There’s a change coming and it’s going to shake things up for marketeers.

By Dan Brookman, CEO, Airship.


It's all to do with the new iOS 15 rollout that’s expected between September - November this year. We’ve been doing some research as well as testing the beta release, and the following document lays out our findings, the changes they bring for marketeers, challenges for email marketing, new metrics and our recommendations. 


A bit of background. 

Apple has always been a champion of privacy for its users. This isn’t something new, it's already randomised mac addresses to reduce WiFi tracking and has stringent rules for the use of the Apple Wallet and to scrutinise Apps making it through to the app store to protect users’ privacy.

It’s a big change though, and specifically for email marketers one that will require a rethink of how measurement is made of success. Open Rates have long been questionable as a metric; when Airship started out it was more relatable as a Read Rate as you were much more certain, with less volume, that the email had indeed been read. 

A big thing to remember is that Apple generally leads with these big changes and, without doubt, other platforms will follow. The fear of losing market share to Apple and consumer demand will see to it; although the speed of sweeping changes across all platforms might still take a couple of years to come to fruition. 

Most importantly, this isn’t the end for email, it’s just the beginning of a new way to report on success.

How many people use Apple's Mail App?

According to Sparkpost, who deliver 40% of the world’s commercial and transactional email (& who Airship use as part of its infrastructure), their 2021 Benchmark Report saw 38.1% of all opens and clicks coming from one of the Apple Mail app clients, with 25.7% on iPhone, 9.6% on desktop and 2.8% on iPad. This is second only to Gmail (on mobile and desktop) as the largest market share of any device/client family.


How is Apple approaching it?


We’ve downloaded the BETA of iOS 15 and done some testing and can announce that the changes that Apple have made mean that Open Rates will pretty much  no longer mean anything. The change is simple… Apple automatically downloads every image in an email without the recipient having to do anything. They aren’t blocking or removing anything, they are simply invalidating the metric by registering every image including the transparent gif that does the tracking.

Another feature of the update (less understood at present) is the ability for the user to ‘Hide My Email’. This, in effect, enables the user to have a ‘burner’ email account. They get to sign-up for offers and receive an offer but then in effect the email address is burnt and then will hard bounce. 

This particular change is very much aimed at marketers that rely on second and third-party data. 

What’s the core changes for Marketeers and how are we approaching it?


Well, Open rates will go up. It’s not only @mac @icloud addresses but also any email that’s read through Apple Mail. Users will need to accept the change but it's already established that a high proportion will, following similar updates which saw a 96% take-up.


  1. Open Rates are no longer a reliable metric - quite simply, unless we remove or identify Apple Mail users and remove them from reporting. The problem with this is that a small number of customers will use multiple devices and also the other providers are likely to be hot on Apple’s heels so we may as well accept the change.

  2. Retention Broadcasts - generally based on proof of opening will no longer be relevant. This is a challenge for a couple of different reasons:
  • Reactivating customers with a strong offer to re-engage with email is a base tool in a marketeer’s toolbox. This can no longer be trusted based on the open rate as many customers' email will auto-open. You can’t base it on click rate only as that would decimate lists, so we need to think of a new way to identify lapsed email audiences.

  • Trap Addresses are going to be harder to catch. Trap addresses are left by the ESPs to catch-out poor marketeers that don’t do retention emails and therefore don’t clean their lists. This may cause email to be throttled on delivery or bounced.
  • Our recommendation will be to turn off retention emails. Over the course of the next few weeks we’ll lay out our response to this change and how we’ll handle it in the future.
  1. Send by previous broadcast where you are sending email to a people who didn’t respond to the first send will now exclude these users. You still have the opportunity though to send to people that do or don’t click.

  2. Split testing is currently based on open rate and click rate, for us, this will be updated to only look at the click rate before sending the rest of the broadcast to the most successful subject line.

  3. Our benchmarking on the home page will have the open rate removed.

  4. Automations that send a follow-up email to non-openers will be updated to non-clicked.

  5. Automated populated segments around email engagement will be updated to reflect click.

  6. Time and location based tracking will become redundant. 


So is it all bad?


We don’t think so. There’s needed to be a shift to more meaningful metrics and truthfully that’s long overdue. Back to the original point; an ‘Open’ does not reflect a brand engagement; that really can only be reported as a click OR more obviously as a purchase or visit. 

There’s a ton of new digital touch points now for hospitality businesses. It's just a case of harnessing that data to bring it together to represent something meaningful and actionable. 


How will marketers have to think differently?


  • The biggest change for marketeers is to start focusing on clicks. Lets face it, opens are vanity, clicks are sanity and purchase is the ultimate goal with sales as the final measurement.
  • It's time to look at new metrics: Hospitality has more data available to it than ever before. We've been working on new metrics which are based on 15 digital touch points for the last few years. It enables our customers to increase visit frequency as well as (importantly) identifying your best customers.

  • Focus on your 5% - as per the above, focussing on your 5%, the segment that generally delivers around 30% of your revenue will help you generate growth. Understanding who they are, how to attract more of them and how to retain them.
  • Look to new channels - SMS offers an unrivalled engagement rate. Since GDPR kicked in, the channel is much cleaner with the public perception restored. We recommend SMS for journeys and automations and our own tools around this channel are pretty snazzy with unique link tracking and automation triggers.

  • Focus on first-party data - Think about running competitions, about enriching your current data with new additional preference and segmentation data.

  • Focus on first-party data - Make sure that ALL the data in your business drives through to your CRM and is engaged correctly from the outset.

  • Push for clicks - Don’t put all your content in your email bodies, think about linking out to content on your website. 


What’s next?


Over the next few weeks we’ll update our customers on the changes that are taking place and the upgrades within the platform. We’ll keep an eye on Apple and this update and be ready to respond with help and advice as well as fresh platform upgrades. 



Resources


Here’s some reading material for you to understand the release:


https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2021/06/apple-advances-its-privacy-leadership-with-ios-15-ipados-15-macos-monterey-and-watchos-8/