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Apple Devices and the Future of Open Rates

The Latest iOS Release Could Change Email Metrics Forever

As exciting new features and functions are introduced, Apple iOS releases are becoming as highly anticipated as the new phones and tablets that herald their debuts. As each autumn approaches, Apple fans speculate about improvements and join beta testing groups to be among the first to try the latest innovations. Last year’s iOS 15 release garnered significant attention, simultaneously eliciting excitement among consumers and dread among tech companies. Why? Privacy settings.

Privacy Settings are Nothing New. What’s Different About These?

As consumers become more informed about privacy concerns thanks to recent high-profile data breaches, along with the introduction of GDPR in the European Union and CCPA in the United States, companies have had to adapt quickly to suit changing privacy expectations and remain compliant with applicable laws. Along with the usual bug fixes and other improvements, iOS 15 (along with iPadOS 15 and also macOS 12 Monterey) included two major changes to email functionality: Mail Privacy Protection and Hide My Email.

With the latest iOS upgrades focusing on email preferences and privacy, how will this release impact government workers who use Granicus govDelivery for email communications?

About the Latest Features 

In iOS 15, Mail Privacy Protection offers email users with the Apple mail app the option to load remote content privately and not disclose their IP addresses. This setting blocks the sender’s ability to accurately track opens and forwards, while also masking the recipient’s IP, which determines their physical location. When users upgrade to iOS 15, they receive a prompt asking if they would like to enable this optional feature. Currently, users need to specifically opt-in to use Mail Privacy Protection, but it could become the default setting in a future release.

Hide my Email is another new Apple feature, available via iOS 15, macOS Monterey, and iCloud settings. This paid feature allows users to sign up for email offers with an Apple-generated randomized address instead of their real email address. Apple then forwards emails into the user’s main email account. Users can delete this new email address easily and avoid clogging their real email inboxes with unwanted messages.

How do These Changes Affect Messages Sent via govDelivery?

Approximately 35% of subscribers open govDelivery emails from an Apple device: 26% from an iPhone, 8% from a Mac desktop, and less than 2% from an iPad. Following this update, email marketers will not have the same detailed visibility into open rates from native Apple email clients running iOS15 with Mail Privacy Protection enabled. Non-Apple native email clients, as well as Android devices, will remain trackable.

Our product development and customer support teams are working to assess the macro and client level impact of these changes. Our team is actively testing iOS 15 to collect data on the impact to open rates. Initial testing conducted in 2021 indicated that this update was likely to inflate overall open rates, with opens being reported for Apple mail users with Mail Privacy Protection enabled regardless of whether the email was opened. Now, our Data Science team is tracking changes in average open rates in comparison to pre-iOS 15 data. As of May 2022, we’ve seen an increase in median open rates, rising from 18% pre-launch to 23% post-launch, based on subscribers across all accounts. We will continue testing to understand the extent to which open rates will be inflated, and we will continue to provide updates as we learn more.

Apple’s iOS 15 change to email marketing is universal and impacts email providers across all industries, including the private sector.

Are Open Rates About to be Ancient History?

Don’t panic; open rates aren’t going anywhere. However, we understand email open rates from Apple mail users are changing, and we’ve been actively preparing for that shift ever since Apple teased these new features. We don’t believe open rates will become irrelevant. Now that iOS 15 is here, we do expect that there will be an overall industry re-baselining around open rates as a metric. It’s also important to note that these new features don’t affect click rates, so you can rest assured that those will remain accurate and trackable for the foreseeable future.

You may be wondering if you’ll be able to reach your subscribers effectively after losing access to analytics from certain privacy-conscious Apple users. To borrow from a classic philosophy question about trees falling in the empty woods, your emails will still make a sound. The Granicus team is working hard to ensure that your messages to subscribers have a positive impact on the communities you serve, even in a post-iOS-15 world. Stay tuned to the Granicus blog for additional updates, and join the conversation on govCommunity to learn more.

Have questions about the impact of iOS 15, or any other govDelivery-related inquiry? Contact your customer support representative today.