iOS 15: What You Actually Need To Be Worried About

apple ios 15 updates

By Val Geisler, Klaviyo’s lead Customer Advocate. Follow Val on Twitter here.

If you’ve glanced at social media or any tech news this week, you know that Apple announced what’s coming for iOS 15. Better FaceTime options aside, the pending updates take the data and privacy updates that came with iOS 14 to the next level, aiming at email specifically.

As soon as the announcement was out, the world started taking sides. This is great for customers! This is the end of email! Data privacy is important! We need data to do our jobs!

As a quick recap, Apple’s iOS 15 update will have three major components that affect email marketing:

  • The ability to turn off open tracking
  • The ability to block your IP address
  • The ability to hide your email address

For these purposes I’m focusing on the first two in this list as that third one has actually been available for a while now, just not as prominently as it will be in the near future.

To be clear, the iOS 14.15 updates and the iOS 15 updates are not one in the same. While the iOS 14.15 updates focused on limiting third-party cookies, Apple is now continuing its campaign on privacy while shifting gears towards further anonymizing end user data. We have seen two major updates from Apple, one being IP address masking and proxying on both Mail and Safari. Apple also preloads assets such as images in the Mail client so senders can’t track when someone opens the email. All this to say: We have work to do, friends.

While there’s so much to uncover once the beta for this update begins (likely late summer 2021), there’s a lot you can do right now to not only be proactive but also to remain positive.

The point is, email isn’t dead, and I’m here to prove it.

But you don’t have to take it from me alone. Two email marketing experts, Mandi Moshay, director of retention at Common Thread Collective, and Stephanie Griffith, expert on email and SMS strategy and founder of, took to Twitter with their advice on what to do next. 

To better understand the impending changes, I’ve rounded up this information for you. Plus, I brought in some of our own experts on deliverability and the Klaviyo platform, so that you can get ahead of the game.


First, adjust your mindset

Like I said, email is not dead. If this is what “kills” email then we’re in good company with other (still thriving) industries that would have been dead years ago.

I chatted with James Sowers, head of marketing at The Good, about the upcoming changes and he reminded me, “[Our] colleagues in pay-per-click and search engine optimization have been dealing with this for years. For the most part, you don’t always know exactly what’s going to work. You have to form a hypothesis, test the hypothesis, and then confirm or deny it.”

In other words, now isn’t the time to panic.

Let’s not forget that email is an ever-evolving landscape. Francis Baker, compliance and deliverability technical specialist at Klaviyo, has been through the trenches and lived to tell the tale.

“The email space is constantly evolving. Let’s rewind back to 2018 when we had to deal with the chaos and change of GDPR—that shook the email space—or even CCPA, another large change. This industry will constantly change and, as marketers and deliverability folks, we’ll adjust,” he said.

Okay, so now that you’re breathing again, what can you actually do?


Check your bases

“These are our baseline metrics” is music to any marketer’s ears—we all relish knowing how we are performing against the baseline. So I suggest gathering your metrics on clicks as they are right now so you can track true performance when open rates are no longer in the picture.

The best way to know where you are going is to know where you are starting, and these metrics will help you see your path forward. If nothing else, they’ll be fun figures to share at a future company meeting. “Remember open rates???”


Segment, segment, segment

If you do any email marketing, you already know the power of segmenting. There are a seemingly infinite number of ways you can segment your list, but, fear not, our aforementioned experts have tangible ideas for combating the iOS 15 changes.

One tactic Stephanie recommends is building an engaged subscriber segment that isn’t exclusively based on opens. Instead of open rates, try combining conditions like recency of sign up, purchase, on-site behavior, and email engagement.

Another non-open rate focused option would be adding “Has Received Email Within X Days” and keeping that number small relative to your sending cadence. Or think like Mandi and use recent orders, site sessions, or clicks to eliminate those unengaged subscribers.

Remember: You don’t need open rates. There are other measures of success.


If you haven’t already implemented an SMS strategy, now’s the time to do so

Since SMS doesn’t have a pixel, there isn’t a great way to measure open rates for these messages. Clicks and replies are the only signals of engagement on SMS.

Listen to that again: There are no open rate metrics on SMS.

Despite the lack of this supposedly crucial metric, marketers like Mandi and Stephanie still lean heavily on SMS as part of the messaging mix. Why? Because it’s an incredibly powerful channel that, according to Stephanie, can achieve a 4,600 percent return on investment (ROI).

It’s all about those clicks!

Open rates have always been a tough metric to measure. Any email sent through an email service provider (ESP) has to have a small pixel (an image) embedded in it. You can’t see it in the email but it’s there, “tracking” what’s going on with that email.

Sounds fine, right? Well, if a subscriber’s inbox doesn’t have Always Display Images clicked in their email settings, the inbox might never “see” the pixel and report it back to the service provider as delivered and opened.

On the positive side, click rates are about as accurate a piece of data as you can get. Click rates signal engagement, no pixel or other tracking needed.

Clicks also give you the power to automate even further. Clicks ultimately power browse and cart abandons and can help you better understand exactly what makes your customers sit up and pay attention.

To that point, it’s time to examine your creative. Everything from your images, to your content, to the templates you use is up for testing – and will likely be more important than ever.

Test long versus short messages, text-based versus image-driven messages, sassy versus serious copy—find the creative elements that work best for your audience and double down on them.


Focus on delivery

Open rates don’t mean much if the email isn’t delivered in the first place. So now’s the time to check in on your deliverability.

Remember that major inbox providers (Google, Microsoft, VMG, etc.) look at hundreds, if not thousands, of different data points.

Yes, marketers have always reviewed open rate and had access to a version of that information in their ESP. But the truth is what we see and what the inbox provider sees have always been different to a degree.

What Apple is doing is definitely new, but people have turned off images for years, and if an email gets clipped, that can impact whether it qualifies as “open” as well.

Deliverability is more than just open rates and the technical aspects of email marketing. A huge factor in your deliverability is the relationship you drive with your customers. The quality of your subscribers and their engagement (think: clicks) with your content have an impact on the full deliverability recipe.

Want to clean up your list? Tyler Pietri, product manager at Klaviyo, recommends taking a peek at your pre-built suppression options.

Specifically, Tyler suggests creating a segment of unengaged contacts and using Klaviyo’s suppression tools to clean out the profiles before Apple’s new features launch.

In addition to suppression, you can still build a sunset flow based around opens, or take the segment Stephanie outlined to maintain your list hygiene long after the iOS 15 roll out. 


Metrics? Which ones matter now?

The ultimate marketing metric is happy returning customers. But lower customer acquisition costs (CAC) and higher return on investment (ROI) don’t hurt either. How you get there is the fun part.

James Sowers’ customer-centric approach to marketing is one I’d love to see more people adopt.

“We’ll have to make peace with the unknown, but at the end of the day, I’m 100 percent confident that optimizing for customer experience will be a strong play over the long term—I don’t need data to tell me that,” he said.

Ultimately, you have a choice to make right now:

Option A: Stick your head in the sand and pretend it’s not happening.

Option B: Embrace the challenge and get ahead of iOS 15 so it never becomes a problem for your brand.

I’m here to tell you that embracing this new normal for email is the path forward. And if the last year has taught us anything, it’s how to embrace uncertainty and new normals. Our commitment to you, to the durability of personalized marketing, and to powering your biggest dreams is still intact. Let’s move forward together.

Put everything you’ve just learned to work and try it in Klaviyo.

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