Five Apple iOS 15 Email Privacy Changes Giving Marketers Sleepless Nights

White label digital marketing services

By Sean Brooks on Nov 2, 2021

Innovation leader Apple is notorious for making updates to their operating systems that leave digital marketing agencies and service providers scrambling to adjust their marketing strategies. Apple’s latest iOS 15 update released on September 20th is no exception. In this Update, Apple has provided new features that improve updates to the user interface that make managing notifications easier for users. However, the new privacy updates are going to make life harder for marketers, which is why some are turning to white label email marketing services.

Marketers need to be aware of how the latest iOS privacy updates will affect marketing strategies. Those concerns came to the forefront earlier this year when Apple commemorated Data Privacy Day on January 28th by adding another layer of protection to its iOS 14.5 update in the form of its App Tracking Transparency feature. This feature garnered support from privacy advocates around the world for requiring apps to get the user’s permission before tracking their data across apps or websites owned by other companies.

Now, less than nine months later, Apple has officially introduced iOS 15 along with even more security features, including a privacy dashboard and features to limit email tracking. In this article, we’ll cover the key email privacy changes that will impact your business.

Why Should I Be Concerned about the iOS 15 Update?

Apple set their sights in the latest iOS update to “help users focus and reduce distraction,” a move that in layman’s terms limits the amount of notifications and alerts that iPhone users experience while using their phones on a day to day basis. Apple also has shifted its focus to protecting user’s privacy and data by beefing up the privacy controls from the previous iOS 14.5 update where the privacy dashboard providing the ability to control tracking activity was introduced.

Unfortunately for marketers, iOS 15 cuts down on the ability to track emails and hides IP addresses, The newest Mail Privacy Protection feature prevents email marketing clients from knowing whether an email has been opened or not. With this latest development, digital marketing agencies and service providers will have to pivot from traditional marketing to a more targeted approach that empowers consumers to confidently continue engagement.

What iOS 15 Means for Email Marketing

iOS 15 will have a wide-spread impact whether you run your own email marketing campaigns or buy white label email marketing services. Here are the five most important email privacy changes.

1. Mail Privacy Protection 

The Mail Privacy Function on Apple’s Mail app that preloads images and all other scripts when email is received will be available on iOS 15, iPad OS 15 and macOS Monterey devices. This feature stops email senders from knowing whether or not an email has been opened, severely impacting the ability to accurately measure and monitor email open rates. With this development, open rates will no longer be able to be the primary metric when measuring the engagement levels of email subscribers.

By narrowing in on email performance metrics that won’t be affected by the update, email marketing efforts might be even more valuable. Click-through rates, sales conversion rate, website clicks, subscriber lifetime value and survey data are a few of the key performance indicators marketers can still use to help determine email engagement.

2. Intelligent Tracking Protection 

Intelligent Tracking Protection (ITP) was introduced on Apple’s Safari in 2017 to prevent the ability to track individuals by blocking third-party cookies, fingerprinting and more. In iOS 15, Apple updated its ITP feature in Safari to prevent trackers from using a user’s IP address as a unique identifier to connect their activity across websites. This development disconnects the bridge between being able to connect the email pixels with other online activity that was previously used to build customer demographic profiles.

Relying on second-party, first-party, and zero-party individual data collected with consent will become especially important as more privacy-focused initiatives are introduced in the industry. Just in case you are a little vague on which is which, here’s a quick refresher:

  • Third-party data: Third-party data is data from many different sources acquired from a data aggregator.
  • Second-party data: Second-party data is data acquired from a trusted partner who complies with privacy regulations so you can be confident the data was collected with the consent of the consumers in the dataset.
  • First-party data: First-party data is data collected directly from interactions with customers and audiences on owned channels such as a client’s own website or mobile application.
  • Zero-party data: Coined by Forrester Research, zero-party data is “data that a customer intentionally and proactively shares with a brand, which can include preference center data, purchase intentions, personal context, and how the individual wants the brand to recognize them.”

3. Private Relay

When iOS 15 was officially released, Private Relay became available for customers to use. The Private Relay update gives users the option to have their IP address hidden when browsing on Safari so their location remains unknown. Apple will do this by re-routing the server request, which will conceal the identifying headers and IP address. This update will inhibit marketers’ ability to send geographically-targeted email marketing.

Proactive participation from customers will be key to continuing to gather this essential data. Marketers can use a variety of methods ranging from adding a line to sign-up forms asking for a location to using surveys to acquire location information about email subscribers.

4. Hide My Email and Custom Email Domains

Apple has rebranded its iCloud service as iCloud+. The new Hide My Email and custom email domains features to further enhance user flexibility in privacy is available to all users with iOS 15 however, they will need iCloud+ to use it in some places.

By using the Hide My Email feature, users can generate a fake email address when they’re using Safari, Mail, or an iCloud email address. Users will also be able to hide their email addresses using the Hide My Email feature.

With the iCloud+ custom domain feature, Apple users can generate random email addresses when registering on an application or a website. The information they choose to receive gets forwarded to their personal account, but the website won’t have access to their actual email address.

These features aren’t turned on by default, though, and both changes will only affect Apple Mail users. (Android devices will still be trackable.) This is still a sizable group, however. An analysis of nearly 3 billion email opens in Q1 from a leading email service provider found Apple on iPhone held the biggest market share of email opens, at 38.9%. Google’s Gmail came next at 27.2%, Apple Mail at 11.5%, and Apple iPad at 1.4%.

5. Segmentation and A/B Testing Woes

With the iOS 15 update, segmentation will also become increasingly difficult, as will A/B tests, such as those evaluating different subject lines.

This presents a necessity for marketers to focus more on optimizing the content of the email message itself to achieve more comparative clickthrough rate data. For email subscribers who have indicated clear interests in certain topics based on prior purchases and click behavior data, you can still personalize content to keep campaigns relevant.

Respond to the Update with a Remarkable Email Marketing Strategy

The best way forward for marketers to respond to the iOS 15 update is to lean into target marketing. Carefully crafting an effective email marketing strategy to sustain growth amidst change is one of the most important components while designing your client’s digital marketing strategy.

You don’t need to do all this on your own. Umbrella provides white label email marketing, so you can resell email marketing to your clients. We do it all, from providing attention-grabbing copy to providing you with segmented customer lists based on over 700 targeting parameters. Contact Umbrella and find out how you can benefit from our services.

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