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Beginning in fall 2021, Apple will allow users of their mail app to block IP addresses and mask any third-party pixels traditionally used to identify (and count) when a recipient opens their email. Instead, Apple will remotely unpack the part of an email that requires content to be loaded—including ads and tracking pixels—before serving it to the user.1 This action undercuts the efforts of marketers to determine the open time and date, or whether the email got opened at all.

The new Apple Mail privacy protection features will affect every industry that uses email in its marketing strategy. Our healthcare marketing experts weigh in on the impact this will have on email campaigns—from measurement to segmentation—and how healthcare marketers can prepare.

How will iOS 15 impact email marketing?

The new Apple iOS privacy update is expected to be adopted by a high percentage of Apple users, and with increasing consumer privacy concerns, we expect that users will choose to hide revealing IP data.

Globally, Apple Mail and Apple mobile devices make up over 35% of the email provider market share.2

How does the new iOS change metrics for email open rates?

While click tracking should not be affected, the new iOS behavior and resulting data will show that 100% of emails sent to Apple Mail accounts are associated with “opens.” Ultimately, this will inflate open rates and decrease the reliability of these metrics as performance indicators.3

Because Apple Mail is configurable for any email address (Gmail, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc.), all content opened through the Apple Mail app will be affected, even if a person uses it to access a different email service like Gmail or a work account.1

And while the problem currently will not impact Android Mail users, you can expect other mail clients to follow suit and begin offering the same ability to block content associated with third-party addresses.

5 ways healthcare marketers can prepare for iOS 15

First of all, stabilize. 

  • Audit all open metrics from iOS users during the 2021 months before the fall iOS 15 release. 
  • Review email campaign performance by email client type (Apple Mail, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Android, Chrome, Microsoft, etc.) to establish benchmark impact following the rollout.
  • Segment your audience going forward, separating Apple users from non-Apple users. That will allow you to track future opens by email client type and compare email analytics to historic benchmarks.4
  • Review your agreements with any external vendors: if the structure of your email campaign ties cost to the number of views/opens, ask them to revise your billing model. 
  • If you have existing messaging or remarketing campaigns that get triggered by opens, it’s time to associate them with different user behaviors.

How can healthcare marketers adapt email marketing strategies?

Once you have stabilized, reconfigure. Update your open-rate goals, defining new low, average, and high open rates — remember, these will get artificially inflated under the new open privacy changes.

You will likely need to modify current reporting mechanisms or dashboard metrics to prioritize clicks and other actions instead of open rates as a way to measure the success of an email campaign.3 Consider leveraging alternate email marketing data as key performance indicators:

  • Site traffic
  • Clicks and click-through rates
  • Email sharing/forwarding
  • Click maps that help you track on-page user engagement
  • Embedded email surveys and polls that allow you to learn more about your audience
  • Unsubscribe and bounce rates

In addition, you’ll need to redefine email campaign triggers: rather than build engagement on opens, set up actions like clicks, site visits, or automated time-based triggers to prompt messaging sequences or remarketing campaigns.3

What does the future of email marketing look like?

Although the new Apple Mail privacy protection appears to throw a wrench in the works of email marketers everywhere, the changes healthcare marketers need to make to adapt will help build deeper relationships with their audience and drive more meaningful actions.

Think about it this way: you can learn much more about your users’ behaviors and motivations through alternative engagement strategies compared to what a simple email open reveals about them — this allows room for greater personalization with highly targeted messaging and content.

After the new iOS gets rolled out, getting a person to simply open an email will be much less impactful. Instead, make sure your email marketing campaigns going forward include multiple CTAs that can translate into reliable performance metrics and create opportunities for engagement.

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1 Le M. Apple’s mail privacy protection is here: what it actually means for email marketers and what to do now. Litmus Blog. Published September 20, 2021. Accessed September 30, 2021.
2 Bump P. How Apple’s iOS 15 could impact email marketers. HubSpot Blog. Published September 22, 2021. Accessed September 30, 2021.
3 Link J. How Apple’s mail privacy protection impacts email marketing. Constant Contact Blog. Published September 21, 2021. Accessed September 30, 2021.
4 Howard S. How to create a reliable opens audience for non-Apple Mail users. Litmus Blog. Published July 2, 2021. Accessed September 30, 2021.