iOS 15 & Mail Privacy Protection’s Impact On Open Rate Post-Launch.

Now that iOS 15 is out in the world, we’re finally starting to see how it’s actually impacting open rates and what that means for real-world shifts in email strategies.

When Apple first announced the changes coming to Mail Privacy Protection at WWDC in June 2020 our initial reaction, just like many others, was that the impact would be swift and dramatic.

But now that we are into the launch a bit? A few things are shaping up differently than expected. Let’s dive in t see exactly what’s going on here.

First, our initial testing wasn’t showing an immediate open rate pop as it was worded.

Additionally, iOS 15 adoption is much lower than in years past due to how Apple is allowing customers with “automatically keep my device up to date” enabled are actually stating on the iOS 14 track unless they explicitly select the option to be upgraded to iOS 15 or they purchase a new device.

So what’s really going on?

After looking at our own data sets from our large volume customers and comparing notes with other email services in the industry, there is a clear pattern as to how Apple is pulling off mass pre-caching of emails.

It appears that Apple is taking the same approach they do with other privacy-focused services they’ve rolled out in recent years by doing the fetch on-device, but only under certain circumstances.

Much like how your phone uses machine learning to identify cats, boats, and mountains in your photos when your device is plugged in to be mindful of the burden on battery life, they are doing something similar with email.

There has been a clear and consistent increase in open rates late at night where open rates have traditionally been low.

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Why the sudden increase in evening open rates from iOS?

Well, as far as we can tell – Apple is fetching and pre-caching your email for you when your device is: plugged into power and on WiFi.

For most people, this means when they go to bed at night.

While adoption is lower than in past years, we still feel confident that this change will impact an overwhelming majority as more users upgrade old devices and new devices ship with iOS 15 or newer as their only operating system.

Is it as bad as the industry feared?

Short answer: nope.

Open rates have always been an inaccurate proxy for what’s going on with your email list, but they are still useful.

If you consider the chain of events that lead to a conversion on your properties, it’s always been:

Opens > Clicks > Conversions.

The main difference now is that the continued erosion of open accuracy puts more reliance on click data as your leading indicator of which subscribers are engaged and which are fading.

Is that such a bad thing?

We don’t tend to think so. Clickers have always been more valuable, and that’s going to be more true in the years to come than ever before.

It has sparked several higher-profile marketers to start making some shifts in how they approach their list hygiene to remove people who haven’t clicked after X days instead of solely relying on opens.

But, keep in mind – let’s not “throw the baby out with the bathwater” here.

Opens are still a decent proxy of who’s engaged. If someone isn’t opening your emails, then they should probably still be put into a re-engagement sequence and then ultimately let go if they don’t click.

Given that only a percentage of openers ever click, if you toss all non-clickers too aggressively, your balance with how much it costs to generate a quality lead can easily get all out of whack.

We recommend you simply be more aware of opens as a proxy, not a binary truth.

Additionally, finding ways to send more compelling content and getting more of your list to truly engage is always going to beat any algorithm because you aren’t tricking it — you’re simply outperforming your peers; it’s designed to punish for low-quality content and unengaged lists.

Subscribers who aren’t engaged are considered “graymail”, and graymail leads are expensive for you as the list owner and expensive for the major mailboxes like Gmail, Microsoft, etc.

Not only do you want to reduce your overhead as much as possible, but so do these huge companies that process insane volumes of emails each and every day. And it’s only natural that they want to reduce that as much as possible.

Listen to their signals, help them achieve their goals, and you will often be rewarded with better placement and higher ROI from your email campaigns.

We are very bullish on our Engagement Gamification features to help you maximize your potential here, and we will have more to announce in this area in the coming months.

As always, if you have any questions, our support staff is here to support you.

Happy emailing!

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