How to Adapt your Email Marketing after iOS 15 Update (and Keep Making Sales)

How to Adapt your Email Marketing after iOS 15 Update (and Keep Making Sales)
Charlene Boutin
Charlene Boutin Oct 22, 2021 — 8 min read

For businesses operating online, email marketing can be one of the most powerful tools to grow an audience, increase your sales, and build a long-term asset that helps you create a sustainable business.

One of the ways businesses can gauge the success of their email campaigns is by tracking open rates.

The recent changes made by Apple with their iOS 15 privacy update have made it difficult to accurately measure open rates and much more.

Let’s explore what this update means for email marketers – and how you can adapt your email marketing strategy to continue seeing success with this medium.


What is the Apple iOS 15 update?

The Apple iOS 15 update is the most recent software update that Apple has released for their iPhone and iPod Touch products. This update affects anyone who has a compatible device (23 devices in total).

There are a plethora of new features available for iOS users. But its new privacy settings make it possible for users to customize how you get to access their data.

For instance, the Safari web browser can prevent trackers from viewing a user’s IP address and tracking them as they go from website to website.

After the Apple iOS 15 update, Safari prevents trackers from viewing a user’s IP address

The new Mail Privacy Protection feature also hides a user’s IP address, which means you won’t be able to know if they’ve opened your emails.

The Mail Privacy Feature prevents you from seeing if your subscribers open your emails

What are iOS 15’s implications for email marketing?

As you may have guessed, these changes will have a huge impact on businesses using email marketing.

Let’s explore these below.

1. Open rates can’t get tracked accurately

When your subscribers open their emails from an iOS 15 device, there’s a high likelihood that you won’t detect it.

However, keep in mind that iOS users may also have other devices. So a subscriber who owns an iOS device could open your emails on their computer, which would mean you’d be able to track that open.

What this means for email marketers is that open rates have become less accurate than ever. There’s no way to know how many of your subscribers own an iOS 15 device, much less how often they intend to use it.

2. Your subscribers may use a unique identifier to join your list

When someone provides their email address to get a lead magnet, sign up to your list from a popup, or purchase something, you can automatically add them to your list when using email marketing software.

Some users create email addresses specifically for their purchases or opt-ins.

This is usually for one of two reasons.

Either they don’t want to clog up their inbox with promotions, or they don’t want to give away their main email address.

Apple solves the second problem for users by allowing them to instantly generate unique and random email addresses when they sign up to an email list.

Apple allows users to create single-use email addresses for surveys and promotions

Here’s the good news with this feature, however: mail still gets forwarded to the user’s real address. The only difference is that you won’t get to see what that address is with your own eyes.

This will prevent fraudulent email marketers from selling their subscribers’ information for a profit. As long as you respect your subscribers’ data and their privacy by using permission-based email marketing, this shouldn’t have too much of an impact on you.

3. Cookies and trackers on your website won’t function for all users

It’s good practice for businesses using email marketing to track who visits their website. By knowing who visited which pages, you can offer customized promotions and use retargeting ads to drive traffic back.

The iOS 15 update won’t stop you from seeing someone who’s active on your website using tools like Google Analytics. But you won’t be able to track this back to an individual user.

And because tech giants like Google and Facebook won’t be able to track what else iOS 15 users visit and purchase, it’ll be more difficult to paint an accurate picture of consumer behaviors.

How to fix your email marketing after the iOS 15 update

So, we’ve covered the bad news.

The good news is that email marketing can still be wildly effective to help you increase sales and grow your business.

For one, not all iPhone users decide to adopt iOS 15 right away. According to Mixpanel, 25.58% of users had adopted iOS 15 as of October 13, 2021.

As iOS 15 adoption rates increase, businesses will be forced to fix their email marketing strategies

But keep in mind that as more and more people replace their old devices, adoption rates will increase.

Luckily, there are several ways you can adapt the way you do email marketing to ensure you can still get a healthy ROI from this channel.

Open rates are often touted as the golden metric for email marketers. After all, if no one opens your emails, no one sees your promotions.

But open rates aren’t the only valuable metric that you can track using autoresponder platforms.

Both link clicks and purchases are far more valuable than open rates.

Here’s why – email opens suggest that people are opening your emails. But it doesn’t mean they’re engaging with it. For all you know, subscribers could be reading the first line and bouncing right away.

On the other hand, link clicks show that subscribers are interested in what you have to offer. Even if those clicks aren’t converting to sales, it still means that your email did its job of driving interest towards your website.

Of course, the number of purchases also says a lot about your emails.

Purchases are the best indicator of a thriving email list. Even the biggest, most nurtured email list won’t help you grow your business if your emails aren’t generating sales.

So, when you’re looking at your metrics to see what decisions to make next, survey link clicks and purchases closely.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re not sure how often you should email your subscribers. You decide to start emailing once a day.

When you look at your metrics, you realize that you’ve generated a higher percentage of link clicks compared to when you only emailed once a week. You’ve also generated ten times as many sales.

Even if open rates are low, you can likely conclude that daily emails get you better results than weekly newsletters.

Note that this is just an example – each list is different, and it’s important to test it out yourself before making conclusions about what works best.

On the other hand, if the recent string of emails you’ve sent out doesn’t generate links or sales, you’ve most likely got something you need to fix. Perhaps it’s the messaging, or your call to action, or your subject line – once again, it’s difficult to tell without testing.

You can also track how many replies you get, although you should only track those if you’re specifically trying to get a reply.

Getting replies is a great way not only to engage with your audience and start a conversation, but also to get your deliverability rate up!

One way to adapt your email marketing to the iOS 15 update and get your newsletters out of the Promotions tab is to create engagement with subscribers

That’s because replies signal to email service providers like Google or Hotmail that there’s a real person behind your emails. When there’s frequent back and forth between you and your subscribers, you’ll have a smaller chance of ending up in the Promotions tab or in the spam bin.

Replies also help you cultivate a relationship with your subscribers. Speaking of which…

Prioritize relationship-building with your list

The best way to increase your open rate and generate more sales with your emails is to make sure that people want to open your emails.

One way to get your subscribers to open your emails is to cultivate a healthy relationship with them.

So what does this mean?

For one, remember to treat the people on your list as what they are – people. They’re not just leads or customers. Each person has their own unique wants, fears, and desires.

Use the medium of email to open up a conversation with these people. Ask them questions and encourage them to respond by replying to your emails. Even better, reply back, or have someone on your team dedicated to doing so.

Second, you should prioritize the long-term relationship you have with your list over short-term gain. This means you should avoid using misleading tactics like writing bait-and-switch subject lines or changing the ‘from’ name.

I’ve seen marketing emails land in my inbox with ‘from’ names like:

  • Yourself
  • 2022
  • Early Bird

Note that these were not the usual ‘from’ names used by the brands. They were most likely written this way to get my attention and stand out in my inbox.

I’ve also seen people add “re:” to subject lines to make it seem like they’re directly responding to you.

For example, I have one in my inbox right now with “re: yesterday” as the subject line.

In the short term, this could get people to click on your email because they think it’s a direct reply. But this is a dishonest way to get someone to read your email. This means they may distrust you in the future.

There’s even a chance they may mark you as spam.

And when you’re thinking of building a long-term relationship with your list, you can see why this would be a problem.

Instead of using bait-and-switch tactics to trick your readers, consider writing subject lines that pique their curiosity AND addressing that curiosity in the email.

For instance, here’s an email from CoSchedule with the subject line “A writing assistant that’s free… FOREVER?!”

There’s a lot of intrigue in the subject line. And once you read the email, they address the topic right away.

CoSchedule uses intriguing subject lines to increase open rates and addresses the topic right away in the email

Keep in mind that if you’re using curiosity and intrigue in your subject line, you don’t have to write about it at the very top of the email. But you should address it at least somewhere in your email to avoid a bait-and-switch.

It’s important for your emails to generate revenue for your business. But whenever you create a promotion and write an email (or have your team write an email), make sure it passes this test:

Will this email help or hurt the relationship with my list in the long run?

In the long term, more people will open and read your emails, which means you have a higher likelihood of generating revenue from this asset.

Take A/B testing with a grain of salt

A/B testing is a great way to increase your open rates by testing two subject lines against one another. Your email marketing platform can send emails to a small portion of your list, then send your email to everyone else with the winning subject line.

But A/B testing only works if you have accurate data. Plenty of people could be opening your email with subject line A from a device using iOS 15, but subject line B would end up winning because those opens wouldn’t get detected.

This doesn’t mean you should stop testing completely. But if you do intend on A/B testing, take those results with a grain of salt. Remember that the data may be tainted by undetected opens.

Keep an eye on your deliverability

Since you won’t have a clear picture of how many people are opening your emails, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your deliverability.

This is good practice for all email marketers anyway. The better your deliverability, the less likely you’ll be to end up in spam boxes or promotion tabs.

Here are a few ways you can increase your deliverability:

  • When new subscribers join your list, add a note on your confirmation page to ask them to whitelist your email address
  • Scrub your list once or twice per year: this is helpful to remove cold subscribers and invalid email addresses
  • Ask for clear consent to email subscribers when you capture email addresses on your website
  • Avoid adding attachments in your email
  • Limit the number of images you include in an email
  • Avoid spam trigger words that make exaggerated claims

Remember to always let your subscribers opt out of your emails to avoid getting marked as spam.

Succeed with email marketing despite the iOS 15 email tracking update

The iOS 15 update definitely affects how businesses approach email marketing, but it doesn’t mean its potency has to suffer. Luckily, metrics like link clicks and purchases can still help you track your emails’ performance – and the overall health of your email list is much more important than open rates.

Need help growing your email list to take advantage of these strategies? Getsitecontrol lets you easily add beautiful popups to your website and increase your conversion rates. You can get started for free today!

Charlene Boutin is a B2B writer for hire specialized in creating compelling case studies, blog posts, and converting copy for digital entrepreneurs and SaaS businesses. When not writing, she can be found prototyping weird games in Unity or playing on her Nintendo Switch.

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