How the Apple iOS update is affecting email open rates

Email Open Rate

Apple’s recent iOS update is now available for all iPhones and has impacted a lot of digital marketing, especially email marketing. It has been found the Apple iOS update is affecting email open rates. The update allows users to opt into its Mail Privacy Protection feature. This essentially blocks email senders from being able to see information about that user and how they interact with the email. 


Whilst this change offers increased privacy for the individual user which is great, it can lead to an inflated email open rate and businesses need to be aware of this if they take part in email marketing.

The open rate is often one of the key performance indicators that email marketers use to measure the success of an email. The higher the open rate, the more people have seen it and the more likely the desired action will take place. However, because Apple's iOS update is affecting email open rates this is no longer the best way to measure the effectiveness of emails.

Any Apple user with the iOS update that opts into this Mail Privacy Protection feature will have their emails classed as opened, regardless of whether they have in fact opened or read the email. This therefore can skew the figures greatly and is no longer an accurate measure for marketers. 

With a significant portion of people with Apple devices, when an Apple iOS update is affecting email open rates it is something all businesses sending marketing emails need to be aware of. Even before the update, the open rate of an email is regarded as a vanity metric in many ways. It is an easy metric to measure, look at and assume your email is working if the open rate is high but that is not necessarily the case. Many people open emails without even looking at its contents, just so that they can delete it. Therefore, you can never be certain your user has seen your email as intended. Let alone if they have engaged with your marketing message.

Therefore, this iOS update has shifted digital marketers' focus but its not necessarily a bad thing. Email marketers should use this as an opportunity to move away from focusing too much on open rate and concentrate on some more solid KPIs such as the click-through-rate (CTR). This metric will actually provide you with data that shows how engaged your user is which is much more valuable.

What can email marketers do?

If the Apple iOS update is affecting email open rates, here are some actions you can start taking now to tackle the iOS update changes.

1. As we explained above, focus less on open rates as this figure is now not reliable. Concentrate on clicks and click through rates instead. You can still have an open rate goal, you will just have to explain the inflated rate in any reports for clarity.

2. Reconsider your resend strategy. Many people often resend to those who have not opened the previous email. However, this is now not realistic as we will not know who exactly has opened or not opened the email. Try resending to non clickers instead.

3. Be careful when you include time sensitive devices such as a countdown timer. These used to work relatively well however Apple will now class all emails as open as soon as they reach the inbox. Therefore the content will likely be out of date when the user does open the email.

4. Some email marketers use location segmentation for their emails. As the Apple update will now mask the users IP address, email senders will no longer be able to determine the location of these emails .

5. If you are using open rate data to determine your AB testing strategy or your email database segmentation then you will have to rethink this. Use click information or conversion data to split the database up instead for more accurate results.  

Because the Apple iOS update is affecting email open rates major changes will be made in the digital marketing space, especially email marketing, it is inevitable that these changes will continue to happen, with an increased focus on user privacy. The best option is to learn how to adapt and use the data you still have to continue to get results from your marketing.

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