Apple will forever change email metrics with the release of iOS 15 and mac OS Monterey in September 2021.
Apple’s dedication to privacy within iOS 15 and mac OS Monterey will fundamentally degrade the open rate as an engagement metric.
The iOS 15 changes will impact tools like automation sequences as well as negatively impact our ability to keep inactive subscribers off our lists.
This update has tremendous implications for how email marketers will engage with subscribers after September 2021.
Going forward, marketers will need to shift their focus to subscriber clicks as an important email metric.
Engagement — whether or not a subscriber opens your emails — has been the bedrock of determining which subscribers to prune from a list to maintain a high sender reputation.
The best way to determine engagement rate after September 2021 will be to emphasize clicks as your email metric of choose. A click represents a resounding yes by a subscriber, an important affirmative behavior on their part.
How will Apple affect email metrics?
Right now, Email Service Providers (ESPs) track open rate by placing a tiny image pixel in each email they send on our behalf.
This approach has always been flawed. If a subscriber has images shut off in the email of choice, ESPs can’t track an open rate for that particular subscriber.
But if you’re anything like us at Holy Gusto marketing, we leave images on, which allows ESPs to accurately collect whether or not we open emails, the time in which we open emails, and from which IP addresse(es).
Right now prevailing wisdom suggests that Apple will remotely load emails and open them remotely on their servers.
The effectively renders the open rate meaningless. If, after September 2021, you have an open rate of 80%, none of us will know whether or not 80% of subscribers actually opened the email. We know Apple will have opened the email.
But Joanie your subscriber?
First, don’t panic. Android and Gmail to the rescue
It’s not 100%, straight to hell in a FedEx bad kind of thing, though. These changes only affect individuals using Apple Mail, in the iOS ecosphere. And on Mac. If Joanie uses Gmail on her iPhone, ESPs can still track her opens.
The Privacy changes implemented by Apple will not affect Gmail users, nor will it affect Android users. With that said, the majority of email users read email on their phones. We know this, more than 60%.
Determine how many of your subscribers use iPhone versus Android. You may have a majority of Android users. Fantastic! Keep doing what you’re doing, unless you’re not happy with your results. If so, call us. We can help.
But, if you’re in the health and wellness industry, for example, the majority of your Joanies use iPhone.
Keep reading to create a new plan for tracking disinterested subscribers.
But hasn’t open rate always been a vanity email metric
Email marketers have debated for eons, whether or not the open rate represents a vanity metric.
Certainly, we can easily manipulate open rates to make an otherwise unimpressive open rate, become more impressive.
How does this happen?
If I have an open rate of 12% because I’m sending campaigns to everyone on my list, I can immediately improve that open rate by segmenting the audience to my most highly engaged subscribers. When I send a new campaign to that highly engaged segment, my open rate will skyrocket.
Open rates also don’t necessarily equate to sales or increased revue. Better open rates reflect better open rates.
But we also know that we have to encourage our subscribers to open the email in the first place.
And if they don’t open the email we can’t sell them anything.
Apple’s very real impact on open rates
Setting aside the vanity metric discussion, there are very serious implications for email marketing with regard to the changes Apple will implement.
The biggest changes will affect how we keep our lists clean, how we will keep our emails out of the spam box, automation campaigns based on last open, and A/B testing.
Important email metrics affected by iOS 15
Resend to nonopeners. Open rate has been used to determine non open rate, which allows you to can easily resend to non openers. After iOS 15? Insert appropriate giphy here.
Automated nurture flows and welcome sequences. If you have used an open an email as a trigger for any kind of automation, regardless of the intent or purpose or goal of the automation, if John opens an email that triggers a flow or conditional flow, that won’t work.
Send time optimization. Typically this email metric is based on open rate time. This one will also be rendered inaccurate.
If Apple remotely opens every email at 9am on Tuesday morning. When is the best time to send going forward? We have no idea. We can’t know with any degree of certainty whether or not users have actually opened those emails at 9am.
Again, shifting to clicks, will give you a better idea of what time users engage with your emails.
Real time personalization. This is an advanced technique of delivering content in real time, through a variety of email metrics likes clicks, length of time on website and open activity. Well, we won’t be able to deliver real-time personalization using open rate with Apple remotely opening our emails.
Deliverability. This becomes very important when we’re staying ahead of the spam battle, which requires ongoing list cleaning processes to keep our send rating high. (You’ll find seven tips to keep your audience list clean and out of the spam box.)
Campaigns based on similar audiences. MailChimp, for example, allows you to create a look alike audience in Facebook, using your Audience List. The similar audience feature works on who opened campaigns, who opened automation sequences. With an inaccurate open rate, how much can you trust the quality of the look alike audience?
Last open date. Any audience cohort segmentation or targeting based on the last open date will be rendered useless. With the demise of an accurate last open date metric, we will no longer have an easy metric to determine whether or not our Joanies and Johns are engaging with our emails.
Healthy audience lists need regular cleaning of inactive subscribers to help avoid spam. Without the open rate email metric, our job of keeping our lists clean of inactive subscribers just got more challenging.
A/B Testing. Another tried and true type campaign type that will be rendered ineffective AV testing subject lines or anything else. Using opens to determine the winner, or to automatically send out the winner, that won’t work anymore either.
Countdown timers. These may show outdated times as the cached version is pulled at sent time, not open time, other content powered by open such as local weather or your nearest store location also won’t be accurate,
The click is now the email metric to track?
The changes in open rate means that some types of engagement based on campaign type will be impossible. It’s best to assume the worst going forward and to plan appropriate.
At this point, we will need to focus on a different type of deliverability. Gmail and Microsoft and other ISPs require periodic, ongoing list cleaning. Not cleaning your audience or list can trigger spam traps and put you in the spam folder.
We can’t focus on open rates as the method for determining engagement.
What I mean by that is that we will no longer focus just on open rates as a way to determine an inactive subscriber.
Email marketers yammer on about building a strong relationship with our subscribers. Treat them like real humans. Send valuable content that they want to read.
Well, guess what?
Now we’ll have to create content they not only want to read but content they want to click, too. Call it the micro-engagement wave.
The quality of your subscribers and their click engagement with your content will have a tremendous impact on the future on your sender rating with Gmail, Microsoft and even Apple.
Get ready for the new normal.
It’s going to be a great ride?
Have questions about your email marketing metrics post-iOS 15? Need to reconfigure your automation sequences? Don’t know what to do?