Protection “helps users prevent senders from knowing when [a person] opens an email, and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.”

When iOS 15 rolls out in September, publishers will not be able to track who opened their emails on Apple Mail.

Apple won’t bury Mail Privacy Protection deep within the iOS settings. As they did with cross-app tracking permissions in iOS 14, Apple will automatically present the choice to “Protect Mail activity” to users the first time they open the Mail app after upgrading to iOS 15.

The vast majority of Apple Mail users will upgrade to iOS 15, and you should expect nearly everyone to “Protect Mail activity”. After all, why wouldn’t they?

Bottom line, what this means is that email open rate tracking will radically change starting in September.

How Does This Change Affect Publishers Specifically?

Analyze your own email lists and determine how many people open your emails on Apple Mail. Do the calculations and estimate how this change will likely impact your unique and total open rates. Adjust your expectations and baseline KPIs accordingly.

Ensure your editorial, production, audience development and sales staff are all aware of this change. Everyone on your team will be impacted and will need to adjust their expectations.

Email KPI reports and dashboards often have open rate performance benchmarks. Make sure that you’ve properly adjusted or at least annotated the changes.

On a positive note, email traffic reported by Google Analytics or other website analytic tools should not change as Apple is not blocking the tracking of clickthroughs … at least not yet.

Most publishers have implemented an automated or manual email list cleansing process. This is typically based on how long it has been since an email recipient has opened an email.

Publishers should temporarily turn off automated list cleansing processes at the end of August. Then, monitor your key engagement metrics after the launch of iOS 15. Make sure that you understand how the new privacy change impacts your metrics before re-enabling automated or manual list cleansing.

As with engagement, you will also want to audit and modify any other automations you have in place that rely on email open tracking. The iOS change will report false positives, so you’ll need to adjust your automation workflows to account for that change.

Clicks will become the defining email KPI going forward. Take a close look at the design of your email newsletters and direct emails. Are they optimized to encourage clicks?

Some publishers serve ads into email using a programmatic system like LiveIntent or their own ad server like Advertserve or Broadstreet. These ads are typically served into email using an image with parameters unique to the specific recipient and campaign.

You will still be able to serve ads into Apple Mail. Actual clicks will be unaffected and should remain at the same levels. However, impressions served into email will be over-counted and this will also lead to a reduction in click-through rate (CTR).

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AppleMail Privacy ProtectionGoogle AnalyticsNearview Media
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