How Apple’s iOS15 Privacy Updates Impact Your Email Marketing Campaigns & How To Prepare

Jun 10, 2021 | Digital Marketing, E-commerce, Omnichannel Marketing

Apple releases the iOS15 Privacy update. What does that mean for your business?

Headshot of Perry, Creative Director at Ten Four

Written by Jamie
Our Chief Digital Strategist

8 Mins Read

A recent study of nearly a billion emails opened by Litmus Email Analytics revealed the ten most popular email clients used worldwide. The results? Apple showed industry dominance with two spots in the top 3 and an email client market share of over 63% (1).

Litmus top 10 email clients overall – 1-31st May, 2021

Apple Release App Tracking Transp

This chart is based on Litmus Email Analytics reporting, available here. Data may be incorrect or misreported in some instances.

With such a high percentage of people using Apple’s email clients via their products to receive and read mail, what would a significant privacy update mean for email marketers across the globe?

Apple talks Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) with their latest iOS15 update

Apple’s explanation of the privacy benefits this new feature has to iOS15 users. Full clip here

By now, you may have heard about Apple’s pivot to privacy, releasing various software and hardware updates such as the ATT (AppTrackingTransparency), iCloud’s Private Relay, all part of the iOS14.5 & iOS15 updates. The new privacy feature is the Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) feature, which launched in September 2021, and has created many implications for businesses and their marketers’ email marketing performance. 

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How does iOS15 affect email marketing?

Let’s dive into the mechanics behind email marketing tracking and this new feature to understand better how Apple’s MPP updates could affect your email marketing efforts. 

Why and how do email marketing platforms track end-users opening email campaigns?

The benefits to a business or a marketer for tracking email engagement KPIs such as the number of emails received, opened or clicked, are vital to understanding the success of an email marketing campaign. For example, tracking an email open can also be used to trigger additional email flows. Marketers could argue that tracking an email’s performance and engagement ensures future content is more relevant to the user if the business or marketer uses the data collected.

Other information that email marketing platforms can collect from the emails being opened includes: what email client the user is using, what device the user has, how many times, what time and where the email was opened and what links or content was clicked in the email.

To track the emails being opened, it’s a standard practice across the email marketing industry to embed a unique, transparent, single-pixel image into every email sent. Every time the image pixel is downloaded from the email marketing provider’s server, it counts as an open. Because the image pixel is unique to your email, the opens are also unique to your email. 

All images and content required to display an email sent by an email marketing platform are hosted on their servers. Apple refers to any content such as images and pixels as remote content.

What is the iOS 15 MPP (Mail Privacy Protection) feature?

From the users perspective, they needn’t do anything different except continue to use Apple’s inbuilt Mail app to receive and read their emails.

However, in the background, Apple’s new MPP feature is a new protection update under their larger initiative to help users protect their privacy; specifically, the MPP feature is designed to minimise tracking in email marketing. 

Apple has said that the MPP works by “downloading remote content [such as the images and the transparent tracking pixel] in the background by default … all remote content downloaded by Mail is routed through multiple proxy servers, preventing the sender from learning your IP address.” 

As a result, email senders will only receive generic information rather than information about your behaviour.” 

Two of the significant features of the Apple’s MPP updates are:

  • Open tracking prevention: this works by Apple downloading remote content in the background to prevent accurate tracking of opens.
  • IP Protection: Mail will download remote content through a series of proxy servers to hide the IP address of the subscriber. 

How does Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection affect marketers?

Email marketing is a highly profitable marketing channel; on average, it has a return on investment (ROI) of $36 (USD) for every $1 spent (2). In 2022, email marketing worldwide is estimated to generate $9.62 billion US dollars (3) in revenue. So, any changes to restrict how email marketing works could have significant consequences to businesses that use this marketing channel.

The update will ultimately prevent marketers from fully understanding how their email campaigns are engaged with when sent to users; who are utilising an Apple email client with MPP-enabled. 

Here are some of the main implications of the MPP updates for email marketers:

  • You’ll be unable to tell whether or not a subscriber opened your email. The Apple Mail app will report 100% open rates on emails for contacts who have MPP enabled. This is because MPP opens every email a user receives regardless of their behaviour.
  • Knowing user-specific information of your subscribers, such as their location and the device they use to read your email, will be redundant since every email is automatically opened; you can no longer confidently rely on email opens as a key performance indicator (KPI). 
  • You may have to rebuild your automation flows, as any automation action in your email marketing platform you use that relies on email open tracking can be affected. You may see automations trigger immediately, for example, despite the user not opening your email.

How to prepare for Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection Update

If you’re concerned about what all of this means for your businesses email marketing campaigns, there are a few things you can do to prepare for the incoming iOS 15 and MPP updates. 

We recommend you take these few steps to prepare:

  • Switch or use an email marketing platform such as ActiveCampaign that filters out false opens caused by MPP. You may see reduced data, but the data will still give an accurate indication proportionally based on the users not using the Apple Mail clients and MPP. 
  • Review any campaigns relying on automation, particularly if you have any active campaigns, or automated customer journeys triggered when a user opens (or fails to open) an email.
  • Follow all email sign-up, unsubscribe and permissions best practices. You must have explicit consent from all of your subscribers. 
  • Shake up the metrics you look at in your email campaigns and start optimising your email campaign for clicks (which aren’t expected to be impacted by MPP) instead of opens.



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In this dynamic time, we expect future changes and new product iterations, and will continue to proactively communicate our guidance and help you navigate these shifts.