Dotdigital blog

iOS 15: What you need to know

Apple’s announced changes to its data and privacy terms has left many marketers understandably nervous. But we’re here to tell you not to panic. At dotdigital, we’re keeping a close eye on developments and we’ll be here to keep you informed every step of the way.

The breakneck speed of digital transformation this past year has been impressive in not just velocity but in the breadth of impact.  Organizations at every level, are developing new, more agile, digital marketing strategies.

And while those strategies will differ by industry, sophistication, segment, and more – responsible marketers have long understood the value of a direct relationship with their customers, and email has long been the cornerstone of direct customer engagement.

Apple’s recent announcements may seem to impact that direct customer engagement, or at least shake things up. But digging deeper, there is much to celebrate as responsible marketers are rewarded for valuing personal data and building customer trust. What’s more, the announcement is a preview of features set to be released in September 2021. We have time to get ready for any big changes.

What has Apple done?

The iOS 15 update brings with it a range of new privacy features, but there are two which will have a direct impact on marketers, and email marketers in particular. These are:

  • Mail Privacy Protection provides anonymity to recipients receiving emails on iOS devices by preventing accurate tracking.
  • Hide My Email provides recipients the ability to get emails without sharing their real email address with senders.

Why did they do it?

Privacy is important. We all know this. As consumers, we expect this, so we should expect this as marketers too.

In reality, we’ve seen this coming for a long time. Data protection acts around the world have had a big impact on consumers’ understanding of data and their privacy rights.

While they don’t always understand what happens to their data after they hand over their permissions, it’s a brand’s responsibility to keep them in control and informed. Apple’s update is an opportunity for brands to build trust among its users. It’s helping to increase people’s awareness of data and privacy which, while initially troubling for marketers, will yield better results in the future, driving innovation and stronger customer relationships in the future.

What does it mean for you?

We’re yet to know exactly what the impact will be. However, a well-educated guess implies that short term and from a functional perspective some key data points will be impacted for those recipients you send to using iOS15:

  • You will not be able to correctly track what time an email was opened
  • Location of email opens will be less accurate
  • The number of opens will not be an accurate measure of success

But this is nothing to worry about. There has been a flurry of conversations among marketers about the merits of open rates since the announcement. At Dotdigital, this is nothing new. In essence, open rates are a vanity metric. Recipients flicking through their inbox may count as opens when in actuality they haven’t engaged and may have barely even looked at your email. It offers no insight into whether users are engaging with your marketing.

Open rates will still exist in some capacity, and when combined with clicks, purchase information, account log-ins, and replies this will all add up to a more comprehensive view of customer engagement.

More reliable customer engagement

Over the years, marketers have used different engagement metrics to measure the success of their email marketing. Opens, clicks, complaints, inactivity, and purchases are all available to help paint a picture of how emails are performing. Altogether, these metrics can be used to devise a strategy to maximize return and ensure recipients who want to continue to hear from your brand.

Using this holistic approach to measuring customer engagement ensures your customer privacy is respected, while still providing you with the ability to measure the impact of your email marketing.

Consumers do not want personalization at the sake of their privacy.

Consumers want brands to both earn and maintain their trust, that precious direct relationship. Responsible marketers focused on adding value for their consumers and revenue for their companies have long seen this coming and will continue to lean on technology providers able to provide personalization.

What can you do?

So, how can you be ready for the changes? Or, better yet, how can you use these updates to your advantage to build better, stronger relationships with your customers?

Be open, honest, and transparent

This update is an opportunity. Responsible marketers know the importance of honest, transparent practices. To build a loyal customer base, marketers have to be explicit about how they plan to use customer data. This helps build trust, and the more a customer trusts you, the more time and money they’ll invest in your brand.

When Apple’s update comes into effect, you can explain the benefits of a tailored, personalized experience as you collect consent. Shoppers will be more willing to share their data when you adopt an open and honest approach because they trust you to act responsibly with it.

Adjust your success metrics

Open rates aren’t the be-all and end-all. By adjusting your success metrics to consider clicks, conversions, and ROI you will get a better understanding of customer engagement.

As it requires active engagement with your marketing, these metrics offer more insight than most. You can learn more about what makes email subscribers sit up and pay attention than just looking at open rates alone.

Focus on zero-party data

Zero-party data, as defined by Forrester, refers to explicit data a customer intentionally and proactively shares with you. This is how you should be collecting the bulk of your data. Customers can then choose to tell you what they want you to know.

As well as collecting preferences, you should be asking customers to enrich their own data. Overall, this will help you build a stronger one-to-one relationship with your audience, and give you more reliable and valuable data to base your personalization on.

How will Dotdigital help you through?

At Dotdigital, we’re strong advocates of responsible marketing. As a result, we’ve anticipated the needs of our clients and have built a platform full of the tools to help you engage customers efficiently while building trust.

In anticipation of the introduction of GDPR in 2018, we released a whole host of updates to empower marketers and shoppers to have better control of their data.

Consent insight allows marketers to act responsibly when it comes to managing their contact database. It records all the information you need about a contact’s consent including the date and time they signed up to receive your marketing.

Similarly, to enable marketers to process ‘Right to be Forgotten’ requests, we’ve made it simple to delete contact data with ease.

With the approaching update to Apple’s privacy features, consent insight will be able to store the different consent you hold on every customer. Ultimately this will make it easier to segment, target, and personalize your marketing.

Marketing preferences

You can create an unlimited number of marketing preferences giving you endless opportunities to enrich your customer data. Using surveys, forms, and preference centers, you can easily and regularly collect explicit data from your contacts.

By encouraging shoppers to share as much information as possible with you, they’ll be able to craft their own customized journey. The explicit data they hand over to you can be used to create relevant and targeted segments.

Double opt-in

Double opt-in is an automated confirmation email which asks to confirm that they want to receive your marketing. This ensures that you database is full of engaged contacts.

With the changes about to come into effect with the iOS 15 update, having an automated double opt-in process will ensure subscribers are fully informed about what they’re signing up to receive.

Live chat

Live chat is a vital channel to enforce the connection between you and your customers. As a channel, it promotes two-way conversations that can be used to form stronger connections with your audience. Also, like zero-party data, customers have made the first move, reaching out to you, meaning that they’re in control of the relationship.


SMS is a marketing channel that has never relied on opens to measure success, and with read rates of 98%, its success is undeniable.

In light of the iOS 15 update, brands should be adding SMS to their marketing mix as a necessity. With country-specific templates, we’ve set you up for success. All the right opt-outs for each region are included to ensure you’re able to get your SMS campaigns up and running quickly and responsibly.

iOS 15: game-changer or opportunity in disguise?

Dotdigital, like Apple, believes that privacy is key for consumer confidence. As such, it’s embedded in our culture of long-term growth, alongside security, sustainability, and trust.

While these changes to customer privacy feel like they’re going to make our lives more difficult, it’s important to see what opportunities lie ahead of us. Clean data, fully informed consent, and additional marketing channels are just some benefits this update will bring.

As we learn more about these changes and what they’ll mean for the many email marketers who work with Dotdigital, we’ll be keeping you up-to-date throughout.

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