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What You Need to Know About iOS 15 Updates

August 23, 2021
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On June 7th, Apple held its World Wide Developer Conference, an annual event that’s often used as a platform to announce new products and updates. At the Keynote, Apple revealed more details on what users and businesses can expect from iOS 15, the newest software update to the iPhone and iPad operating system.  

While some of these changes will benefit everyone, others are intended to benefit the user—and protect their privacy—in a way that will shake up the marketing landscape once again, impacting how advertising professionals can monitor, gather, and measure essential user data. 

Today, we’ll discuss the iOS 15 update, what it means for you, and how you can mitigate damage to your marketing strategy by the time it launches in the fall. 

What’s in the iOS 15 Update? 

There were a slew of new features discussed with the upcoming iOS rollout, ranging from redesigns of Safari, Maps, and notifications to FaceTime functionality improvements. And while these caused some excitement, the changes that set the marketing world abuzz were the various privacy features that will come into effect shortly.

In recent years, there’s been strong public pushback over technology companies harvesting user data. Apple catered to this prevailing sentiment in April with the release of iOS 14.5, which gave users the option to prevent apps from tracking their activities for ad targeting. While activity tracking has always been intended to improve user experience, only 4% of users opted-in to letting their apps track them.

Clearly, Apple users value their privacy above targeted ad content—Apple quickly took note. 

The tech giant leaned even further into this movement with their own privacy-focused commercials and additional updates that will impact several major aspects of the marketing funnel, particularly in regard to email marketing services.

iOS15 Privacy Updates

After the announcement of iOS 15, Apple SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi had this to say:

​​Privacy has been central to our work at Apple from the very beginning. Every year, we push ourselves to develop new technology to help users take more control of their data and make informed decisions about whom they share it with. This year’s updates include innovative features that give users deeper insights and more granular control than ever before.

These privacy features were primarily related to email, with two main aspects to consider.

email marketing services

#1 Mail Privacy Protection (MPP)

While Apple has relied on Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) to protect Safari users for years, the newest iOS iteration strengthens ITP by hiding user’s IP addresses from trackers. This change makes it impossible to leverage user IP addresses to track an individual across several websites, making it more difficult to flesh out a complete and useful user profile. 

With the Mail App, the MPP feature protects everyone by preventing senders from using invisible pixels to gather user data. Emails are first downloaded and opened through a proxy server. Thanks to the software update, senders will no longer know when an email has been opened unless the iPhone user opts into this type of tracking. 

This will likely result in three major changes for marketing metrics: 

  • All emails will “pre-open” as they’re filtered through the proxy server, showing inflated and inaccurate open rates.
  • All images will be “pre-rendered,” making a copy that is sent to the Apple Privacy Cache with the IP address for the general region rather than the exact geolocation.
  • IP addresses will be inaccurate, thus preventing granular location or time zone targeting. 

#2 iCloud Plus 

iCloud Plus is an upgrade to Apple’s cloud storage service, which was built to keep photos, documents, and notes secure, updated, and accessible on every Apple device. As part of the new subscription service, there are several privacy features, including: 

  • iCloud Private Relay – Similar to a VPN for iCloud subscribers, this encrypts user activity on Safari, hiding both network traffic and IP addresses from visited websites. Every user request is sent through two separate internet relays. The first gives the iPhone user an anonymous IP address. The second server decrypts the web address then sends it to the proper destination. 

The decentralized operating system is neither controlled nor viewable by Apple. Additionally, the server itself can’t identify individual users. Finally, Private Relay will also eliminate “fingerprinting,” which allows companies to track your dedicated IP address all across the internet. For ISPs and third-party data brokers, Private Relay encryption will impact their ability to gather and sell user browsing data.

  • Hide My Email – To prevent email spam and create an additional layer of anonymity, Hide My Email creates burner accounts that allow users to, “share unique, random email addresses that forward to their personal inbox anytime they wish to keep their personal email address private.” This functionality is built into:
    • Safari
    • iCloud
    • Mail

It also lets users create and delete as many addresses as they want. Finally, the new feature enables consumers to register for new accounts or email lists with proxy emails rather than providing personal email addresses.

What Do These iOS Privacy Updates Mean? 

For marketers, iOS 15 seems to bring a whole new status quo to the table. They can no longer rely on some of the most effective techniques for tracking activity and analyzing engagement. As a result, the way we measure and gauge success must change—in at least two major ways. 

#1 Deliverability Health 

When it comes to email, it may be time to rethink how we interpret deliverability. In the past, open rates were indicative of a list’s health for several tasks. But these iOS changes will very likely impact several aspects of email marketing campaigns.

The following standard practices will either be rendered completely useless or will have to undergo a serious update to yield accurate insight:

  • A/B testing subject lines to determine the most enticing option
  • Audience segmentation and targeting based on last open date
  • Automated flows that are triggered by an email open
  • Send time optimization
  • Interactive emails with external CSS references

Because of this uncertainty, you may need to regularly test your deliverability health and consider focusing on different metrics.

#2 Engagement Metrics 

Since we can no longer rely on open rates as an accurate metric of campaign success, it may be time to revisit how we measure engagement. Upper funnel metrics may take a back seat to bottom-of-the-funnel metrics like:

  • Click rates
  • Site visits 
  • Conversions
  • Purchases  

But even these upper funnel metrics that are subject to third-party data may not be as effective. Now, marketers need to focus on gauging success that results in customer actions—the ultimate end goal of any advertising strategy, anyway.  

How to Prepare for iOS 15

With major changes on the horizon, now’s the time to adjust your strategy accordingly. With that in mind, there are a few ways you can start readying yourself for what’s to come: 

  • Understand your audience – This iOS update may have minor or major impacts on your marketing strategy—it depends entirely on how many of your customers use Apple Mail to read emails. According to a Litmus study, Apple iPhone mail accounted for nearly half of all mobile opens (49.6%), dwarfing the runner-up, Gmail (18.6%). But that may not be the case for your user base. Now is a good time to dig into audience segmentation data based on the Apple device and app usage.
  • Continue testing content – For now, we still have access to open data. So take advantage of it while it lasts. Test subject line styles and send times more frequently in the lead-up to the update’s rollout. 
  • Focus on optimizing CTAs – Seeing as clicks and click-through rates will become increasingly valuable metrics, the emphasis of your efforts should shift toward incentivizing users to act and convert.
  • Utilize UTM parameters – Adding UTM parameters to your email can help with accurate click tracking. Apple’s proxy server auto-opening will lead to inflated ESP-attributed revenue, which can cloud the reality of your marketing campaigns if you don’t collect the information in other ways.

Segmentation Changes Post-iOS 15

With iOS 15, you’ll very likely need to change your email and list segmentation strategies, as well. Again, we still don’t know exactly how this update will impact your metrics, but we can speculate that the following actions will be necessary:

  • Rethink what engagement looks like – By relying on metrics like clicks, active on-site, visitor who viewed product, and visitor who placed an order, you can better gauge user engagement and then segment accordingly.  
  • Clean up your lists – As you optimize your recipient lists, you may achieve greater success by focusing on click data and active users on site, as these are clear (and uncontaminated) indicators of customer engagement and ongoing interest.
  • Proactively collect location information – Before the update takes effect, collect any geolocation data you can. After the release date, you can utilize forms to collect location-based data, as long as your customers will actively provide this information.

Power Digital: Preparing You for What’s to Come 

Technology is constantly evolving. The changes that follow have both benefits and challenges associated. In response, marketing teams must remain agile—quick to respond and willing to pivot on a dime. Navigating the upcoming privacy changes of iOS 15 is no exception. 

Do you need help rethinking your marketing strategies?

This is where our digital marketing agency, Power Digital, makes a difference. We’re a full-service digital agency providing customized performance marketing strategies to empower business growth. Together, we can prepare you for whatever the future of marketing holds.  


Sources :

  1. Mashable. After the update, only 4 percent of iOS users in the U.S. let apps track them. https://mashable.com/article/ios-14-5-users-opt-out-of-ad-tracking
  2. Apple Press Release. Apple advances its privacy leadership with iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and watchOS 8. https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2021/06/apple-advances-its-privacy-leadership-with-ios-15-ipados-15-macos-monterey-and-watchos-8/
  3. Apple. iOS 15 preview. https://www.apple.com/ios/ios-15-preview/
  4. Litmus. Email Client Market Share in May 2021: The Recovery of Mobile and More. https://www.litmus.com/blog/email-client-market-share-may-2021/

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