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Email remains one of the most direct and effective channels for communicating with customers, and email open rate is the most common metric that marketing departments use to measure email campaign success. But Apple iOS 15's new privacy updates will limit user data collection, and that has caused quite a stir for both B2C and B2B marketers.

New features give Apple users the option to refuse trackers, hide their IP addresses, and obscure their email addresses, severely restricting the amount of information that organizations can access. So, what's a marketer to do?

Losing the ability to know whether your target customer opened your email may feel like a significant setback, but it's no reason to panic. Today's marketers should view the changes as an opportunity to implement new, more effective email strategies that give them better engagement results.

Marketers must re-evaluate how they communicate with customers and track campaign success to ensure a healthy pipeline for the future.

There are more meaningful metrics than email opens.

Apple Privacy Changes Affecting Marketing Success

Apple's iOS 15 update added several new user privacy features, including these:

  1. Mail Privacy Protection prevents senders from knowing when recipients open an email. It also masks their IP address so the email open cannot be linked to other online activities. Marketers no longer have unrestricted access to location information or the ability to build in-depth profiles based on website tracking.
  2. Private Relay helps users connect to and browse the Web privately and securely. User requests are sent through two separate Internet relays. The first assigns users an anonymous IP address that maps to their region but not their actual location; the second decrypts the Web address they want to visit and forwards them to their destination—meaning marketers can no longer identify who users are or which sites they visit.
  3. Hide My Email. allows users to create unique, random email addresses that forward to their inbox to keep personal email addresses private. Built directly into Safari, iCloud settings, and Apple Mail, Hide My Email enables users to create and delete as many addresses as needed, hindering email address capture.

Why do those changes matter? Because Apple maintains a large portion of the email and browser markets. When you combine Apple iPhone, Mail, iPad, and Apple Mail Privacy, approximately 50% of all email passes through an Apple product. Safari is also the most popular mobile browser in the United States.

Apple's new privacy features require activation by the user. Upon updating to the new operating system, users are met with a popup asking whether they'd like to opt out of tracking. Unsurprisingly, most users have done just that.

Data Privacy Concerns

The changes to iOS are a response to growing global concerns about how companies are using customer data. A full 86% of respondents to a KPMG survey said they feel a growing concern about data privacy, and 78% said they worry about the amount of data being collected. Moreover, 40% of respondents said they don't trust companies to use their data ethically, and 13% said they don't trust their employers with personal information.

Although Apple may be the first company to provide more options for privacy to its users, other companies must now follow suit or risk losing market share.

Data restrictions may cause some to panic, but successful marketers can take the chance to pivot to more targeted and effective campaigns.

We Can Do Better Than Open Rate

What does a high open rate indicate?

Perhaps it can tell you that you have a good subject line. However, if the response to opening an email is to unsubscribe, delete, or ignore it, a high open rate doesn't mean much. You may draw in readers with a catchy subject, but if the content isn't engaging and relevant, you'll lose a subscriber rather than making a sale.

According to our research, customers welcome communication from brands when...

  • It's relevant.
  • It's meaningful.
  • It's timely.
  • It's consistent across channels.

Refocusing on customer-first communications instead of merely using email as a megaphone will significantly increase sales and positive relationships with customers, create more brand ambassadors, and increase word-of-mouth, referrals, positive reviews, and repeat sales.

Four Tips for Increasing Engagement in the Wake of Apple's iOS Privacy Features

What does a customer-first communications strategy look like? Here are five tips for brand marketers who want to move beyond the "open rate" conversation and get more meaningful results.

1. Create new customer segments

In the absence of an IP address or an "open email" action to track, customer segmentation must evolve into something more personal.

Segmenting B2B customers by lifestyle, personality, and values as well as tracking purchase patterns, clicks, and engagement delivers a more comprehensive picture of your customer than an open rate can provide. That kind of data allows marketing teams to create more meaningful content and reduces the number of unwanted emails customers receive.

2. Track more meaningful metrics

A single metric shouldn't determine campaign success. Instead, measure email wins more precisely through clickthrough rates (CTR), conversions, and unsubscribe requests.

High CTR and conversions? You're on the right track. High unsubscribe rates? You missed the mark. Use AI-led insights provided by your email marketing platform to identify the cause (wrong segment, lousy timing, irrelevant content, etc.).

3. Personalize

It's a mistake to assume that personalization is a strategy solely for B2C marketing. For B2B companies, a data-driven personalization strategy can increase sales, improve conversions and repeat business, and build a more authentic relationship between your brand and customers.

Most customers don't object to sharing their information when companies provide consistently relevant, personalized content based on that data. Instead of sending an email for the same, cookie-cutter promotion to everyone, target your B2B customers with highly specialized offers to demonstrate that you've paid attention to their preferences.

4. Don't abandon email

A multichannel strategy is crucial in today's connected world, but forgoing email in favor of other channels is not the answer.

A full 77% of B2B companies say email marketing is a key part of their content marketing strategies, and 79% of B2B marketers find email to be the most successful channel for content distribution, according to OptInMonster. Mobile email access is rising, too.

The right email message at the right time still provides strong ROI compared with other channels.

Improvements in technology, such as advancements in AI, real-time A/B testing, and journey orchestration, offer marketers more tools than ever to create meaningful engagement for B2B marketers.

Changes to privacy standards should present only a minor hurdle to creative marketing teams committed to building lasting customer relationships.

More Resources on Apple Privacy Updates and Email Metrics

Eight Alternatives to Open-Triggered Email Sequences in the Age of Mail Privacy Protection

Email Marketing Benchmarks: Trends From 2021

Apple's Hide My Email: A New Reason to Accept Only Corporate Email Addresses

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More Meaningful Metrics: Four Tips for Marketers Post-Apple iOS 15 Privacy Updates

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image of Meagan White

Meagan White is the head of marketing at Kibo, a composable digital commerce platform.

LinkedIn: Meagan White