Should Email Marketers Be Worried About Apple’s iOS15?

In early June, Apple announced its new privacy protections in iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and watchOS8, stating in a press release that “privacy is a fundamental human right.”

I mean, sure, Apple also collects metadata like who you’re calling on FaceTime and monitors your heart rate and diet, but isn’t that what all your privacy-conscious friends do?

Still, Apple isn’t just all talk.

The iOS14 rollout showed us that Apple really is serious about privacy concerns and they aren’t afraid to challenge the typical assumptions around online privacy- and iOS15 is no different.

This time, Apple has set their sights on email privacy as they once again aim to protect user’s data from third parties.

The company’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi, had this to say about the newest innovation:

“Privacy has been central to our work at Apple from the very beginning. Every year, we push ourselves to develop new technology to help users take more control of their data and make informed decisions about whom they share it with. This year’s updates include innovative features that give users deeper insights and more granular control than ever before.”

One of the most significant privacy updates Apple announced with iOS15 has to do with email privacy. The new Mail Privacy Protection updates stop senders from using hidden pixels to collect information about their recipients.

This shift has marketers scrambling, as it will stop senders from knowing when a user has opened their message and block that critical open-rate data.

It will also mask the IP address of the user, which means they won’t be linked to other online activity and their location will remain anonymous.

This is definitely a shift from the email marketing norm but I’m here to tell you that there’s nothing to worry about if you’re producing quality email content.

If you’re already following the best practices around email marketing, then it can be business as usual.

But if you’re struggling with a quality email campaign, you’ll have to make adjustments—regardless of privacy regulations.

How Is Email Usually Tracked?

Email is usually tracked using something called email pixels. These are little images stored in 1px by 1px form. Often they’re transparent, so you don’t even notice them when they’re in your inbox.

But, even though pixels often aren’t noticeable, they do a lot for marketers, like measuring email opens and click-through rates.

Email tracking software puts an invisible pixel somewhere in the email to collect data and allows the sender to see when their email has been opened by recording the date and time a user clicked on it.

Based on what we know so far, this will no longer be an option in iOS15.

What’s Different in iOS15?

The updates to iOS15 mark a lot of important changes. They give users more control over their privacy by putting an end to email tracking. The Apple Mail app is now covered by Mail Privacy Protection, which keeps pixels from tracking when users open their mail.

Marketers will now lose access to their email open rate, which is a critical part of measuring email campaigns for most or at least that’s the prevailing idea.

These privacy updates will be available to Apple Mail users free of charge, but there are even more advanced privacy options available. For a fee ranging from $.99 – $9.99, users can upgrade their privacy.

That does seem a little counter to the whole “privacy is a human right” idea but we’ll let it slide I guess.

The advanced options include hiding email addresses on submission forms and having access to a virtual private network (VPN).

So if you’re part of the email marketing game, these updates are probably sending chills down your spine, and for right now, there seems to be no way to get around the loss of pixels.

The truth is that the old way of doing things won’t work anymore for most marketers, so it’s time to make some changes or at least go back to the basics.

Did Apple Just Kill Email Marketing?

Not exactly.

If you’ve been using a spray and pray approach then you’re going to have problems.

But if you’re zero’ed in already, you should be able to see the same or similar results without open rates.


With Jedi-Level email marketing.

Remember when Luke Skywalker was working on his lightsaber skills against that little floating droid?

He was doing okay. But then Obi Wan took things up a level and made him wear a blaster helmet that left him blind folded.

Well, we’re basically Luke Skywalker in this scenario and wise old Apple just dropped a blaster helmet on our head.

But instead of using the force, we’re going to focus on the fundamentals to achieve Jedi-Level email marketing and succeed without tracking open rates and other data.

How to Get Jedi-Level Email Marketing

You can get caught up in the world of pixels and how to make up for losing them, but the reality is, your email open rate isn’t the problem.

In the end, pixels aren’t important and neither is tracking your open rate. Instead, it’s your emails themselves that are weighing your campaign down, and that’s where you need to focus.

Sending quality, authenticated emails is the key to an effective email marketing campaign.

The bottom line is that your readers should see you as a real person with relevant information to pass along and not a bot with another pitch.

If you want your emails to land in the primary inbox, this should be your goal.

So even though Apple’s new privacy updates prevent you from knowing your email open rate, sending quality emails will save you in the long run.

Remember this: You’re sending emails to the wrong people if you’re worried about your open rate.

The more you send emails to the wrong people, the more you will get marked as spam. Users who don’t open your messages decrease your authority and make your email marketing campaigns less effective.

Rather than looking at how the iOS15 changes will hurt you, think about how this will help you optimize your email marketing game.

So what are some things you can do to make sure you’re being sent to the primary inbox? Here are some pro-tips to up your email game:

  • Build a quality list: The easiest way to set yourself up for success is by building a quality list. Find the people who are most interested in your product and service and focus your energy there. If you’ve got a list full of people who couldn’t care less you’re on a fast track to being marked as spam.
  • Make your emails mobile-friendly: One of the best things you can do to improve your email campaign is to make your emails mobile-friendly. Everyone is using mobile devices these days, and 47% of all people use a mobile app for their email, so optimizing your emails to be opened on mobile devices is key. I know it’s obvious but it’s still being overlooked.
  • Consider text-only emails: Another big thing you can do is to focus on using text over images in your email campaign. Even though images may look nice, most email clients block them automatically, so you’re not getting any bang for your buck. Instead, your recipients often see broken links, which can turn them off. Go with plain text and links to your content to keep things clean and running smoothly. More importantly, sticking with text only can help you stay out of the promotions tab.
  • Send your email from a real person: If you have “no-reply” in your email subject line, this can spell doom for you. People open emails based on who sent them. Have your emails come from a marketing team member to make the message more intimate, and tell your users how they can reply.
  • Optimize your subject line: You don’t have to sell in the subject line, instead focus on starting the conversation. Selling too hard in the subject line can also be a one way ticket to the promotions tab.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that things are changing when it comes to privacy, and the way to stay ahead is by producing quality content like the Jedi you are. It's also important to realize that things will always be changing and that's simply the nature of business.

Yes, Apple’s increased privacy regulations make things a little more complicated, but if you get better at sending emails, you’ll be able to work around it. If your email gets sent to the primary inbox, that should alleviate most of your fears.

The truth is, if you’re bad at sending emails now, the changes to Apple’s privacy won’t affect you too much.

You’ll still be bad.

So instead of worrying about pixels, focus on building a quality list and creating awesome emails.

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