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How to Include the iOS 15 Update in Email Marketing Education

An overview of the iOS 15 update, including suggested questions to stimulate student research and classroom discussion

NOTE: This special edition article introduces this game-changing update from Apple and provides marketing instructors a resource for classroom use.

It is critical that digital marketing students understand the impact of the newly-released iOS 15 update on email marketing. Following is a brief overview of the issues accompanying this update and the feature Apple has termed “Mail Privacy Protection.” 

Best of all, though, there is also a suggested list of discussion questions to stimulate classroom discussion, provide a base for related research projects, and help students understand what is meant when we say, “Digital marketing is one of the most rapidly developing occupations on the planet.”

The iOS 15 update and Mail Privacy Protection

A June 7 news release published on the Apple Newsroom website announced Apple’s desire to advance “its privacy leadership with iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and watchOS 8.” 

Soon thereafter, the internet marketing world exploded with concerns over how the new privacy features could severely limit the effectiveness of social media advertising. Often missed in the discussion, though, is email marketing.

Apple released the iOS 15 update on Sept. 20. Based on that update, email senders can expect the following changes to user privacy settings:

  • Apple will automatically open emails
  • Stated open rates will likely increase and no longer be reliable
  • IP data will no longer be correct, making targeting based on location less accurate
  • iOS users can choose to have Apple replace their actual email addresses with unique pseudo-addresses

How can digital marketers continue to leverage email marketing under the new user privacy restrictions? What should they do now to protect their targeting and list segmentation capabilities? Is A/B testing even possible when open rates are skewed?

Answers to those questions will require a bit of research. The suggestions that follow are meant to provide marketing educators a starting point for both in-class discussions and research assignments focused on Apple’s newest effort to protect consumer privacy.

Topics for Research and Discussion

Here are the two new features described in the Apple announcement that have email marketing teams rushing to take cover:

1. Data protection from third parties via Mail Privacy Protection will curtail the use of pixels to gather data about prospects and customers. Email senders will no longer be able to accurately determine email open rates, track users via IP addresses, or gather data about the user’s location. Under iOS 15, profiling an audience will be a considerably more difficult task.

2. Hide My Email is a paid feature that gives users the ability to cloak their email address. Apple will allow them to use “unique, random email addresses that forward to their personal inbox.” Email privacy is now as simple as allowing Apple to create disposable contact information the sender will find impossible to verify or track.

Consequently, performing email list operations that segment recipients by degree of interaction, location, or topic preferences will be severely limited. Senders who depend on that data for targeting, list cleaning, and profiling will lose a big chunk of their marketing edge.

Questions Digital Marketers Should Strive to Answer

Apple’s decision won’t remove email marketing from the digital toolbox, but it definitely poses questions every digital marketer needs to consider.

Question 1: Have Google and / or Microsoft indicated an intention to follow Apple’s lead? 

If Google and Microsoft follow Apple’s lead, the impact would be almost twice as great. Litmus Email Analytics tracked over one billion emails to collect data for their August 2021 Email Client Market Share report. That data revealed that 95 percent of all email is read via a platform provided by Apple (48%), Google (36%), or Microsoft (7%).

Question 2: If an email marketer can’t rely on open rate data to determine which emails are opened by the intended recipient, what other tactics are there for A/B testing? 

Email marketers rely heavily on open rate to assess the effectiveness of their email campaigns. By split testing one subject line against another, for instance, they can determine much about their audience and their preferences. 

Since Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection feature will render open rate data untrustworthy, the metric will lose much of its strategic value. 

Question 3: How will the iOS 15 update affect the ability of email marketers to segment their mailing lists?

Audience segmentation is a powerful tactic for email marketers. Segmentation enables them to sort their list of email subscribers by the parameters they choose — interests, location, content preferences, and more. 

Losing the ability to segment would severely impact targeting. What other methods can email marketers use to maintain list segmentation?

Question 4: How can email marketers clean their email lists without access to dependable open rate data?

Regular scrubbing to remove inactive email recipients is a common and helpful tactic used by email marketers. The Apple update will render open rates unreliable. Users will appear to have opened emails, but those opens will actually be by Apple — not necessarily by the recipient. 

Those who consistently fail to open emails can be moved to a re-engagement campaign or even completely removed from the list to improve sender score, boost sender reputation with email clients, and prevent a portion of the marketing budget from being wasted on the fruitless maintenance of email addresses that provide no or little value. Are there other ways to discern engagement?

Question 5: Given the ramifications already discussed, how should email marketers adjust their strategic marketing plans? 

The question isn’t “Should email marketers make changes to their strategic plans?” Rather, the dilemma concerns how to develop and implement those adjustments. Efforts to answer the first four questions in this list of suggestions should help provide much of the necessary guidance. 

Leverage Stukent Courseware to Help Boost Student Learning and Classroom Interaction

This article can introduce students to Apple’s iOS 15 update and invite deep thinking about this topic. Use this material to help build their understanding of how Apple’s actions affect both user privacy and digital marketers’ efforts to employ email marketing.

We also urge marketing instructors to take advantage of the Digital Marketing Essentials Bundle. Adding Stukent courseware will give students the ability to take the information gathered and put it into practice. Stukent’s simulations create hands-on situations that make marketing come alive and help students experience what it’s like to participate in an actual marketing campaign. 

Schedule a demonstration to find out how Stukent digital marketing courseware can get your students excited about the possibilities that await them.

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