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iOS 15 Impacts on Email Marketing – What You REALLY Need To Know

If you have at least some involvement in digital marketing, you likely heard about the recent changes by Apple that are already affecting email marketers. There are a bunch of articles on the internet with general information and macro-level theory. But what exactly do you do with it?

Have your general engagement segments (that include opens) started growing a lot more since September 2021? 

Are the Click Rates of campaigns sent to Apple segments falling in your last campaigns? 

Are you getting more unsubscribers and spam complaints from campaigns sent to engagement segments that include Open Rates and have Apple users inside?

iOS 15 –  is that the end? 

iOS15 is here. If you have at least some involvement in digital marketing, you likely heard about the recent changes by Apple that are already affecting email marketers.

There are a bunch of articles on the internet with general information and macro-level theory. But it’s all quite confusing, and after all, what exactly do you do with it?

There is an abundance of advice, and it’s easy to get lost and take the wrong actions, as some tips even contradict each other. 

So, finally, how will iOS 15 impact you in the coming months, and what are the exact to-dos for the email marketer? 

But first of all, let’s summarize the outcome of the update…

What Actually Happened?

From now on, you (as an email marketer) will be getting what we call “fake email opens” from Apple users who updated to iOS 15.

To understand how it works, we first need to acknowledge how open tracking works in general: 

Every email sent by Klaviyo (or any other ESP), has a tracking pixel inside – you can imagine it as a tiny invisible image. When the email is opened, and images inside are loaded, that pixel also loads and sends the open data to the ESP. That’s how Klaviyo reports an “Opened Email” event – or at least that’s how it was with every device up until this point…

From now on, for iOS 15 devices, images (including the tracking pixel) in the emails will be preloaded before the actual open occurs, triggering a fake Email Open event. 

Although it sounds simple, it is an essential change to the current way email marketing works and will affect things like: 

  • Analytics – with wrong analytics, wrong long-term decisions are being made that can harm your performance 
  • Segmentation – the segments you build might not have the people you really want them to include 
  • Performance tracking – you won’t be able to correctly evaluate the success of your campaigns and flows 

Ok, then, what do we do? 

1. First of all, keep your eyes open and be aware! 

The first to-do we wanted to point out is simply to be aware of what’s going on and keep that in mind when analyzing campaigns and flows.

Have you recently started having higher Open Rates than usual? If yes, don’t celebrate.  

Create a line graph in the analytics tab in the Klaviyo dashboard showing how the Open Rate changes over time.

If the increase started occurring in mid-September, that means you are impacted by the update. Thus, people are not engaging more than before – you are just getting “fake” open events…

Dashboard >>> Analytics >>> Add Cart >>> Open Rate >>> Create

Don’t panic though – nothing bad has really happened to your real performance, just take that into account if you are testing variables in flows or campaigns. That subject line might not be the real winner.

Good to know: the change will not be sudden. Not all users are updating to the new iOS right after it’s released. This will happen gradually over time and, thus, will likely affect the metrics we see gradually. 

2. Click Rate is the KING now!

While Open Rate data will not be reliable (partially), clicks are not affected. 

From now on, you should judge performance by clicks, or, in other words, the next time you launch that A/B campaign test and get the results, look at the Click Rate and not at the Open Rate, even if the variable you are testing is in the subject line.

But why look at clicks when testing the subject? Isn’t just the Open Rate impacted by it?”

Think again. The email Click Rate is calculated by dividing the number of clicks by the number of deliveries. 

Thus, assuming the templates are the same, you will be able to determine the winning subject by comparing the Click Rates. 

3. Yet, DON’T forget Open Rates – here’s why… 

While Apple devices will be causing inflated Open Rates, all non-Apple devices are still like they’ve always been – with some open tracking handicaps, but still giving generally reliable results.

What that means is that we can preserve our previous approach when it comes to analyzing and optimizing we’ve always used if we separate the Apple users from everyone else. 

In campaigns, that would be by splitting your current segments into 2: subscribers with an iOS device and subscribers without.

At PROGS, we’ve always loved using engagement-based segments for our clients’ regular campaigns.

In this case, we are going to replicate those same segments twice and then split the 2 new groups into Apple users and everyone else.

From there, you would send each campaign twice to the 2 types of users and then be able to see the impact of iOS 15 on open rates.

Is the Open Rate for the apple-segmented campaigns much higher than the other one? If yes, that subject line might not be so good, unfortunately… 

When it comes to flows, you can do absolutely the same thing, but within the Klaviyo flow editor. Use conditional splits to divide the flow into 2 branches: one for Apple & one for non-Apple users.

After data is gathered, you’ll have all the reliable open rate results from the non-Apple branch and be able to make further decisions based on that data. 

4. How about SMS marketing? 

Everyone is talking about SMS now when email marketing has gotten “a thing of the past”.

SMS has always been good to introduce as an additional channel to support email marketing. So, yes – you would benefit from SMS, and it is totally worth testing it out for your business.

How? We’ll discuss that in one of our next articles. 

However, SMS is not there to replace email marketing. Do not fall under those claims that email marketing is a thing of the past and that SMS is the real thing now.

Shutting down your email marketing could be one of the most damaging business decisions you ever make.

If you are interested in launching SMS for your business, you can reach out to us to discuss the first steps. Let’s talk SMS!

5. One more thing:

Due to the “fake” opens we can expect from Apple users from now on, it is expected that engagement segments based on opens will start growing artificially.

Simply said, you will have unengaged people in your engaged segments. That’s unless you do the separation described in 3. – your non-Apple segments will not be impacted, but the other ones will be impacted by this.

So what should you do?

Klaviyo recommends neglecting open activity to determine “engagement”, but we think you shouldn’t do it yet. 

There are many people you can sell to who might only read your emails recently (and have not visited your website or clicked on the emails).

Instead, watch and test! Take a look at factors like: 

  • Have your general engagement segments (that include opens) started growing a lot more since September 2021? 
  • Are the click rates of campaigns sent to Apple segments falling in your last campaigns? 
  • Are you getting more unsubscribers and spam complaints from campaigns sent to engagement segments that include open rate and have Apple users inside

Is everything as usual when looking at the metrics to answer those questions? No need to exclude open activity from your engagement segments yet. 

Does everything look much worse than before? Go ahead and remove that “opened email” condition from your engaged segments.  

Note: you should be monitoring this data based on a timeframe of 3 or more months.

Our final word 

Undoubtedly, Apple made our life as email marketers harder, and email marketing will become more complicated from now on.

Some stores will lose a portion of their revenue from email marketing due to improper actions after the update. 

However, it’s far not the end! There is always a solution to any challenge, including this one.

You can look at this post as a final summary of the most important iOS 15 updates that impact email marketing. Stay informed, keep testing, and remember – email marketing is still here with its full potential. 

In the meantime, we at PROGS continue doing what we are best at – email marketing. A lot of tests are to come, and we are excited to find the outcomes and the lessons to take from this change.

The world is always changing, and those who are not adapting are the ones who fail, so don’t be one of them. 

MIchael

Founder & Head of Strategy
My story began as a young yet enthusiastic email marketing freelancer in 2019. With little experience and one course under my belt, I worked on my first small projects and gained experience. The projects kept growing one by one, and I faced new challenges for bigger brands.
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