Apple’s iOS 15 Massive Impact on Open Rates Since September 2021


Apple’s iOS 15 impact on open rates is undeniable

Last year Apple tossed a bomb at open rates and killed them.

Sure they were always hackable in the past (remove cold subscribers and watch your open rate go up!!!).

But Apple destroyed the open rate, and all metrics associated with the open rate. Like location data, unique open rate, click-to-open rates, even nifty, fun countdown timers got hit.

Apple picked a fight with the open-tracking technology email service providers (ESPs) use to record a subscriber’s behavior. They named it Mail Privacy Protection and rolled it out in September 2021. ESPs cried louder than chicken little.

They weren’t wrong, though. The sky really was falling. While open rates weren’t 100% reliable, with MPP, they became extremely unreliable. 

MPP has dominated on open rates…by how much?

Omeda tracked open rates from September 2021 through March 2022 and found open rates nearly doubled from 15.2% pre-MPP to 40.0% post-MPP. 

They go on to write, “Now more than ever, open rates can’t be trusted, and any data – such as click through rate (CTR) – that utilizes the total open rate data is NOT as reliable as it was in the past.

 Email open rates are life support. Apple put them there in September 2021 when they released Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) via iOS 15.  

What is MPP? 

MPP offers a number of ways that Apple users can have greater email privacy. As a result, MPP also makes it harder for email senders to follow a user’s marketing activity.

What happens when you open an email?

Every time you open an email, where you open the email is registered. It’s registered through the IP address of the server you use to power your internet. That server is tied to a physical location. 

This information is called geolocation data. It’s been a very important metric used by email service providers (ESP). Geolocation data allows ESPs to target subscribers based on the geographic location. 

ESPs use open tracking technology to capture geolocation data and open times.

Open tracking technology

Open tracking technology works by adding a small 1px image within the email that is unique to each subscriber. 

When you open an email this unique image is loaded through your IP address. ESPs capture the time you opened the email and where you opened the email.

Just by opening the email, ESPs can know a lot about you as a subscriber.

You might be subscribed to a national chain newsletter with shops in your location. In the past, businesses could use your geolocation data to send you targeted emails about sales in your location.

What has MPP done to open tracking technology?

MPP renders the 1px image used in open tracking technology worthless.

When a user asks Apple to turn on MPP, Apple preloads all their email on Apple’s servers and open them. 

Instead of the email IP address being registered in the town in which you’ve opened the email, the IP address will be Apple’s server locations.

And because Apple also opens every email, ESPs can’t know if you truly opened the email. 

It doesn’t matter if you read it later. The geolocation data recorded by the ESP is always the first time email is opened.

Have you actually read the email?  ESPs don’t know anymore. Except you can actually use the open rate, but you’ll need to review and compare open rates with a new start date,  September 2021

The huge impact of MPP 

Litmus recently reported that Apple Mail across all devices is more than 60% of the email market. This number includes Gmail users on Apple devices. 

Approximately 82% of all Apple users are currently using iOS 15, and among them, about 97% have adopted MPP.  

This can seem disheartening. But keep this in mind.

An increase in open rates in mid-2022 may suggest genuine opens.

Several ESPs, including Klaviyo, now allow you to segment out Apple users. Don’t go to the bank on open rates, which is another way of saying don’t stop at open rates. Dig deeper and use other metrics to reflect engagement.

Just be careful which ones you use.

Essential metrics impacted by MPP 

Any metric tracked through open-rate activity has been impacted by MPP.  

Included are:  

  • Open rates 
  • Open times 
  • Geolocation
  • Device usage 
  • Click-to-open rate 
  • Countdown timers 
  • Inaccurate send time optimization (if 50% of your subscribers open your emails at  8pm, is it Apple or them?)
  • Less reliable A/B testing using subject lines 
  • Localized content (a subscriber in Denver receives an email about a local event in Denver) 

A quick-start guide to responding to MPP

Bullet proof your metrics approach and assume every subscriber has opted-in to MPP. 

Measure clicks, unsubscribes, and spam complaints.  

  • Clicks are certain. A user either clicks or doesn’t. 
  • Unsubscribes and spam complaints will tell you what material fails to resonate and diagnose problem emails in a sequence/automation. 

Measure the outcome

Focus on the subscriber’s action after they open the email.  

  • Do they return to your website? 
  • Contact you by phone or SMS? 
  • Make a donation? 
  • Sign up for a free call? 
  • Sign up for a free webinar? 
  • Answer a survey? 

These actions can be tracked with Urchin Tracking Modules (UTM). UTMs are sets of code attached to a URL and allow you to track activity after the click.  They are useful in all email campaigns.   

When a subscriber clicks on a particular link, Google Analytics registers the link and allows you to track behavior with a high degree of confidence. 

Some ESPs like Klaviyo and Active Campaign have a time-on-website metric.

Customers install a tiny piece of code on their website. When you create a campaign that drives traffic to the website, the time spent by the subscriber on your website will show up as a data point. 

Not every ESP collects this type of data, though, which is why UTMs are a secret weapon in your success metrics tracking. 

Observe qualitative data 

Send out surveys, a lot of surveys.  

Set one up immediately after they’ve subscribed. Send another survey a few days later. 

If you’re working with any type of business that’s doing email or online courses, polls offer another great way to capture qualitative data. 

Also monitor the inbox for qualitative data. Are people replying to your emails? 

Monitor social media for qualitative data. Are people posting to social media after clicking on a link in one of your emails? 

Track comments for opportunities to improve email content. 

Do subscribers forward emails? Track it. 

Modify the success metrics for A/B testing

A/B test CTAs. Clicks are hard metrics. You have to work much harder to get them. But they’re gold in terms of what they tell you about your subscribers and Apple won’t click anything in your emails.

If a click is registered, you know a subscriber clicked.

Recreate/reconfigure workflow automations

If any of your automations are triggered by open rate, reconfigure them to have the trigger be a different data point not tied to opens. 

Focus on different success metrics 

MPP is ultimately a gift. A focus on different metrics creates opportunities to learn more about your subscribers than ever before.  

Subscribers win because you’ll learn how to target your copy even more effectively. 

You’ll win by learning how to dig deeper into subscriber behavior, give them what they want, and make your subscribers even happier. 

Here’s a few success metrics to focus on, both for your client and your business

  • Increased conversions – Clicks aren’t conversions. Pick a conversion metric (sales, calls, whatever) and track it. (Number of subscribers who converted/total number of clicks) x 100 
  • Increased click-through-rate – are those CTAs working? (Number of subscribers who clicked/total number of subscribers) x 100 
  • Increased conversion rate – pick a goal and track it. (Number of converting recipients/number of emails delivered) x 100
  • Increased list growth – valuable to track if you’re tracking unsubscribes. ((New subscribers – unsubscribes) / email addresses on list)) x 100 
  • Increased email forwards – valuable for a lot of reasons, including creating share worthy content. (Number of emails forwarded / number of emails opened) x 100 
  • Reduced unsubscribe rate – tracking this number is important for two reasons. It will tell you the effectiveness of campaigns sent and whether or not the data you’ve sent to is good. (Number of unsubscribes/number of emails delivered) x 100  
  • Reduced list churn – list churn is a rarely used metric. It can tell you how well your email email strategy is working overall. Think of it this way: if a significant amount of people unsubscribe or mark your emails as spam, then there’s something wrong with your emails, not the subscribers. (Number of unsubscribes/number of emails delivered) x 100 
  • Reduced email production time – especially helpful if you’re working to set up ongoing campaigns. You’ll want to track two metrics:
    • Actual time to complete each task (e.g. 90 minutes to gather all the information that will go into an email) 
    • Time period from email conception to execution (e.g. 9 days to create and send one email).

The Undeniable Win

Apple has forced us to become better email marketers. The shift to the click means we can better deliver content subscriber’s want.

We win. They win. Rinse. Repeat.