The Apple iOS15 privacy takeover of email clients has had a significant impact on the email measurement industry. 18 months after the iOS15 update, some marketers are still struggling to measure engagement and analyse the performance of their email communication programs.

So, what exactly happened in September 2021?

Apple launched Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) as part of its iOS15 update, which is an opt-in system that allows Apple to pre-fetch (download) emails and email images to their device and obscure users' IP addresses. While this feature may seem beneficial to users, it has a significant impact on marketers and businesses. For a detailed overview on MPP and impacts, here is a great overview from Campaign Monitor.

What is the impact for marketers?

It’s had the largest impact for marketers on email reporting and communication journey triggers (trigger-based workflows), with many still searching for new ways to report on engagement to their stakeholders.

MPP affects any email opened from the Apple Mail app on any iOS15+ device, irrespective of which email service is used, such as Gmail or a work account. However, this does not affect other email apps used on Apple devices, such as the Gmail app on an iPhone.  

  • If MPP is enabled by the user it will cause the delivered email to show as immediately opened, overinflating open rates and triggering ongoing communications based on an email open.  
  • It also masks IP addresses, making it challenging to personalise communications based on location and email and online behaviour together.  
  • If you like to understand and optimise your email code build by device or operating system, it will also mask a lot of this detail flowing back to your analytics tools.

What impact has it had on open rates?

Litmus is a good global source of insight, as it is an email build and measurement tool that is integrated to a wide range of marketing and email automation platforms. It does tend to lean towards B2C though.

In their latest Trends in email engagement report for 2022 (data to Aug 2022) Litmus reveals that Apple MPP protected email clients account for 51% of email clients, and some estimates from other industry reports put open rate inflation at 35%+ depending on the level of Apple client users in your database.  

Some tools like Litmus automatically calculate a proxy email open rate from non-Apple clients in your send, but it’s worth also understanding the benchmarks in your industry and region across different types of emails. Smart Insights has a great overview of these reports here.

So, what now? !

Sadly, the era of open rate metrics is largely a thing of the past. You need to move on from open rates as a top line measure of engagement, so what should you do?

  1. Change your top line reporting metric to Click Rate (CTR) which is unique clicks / delivered emails. This is unaffected by the MPP changes.
  2. Ensure your link tracking hierarchy is consistently utilised so you have clear reporting in GA4 or Adobe Analytics from your Urchin Tracking Module (UTM). This is basically everything after the “?” in the URL link in your email.
  3. Audit your email journeys and change open triggers to “clicked any link” triggers.
  4. Look at other tools to link email and online behaviour (see below).

Now that we are 18 months on from the changes a number of tools have emerged to help counter what we call ‘signal loss’. Adnan Khan from Stitch has written a great blog for the MA on this here.

Two products that Adnan recommends looking at are Rescue Metrics and Blotout’s EdgeTag with reported decrease in signal loss on owned platforms of 50% - 100% and on paid platforms such as Meta retargeting by 35% - 40%.

In conclusion, the MarTech industry is continually evolving, and tools such as a Customer Data Platform (CDP) can enable marketers to evolve how they measure and report on engagement across channels, while supercharging their omnichannel marketing capabilities. With the end of third-party cookies on the horizon, it's essential to stay up-to-date with the latest MarTech tools and thinking to ensure you can effectively measure and report on your email program's performance.

Gabby McLean

Written by:
Gabby McLean

Founder & Chief Strategist at Maven Loyalty
Committee Member, MA Digital Special Interest Group