Not long ago, Facebook was complaining about Apple's move on its iOS update to version 14.
It's a kind of war between the two giants.
The reason is simple.
Facebook felt threatened by the move that would affect the way marketers track their target audience, thus affecting advertisers who relied on the Facebook Ads service.
If the iOS 14 update affects how audiences are tracked. Will the iOS 15 update affect the future of email marketing?
What's actually changing in the iOS 14 update?
Prior to the update, Facebook could track user activity on other websites and in other apps. The most popular approach is through Facebook pixels. These are pieces of code installed on a website or app.
When a user visits your site and takes an action (putting an item in their cart, making a purchase, visiting a landing page, etc.), the pixel notifies Facebook where that information is stored as data for your campaigns.
The information gathered from pixels and other tracking methods can be used to determine which ads work and don't work. With that, we can get insights that can help us improve the ad materials.
The pixels also allow us to retarget certain groups of users. For example, website visitors who added items to their cart but didn't complete the purchase.
What does iOS 14 have to do with Facebook pixels?
Prior to the iOS 14 update, we could place as many pixels as we like on our website for as many marketing campaigns as we like.
It is quite common for us to add pixels to every page of our websites. The purpose is to track all the conversions that the page witnesses.
The illustration is like this.
An internet user sees that their Facebook friend shared a link to our shoe store on their feed.
The user, who denied Facebook permission to track them, clicks the link. Previously, this user wasn't aware of the tracking since the denial function did not exist. So, by default, they don't care much about whether to give permission or not.
Both Facebook and the marketer will never have any knowledge of what the user looks at, clicks, or buys on the site. This is also the case on websites and apps that are publishers in the Facebook Audience Network.
With the iOS 14 update, we're only allowed to place eight pixels objectives on a single domain. This obviously will significantly reduce the amount of data we can collect, report on, and make use of for the optimum result.
It is also important to know that users who opt out of the data-sharing permission will not be trackable by pixels.
If Facebook is unable to track user behavior, its targeting function will be diminished and the amount of data it collects will be reduced. Our ad spend will become less efficient and effective and likely more expensive.
Furthermore, businesses depend on this data to personalize ads for specific users. Without it, ads will be less personalized and therefore less effective. This could lead to fewer leads generated by Facebook ads to drive sales.
Reporting will also be impacted by the update. Because the data won't include users who denied permission for tracking and will only track a few objectives, reports will be inaccurate.
Now, what's up with the iOS 15 update?
At this point, we have a better understanding of how iOS 14 affects online marketing.
Now, before going further, the easiest way to understand the iOS 15 update, is to understand the impact we'll be getting. Will our online or email marketing efforts be affected by the changes?
With the iOS 14 update, it is the ads' tracking pixels. With the upcoming upgrade, Apple is looking into email privacy. That means email marketing will also be limited.
There are two main metrics crucial in email marketing. One is the email deliverability, the other is the email open rate. Both can only be measured if pixels are allowed. When both of them are not present, marketers should be able to do a workaround to measure email marketing performance.
What are the main issues with the iOS 15 privacy update?
Apple announced many things at WWDC 2021. However, there are ‘only' three things we need to know that most probably affecting our online or email marketing efforts.
Those are Mail Privacy Protection, Private Relay, and App Privacy Report.
Not different from the controversial App Tracking Transparency (ATT) introduced with the iOS 14 update, the iOS 15 update seems to also be difficult for advertisers to target their audiences.
Apple's reasons seems understandable. This is for the sake of more privacy protection for iPhone/iOS users.
How will iOS 15 impact marketing strategies?
Will the introduction of Mail Privacy Protection lead to the death of email marketing?
The answer will depend on whether we're heavily relying on iOS users or not.
When we consider that 93% of all mobile email opens are related to Apple products, then the new policy will have a huge impact on online marketers.
The Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) gives more controls to its users about how companies tract their digital footprints across several platforms. Once a user enables it in the Apple Mail app, marketers will not be able to track pixels put in emails. Thus, email marketing will be more difficult.
That will prevent marketers from:
- Knowing when an email was opened.
- Knowing online activities and user's location.
- Finding user's email address (when the user enable Hide My Email feature).
How does Mail Privacy Protection work?
Here is what Apple says about the policy:
“Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email, and masks their IP address, so it can't be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.” – Apple Newsroom.
Upon opening the Mail app for the first time on the new OS, users will be automatically shown the new options:
- Hiding their IP address and privately loading remote content.
- Activating Mail Privacy Protection, emails will be automatically opened by Apple Mail upon delivery and remote content will be downloaded privately in the background.
How does Private Relay work?
Private Relay will be introduced along with the launch of iCloud+.
Safari is promised to be more private once the upgrade to iOS 15, iPadOS and MacOS Monteray is available this year.
When active, Private Relay will encrypt our browsing data and send it through two relays. The first relay (essentially, it is a server), changes our IP address to a randomized one based on where we live. The change will effectively hide our device's identity from our ISP or anyone else.
After encrypting our browsing data and scrambling our IP address in the first relay, the data is then sent to a second separate relay. The data is then decrypted, allowing us to connect to a given website.
How does the App Privacy Report work?
When the feature is turned on, App Privacy Report will show how often our location, photos, camera, microphone, and contacts have been accessed during the last seven days. It also reveals which domains apps have contacted.
With App privacy Report, users can see how often each app has used the permission they have previously granted to access.
Users can check whether this makes sense to them. If they think it doesn't, users can go to the app setting and change the permission. Users can also find out with whom their data may be shared, by seeing all the third-party domains an app is contacting.
To anticipate the iOS 15 update, what should online email marketers do?
The conclusion is clear. iOS 15 will affect the future of email marketing.
Beyond those driving App Installs policies, the best way to prepare for this as advertisers or email marketers, is to ensure we're capturing user information whenever possible.
Capturing emails will be crucial as their value is likely to increase. This should be part of our email marketing strategies.
Many email marketing platforms allow us to capture email addresses. We put these email addresses in our email list for us to explore or utilize further. Of course, without affecting subscribers' privacy.
Most email marketing platforms are strict in imposing privacy features as mandated by regulations.
The problem that may be difficult to solve is determining the actual subscribe or unsubscribe rates. The only best thing email marketers can do is to ensure the success rate of their email marketing efforts.
Email marketers should be more creative when deploying email campaigns. Email automation may be part of it.
Here's the list we can do for email campaign deployment:
- Segment subscribers to separate email list for each category.
- Follow up the non — responding list.
- Email a regular update to each segment.
Email content should also be more compelling to get the conversion. It is better than merely looking at the email open rate in the email marketing metrics.
In the end, conversion rates are the thing we're after as part of our email marketing strategies.
We won't care much about whether our promotional emails hit personal email addresses, or random email addresses.
As long as we get the conversion we want, everything should be fine. iOS 15 may not be affecting email marketing at all.