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Over the last few months Apple has been making big waves in the digital marketing world. First with the iOS14 updates and most recently with the announcement of iOS15. While the iOS14 update caused headaches for online advertisers, iOS15 is causing some email marketers’ heads to explode.

What Is the iOS15 Email Update?

The update, slated to launch this fall, will offer a Mail Privacy Protection feature, which will prompt users to either opt-in or opt-out to email protection. Now, based on the results Apple announced with the iOS14 ad tracking opt-in feature, we’re likely to see nearly every Apple Mail app user opt-in to email privacy.

So, why does this feature have email marketers’ brains going boom? This new feature will load all email marketing content—including tracking pixels—via a proxy server before sending the email content to the Apple user. Essentially, each email sent through apple’s proxy servers will render as an open – regardless if the user actually reads the email.

Congratulations. In an iOS15 world, you have a nearly 100% open rate! (Well at least a near 50% based on Apple’s nearly 50% email market share.)

While it sure seems great to be able to boast big numbers for the metric some marketers consider a vanity metric (which, by the way, we don’t) there are some ramifications to consider:

Email List Hygiene

First, and arguably the most impactful, is list hygiene. Effective email campaigns usually utilize engagement, or the lack there off, to kick of re-engagement campaigns to keep their lists clean. Clean lists help improve overall campaign performance by making sure only those who actually want to receive your emails are getting them. It can also help with sender domain reputation and overall deliverability. If you can’t accurately determine who is opening emails and how recently they’ve done so, it’s difficulty to gauge the success of your campaigns.

While re-engagement campaigns are a larger concern, any segments that rely on open rates will be impacted.

Real-Time Email Content

Another area of concern is the use of real-time content. With this new feature a more accurate term might be somewhat-recent content because the content will be called for and cached at time of send when the proxy server renders the content. So, for example, if you use a countdown clock in your email, that content will be pulled by the proxy server around the time of deployment. If the email recipient opens the email a day after deployment, the clock will show the countdown as if it was the day prior – making all the content a day off. A slight hiccup in the attended messaging.

Subject Line Testing for Emails

Do you like doing A/B subject line tests? Kiss those goodbye. With Apple Mail accounting for such a large portion of email usage, the results from any tests that rely on open rates would be irrelevant.

However, don’t completely discount the value of the open rate metric; it can still be useful, just a bit noisier than ever before. (With image caching and image blocking, open rates have never been exact performance indicators.) Open rates can just no longer be used as the sole KPI.

An additional downside of the new iOS is IP and location blocking, which further complicates personalization by putting an end to location-based features like showing content based on local weather or displaying the closest store location.

The irony is that this new Apple feature which is intended to protect and improve the user’s email experience could ultimately lead to added, unwanted emails with less personalization. Research shows that consumers want personalized email messages, yet the push for data privacy, while understandable, does make it harder for marketers to give consumers what they want.

These changes are certainly going to be a headache, yet there’s no cause for outright panic. It simply means it’s time to reevaluate.


As long as you produce quality content and adhere to best practices, your messages will still get to your recipients and produce results. iOS15 is still a couple months away which gives you some time to fine tune your email marketing efforts. Or, maybe these upcoming changes are just the catalyst you need for a complete overall? Either way – we’re here to help! Give our email experts a call 888.706.6286.