iOS 15 Changes To Email Tracking And How They’ll Affect You

Apple has released their new iOS 15 update in September 2021, and this update included several new privacy features. Two of these new features important for anyone using email marketing are Mail Privacy Protection and Hide My Email. If you regularly send out emails to your clients, including your buyers and sellers, and either track your results or perhaps even have automated workflows based on your recipient’s actions, make sure you are aware of the changes and how they may affect you. 

iOS 15 was released at the end of September 2021. As per Apple’s expected timeline, by January 2022 there will be a 90% adoption of the newest update, with 11-30% of open rates being inaccurate. So, if you’ve been seeing some changes in your open rates lately and weren’t sure why, this may be it.

The new privacy features 

So, what exactly are these two new important features? Mail Privacy Protection and Hide My Email are part of a month-long rollout of a new privacy policy update by Apple, as they are positioning themselves at the forefront of consumer privacy moving forward. The new features entirely focus on protecting the consumer’s privacy. 

This is what Apple has to say about the two features: 

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. It masks their IP addresses so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.” 

In addition to that, the “Hide My Email” feature allows users to use a “dummy” email, obscuring their true email from the companies whose newsletters they subscribe to. 

With more than 50% of the email client market share worldwide owned by Apple, these new features will significantly impact email marketing. 

How it will affect you 

If you contact your client database using email marketing, these new features will affect you. How heavily you will be affected by the new features depends on your contacts, how many of them use Apple Mail in iOS 15, and how you use email marketing within your business. 

Here are some of the effects you may notice as a result of the new features:

Your email open rate reporting will be less accurate. 

This is one of the main effects of the new features. You simply won’t be able to track your email opens as accurately as before. Apple Mail represents about 11% of email users, so you can assume 11% of your opens will be attributed incorrectly. This can be through emails not being tracked (remaining ‘unopened’), or it could mean all emails will be tracked as opened automatically. Either way, it will give you an incorrect result. 

Email automation workflows based on ‘open events’ will not be as effective.

If you use automation workflows that have campaigns triggered by people opening a certain email, you may need to make some changes to your workflow rules. If opens are no longer tracked for Apple Mail users, they may never receive the follow-up email you scheduled. 

Send-time optimisation will not be as effective

Send-time optimisation is the process of determining the best time to send email campaigns based on individual users. This will not be as effective anymore due to the new features. 

Some people may only open their emails at noon during their lunch break. Others may only read them early in the morning, or during late nights after work. Send-time optimisation determines the best time for the individual, and sends your campaign at this time. With the new features, it will be harder to optimise the send-time based on the open rate, as there is no way to track this anymore. 

This could however partially be solved by email platforms using other metrics, such as the time of clicks, instead. 

Maintaining your list hygiene becomes more complicated

The open rate is often the main metric used when cleaning up contact lists from unengaged contacts. Depending on your situation, you may remove contacts who haven’t opened any email in a certain period of time. There’s no point continuing to email people if they aren’t even opening them. 

With the open rate becoming inaccurate, you should no longer use it as the main metric to clean up your contact lists (at least for Apple Mail users); you don’t want to risk removing people who have actually been opening every single email. 

You could opt to use another metric, such as clicks. This would mean that contacts who haven’t clicked on any link in your emails for a certain amount of time, get removed from the list. This is however not the most viable method for a real estate agent. You may have contacts who are actively engaging with your emails, reading the content, but who do not often click on a link. 

This is a tricky situation where the solution is not immediately clear. How you can best solve this issue depends on your agency’s situation, goals and how you use email marketing.  

It can affect your deliverability

The fact that maintaining your list hygiene becomes more complicated can also affect your deliverability rate in the longer term. Email engagement is a key factor for deliverability. If your engagement rates are low, your emails may end up no longer being delivered as email providers are blocking them. 

Because you will no longer be able to effectively see who has opened your emails and cleaning up your list becomes more complicated, you risk continuing to email contacts who do not open your emails. This will negatively impact your engagement rate, ultimately resulting in decreased deliverability. 

What you should do

There are a few things you can (and should) do to adapt to the new features and minimise harm. 

1. Adjust your email marketing KPIs 

Your open rates won’t be as accurate anymore. The exact percentage that will be inaccurate is dependent on how many of your contacts use Apple Mail and protect their email activity. This means that you shouldn’t be using the open rate as a main KPI for your email campaigns. Instead, focus more on other metrics such as click-through rates, traffic to your website, click-maps and unsubscribes.  

2. Review all your automated workflows

Make sure you review all your current workflows to spot any campaigns triggered by ‘open events’ – e.g. follow-up emails that get sent after a recipient opens a certain email. 

A good alternative here is to replace the open events by clicks. Instead of triggering a sequence based on when someone opens an email, it will now happen based on when someone clicks a link in your email. 

3. Spend some time cleaning up & segmenting your contact list

Email engagement has always been important for deliverability, and emailing disengaged contacts can seriously affect it. To minimise the risk of this happening, spend some time on cleaning up your list. Remove anyone who has not engaged with your emails for a long time. It will become increasingly difficult to track this as time goes on, so get this sorted while you can. 

On top of that, segment your contact list into more specific groups where you can. Create lists for buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants. Within these, you can split the lists even further to first-time buyers, investors, current or prospective sellers, and so on. Segmenting your lists will help you create more tailored and personalised campaigns for your contacts, leading to higher engagement rates. 

4. Use it as an opportunity to improve your email campaigns

Whilst it may be frustrating that the open rate won’t be as accurate anymore and changes in how you measure and create your campaigns are required, it is a good opportunity and reminder to improve your email marketing strategies. 

The click-through rate will become an even more important metric, as it should be. Realistically, the open rate does not say much itself – someone opening your email does not mean they’re interested in your agency or are currently thinking of selling. A click on a specific link in your emails however, does indicate this interest. 

Use this as a motivation to improve your email campaigns even more: focus on short, sharp emails that lead to a clear CTA, such as a link to the full article on your website. 

Prepare for further privacy restrictions 

This update by Apple’s iOS 15 isn’t the first one that has impacted digital marketing, and it won’t be the last. Protecting the consumer’s privacy is becoming increasingly important for the major technology companies, and it’s a good change. It’s a great reminder to optimise your marketing campaigns, and to refocus on the client’s experience so they want to engage with your content. Building relationships with your clients and providing them with valuable, relevant content is becoming more important than ever. 

If you have any questions about how to adapt your email marketing to these new privacy features, or you’d like to have a chat about digital marketing for your real estate agency in general, feel free to schedule a free consultation with our team at any time.