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Privacy Changes to Email in IOS 15

September 27, 2021 3:00 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Your email open rates are about go up - and this is a problem (sorry!)

Yesterday, Apple released iOS15, the latest version of their operating system for iPhones and iPads.

In that is a new feature called "Mail Privacy Protection". (MPP)

It's a very sensible and reasonable change that will improve your online experience and privacy and is something to be welcomed.

But for people sending email in the party, it's going to mean rethinking some of how we measure success in emails.

If you're currently using email opens as a metric for an email being successful, you should probably stop.

What's changing?

The first thing you'll notice about this change is that your email open rates are going to go up.

24% of the Federal Party's email contacts use iOS to open emails and a further 19% use Macs - for a total of 43% of devices eligible for MPP. (Of the rest, 39% use Gmail which already does something similar and the remaining 18% use other tools). Once iOS15 is installed, it's going to look like every one of those people is opening emails - even if they aren't.

This is because the way email tools tell if an email has been opened is when a tiny image file is loaded by your email inbox. That load sends a message back to the server you sent from telling your email tool that the email was opened.

With MPP Apple will begin pre-loading images, which will mean emails show as being immediately opened when delivered and your open rates will be inflated as a result.

Okay, so what do I need to do?

If you're currently using email opens as a metric for an email being successful, you should probably stop.

This change, plus a similar one from gmail a few years ago means that your open rate is now basically just a vanity metric that doesn't tell you if something is a success or not.

There are other metrics that are unaffected by this change that you can switch to using though.

The first is click rate. This is a positive measure of engagement with an email and whilst it'll be lower, it will be a great way to indicate that people are interested in the emails you're sending.

You also want to pay a lot more attention to your negative metrics - complaints and unsubscriptions. Sudden increases in these are great indicators that you're sending people content they aren't interested in.

Also - if you're one of the local parties who does A/B test subject lines you shouldn't decide the winner based on open rates - because that's no longer an effective success metric.

Optimising towards emails that are clicked more is a great replacement and may even be more effective.

Well, this is a bit of a palaver, isn't it!

It's maybe not ideal, and we're all going to have to unlearn some tactics that we've used for a long time, but open rates were never a great metric, to begin with. Moving onto firmer engagement signals will only be good long term.

Industry analysts expect around 90% of iPhone users will have upgraded by January and we expect most people to opt-in to mail privacy protection. So it might take a bit of time to see the full impact - but it will become more apparent.

I know some people will be thinking about trying to persuade people to opt-out of MPP: but we don't think it's worthwhile trying to do this.

Whilst it might make our lives temporarily harder, it's better for email users in the long term and will make people safer online - so it is a good thing we promise!

If you have any questions about MPP, drop an email to [email protected] and we'll be happy to help.