A Look at iOS 15 and Its Impact on Marketing Strategies

Front of Apple building.


Major tech companies like Apple and Google are notorious for making updates to their systems that leave marketers scrambling to adjust their advertising and marketing strategies. On June 7, Apple announced the latest update for iPhone, iOS 15. As usual, Apple has made updates geared toward the consumer, promising new features that enhance FaceTime, providing redesigns to Weather, and updates to the user interface that make managing notifications easier. 

However, the update also has a few changes that marketers need to be aware of, especially regarding user privacy. We spoke to marketing experts to learn more about these latest updates and their impact on marketers.

Apple’s Latest Privacy Updates

iOS15 provides enhanced privacy controls, including Mail Privacy Protection, a feature that stops email senders from knowing whether or not an email has been opened. It also hides the recipient’s IP address so their location remains unknown, essentially removing tracking pixels in emails and severely impacting open rates.

Erinne Mejia, Senior Director of Product Management at Atlanta, GA-based Acoustic, explains that “when users download the update and choose to “Protect Mail activity,” Apple will automatically load images and CSS, so it looks like the email has been opened.

Ultimately, this change means that open rates are likely to be severely inflated. “Any user who opts in to mail privacy protection will appear to open every third-party email he or she receives,” adds Emad Hasan, Founder & CEO at Santa Monica, CA-based Retina AI.

However, some other changes will impact how marketers can measure campaign effectiveness with restrictions being placed on access to identifiers. “For example, Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention will obscure user IP Address, reducing the ability of advertising platforms to uniquely fingerprint users,” points out Josh Wetzel, chief revenue officer of San Mateo, CA-based OneSignal.

Users will also be able to hide their email addresses using the Hide My Email feature. In this case, 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.

Related Article: How Apple and Google’s Tracking Rules Are Impacting Advertisers and Marketers

The Impact on Marketers

It’s clear that with inflated email rates, email marketing as we know it is likely to change significantly. Once seen as a key metric to indicate the success of your email marketing campaign, open rates will become effectively useless. As a result, marketers will need to make some adjustments.

“In the short term, iOS 15 privacy changes will accelerate the shift from display to lifecycle marketing. Marketers will become even more dependent on the first touchpoint with a new customer,” Wetzel believes. This change is essentially only the start of an even greater focus on user privacy options for consumers. Wetzel explains that any channel that relies on third-party data for targeting and personalizing email messages will continue to degrade, making it more challenging to acquire new users.

In keeping with measuring the lifetime value of a customer, metrics such as click-through rates and conversions will become even more important as the reliability of open rates dwindles. Experienced email marketers have already been using these metrics to determine just how effective their campaigns have been, but they will now be coming into greater focus as iOS15 rollout continues. 

So how can marketers adapt?

Related Article: Apple IDFA: Everything Marketers Need to Know

Focus on Customer Retention

With these privacy changes being only the beginning, marketers will have to find ways to adapt their strategies to deal with these upcoming changes. “To thrive going forward, marketers will need to make significant changes to focus on retention. They will need to adjust to lifecycle efforts,” Wetzel suggests.

Companies will need to provide tremendous value to their audiences to get them to provide the private information and focus on retaining the customers they already have, rather than trying to gather new customers at every turn. Wetzel expects that the best brands will focus their efforts on increasing customer retention through add-ons and subscription models.

Leverage Zero Party Data

Essentially, marketers will need to double down on their efforts to get their users to opt into receiving emails from them. “Marketers should refocus their strategies on contextual and zero-party data in order to effectively target and engage consumers,” echoes Mejia.

Zero-party data refers to information consumers want to give you and expect you to use and represents a unique opportunity for greater personalization. Rather than just bombarding customers with the information they don’t want, you can show customers that you are on their side and you respect the data they’ve provided you with. Some ways to collect that zero-party data include inviting them to participate in polls and quizzes. For email, marketers can provide a preference center where customers can choose precisely the types of emails they want to receive, whether promotional, informational, or just related to their account. This can go a long way to gaining the trust of your consumers and continuing to receive accurate data.