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Apple’s next software update spells trouble for email marketing.

Apple’s war on data trackers has continued as iOS 15 tightens controls around user privacy yet again.

If real estate agents and marketing teams thought the iOS 14 update was bad, iOS 15 has upped its game and announced new features that will also give real estate agents and brands who rely on email marketing some sleepless nights.

iOS 15 will tighten user privacy in three ways:

  1. Mail Privacy Protection will enhance user privacy by routing emails through a proxy server to pre-load messages and tracking pixels before serving them to users.
  2. iCloud+ will now use a Private Relay Feature, like a VPN, to prevent sites from tracking Safari users.
  3. Hide My Email will allow users to provide ‘fake’ email addresses to avoid signing up to a mailing list.

The big update is Mail Privacy Protection, although iCloud+ and Hide My Email will also enhance the privacy of Safari and Apple Mail. The trio is pencilled in to be released on iOS 15, iPadOS 15 and MacOS Monterey between September and November.

Mail Privacy Protection will give agents the worst headache, but the other two will also present their fair share of issues.

After the iOS 14 update was launched, users were given a chance to ‘opt-in’ to its enhanced privacy policy upon opening apps for the first time after the software update.

Only 4% allowed their behaviour to be tracked, according to Apple Insider.

Mail App users will be given the same choice, and if 96% of people decide to protect their privacy, agents who rely on email marketing will be in for a tough time, as well as third party email software providers.

What will the Mail Privacy Protection do?

“In the Mail app, Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user.

The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email, and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.” Apple Newsroom

Mail Privacy Protection will make it hard for agents and their marketing teams to understand the actual open rate of campaigns while all three updates will make it more challenging to personalise some campaigns based on activity or location.

However, it should be noted that Apple Mail and Apple devices account for around 35% of email providers around the globe, so your campaigns might only see a slight dip in reporting. Depending on the email software you use, you may be able to determine this proactively.

Additionally, the update only applies to the Apple Mail app. If your audience uses the Gmail app on their iPhone, your data won’t be protected by Mail Privacy Protection, at least for now.

“When browsing with Safari, Private Relay ensures all traffic leaving a user’s device is encrypted…this separation of information protects the user’s privacy because no single entity can identify both who a user is and which sites they visit. Hide My Email lets users share unique, random email addresses that forward to their personal inbox any time they wish to keep their personal email address private. Hide My Email also enables users to create and delete as many addresses as needed at any time, helping give users control of who is able to contact them.” Apple Newsroom

The impact on Safari could result in agents and their marketing teams having their personalisation efforts hindered as they will be less able to track user behaviour on their site, while Hide My Email could result in less effective email consent gathering techniques.

Personalising your emails? That’s about to get harder

Mail Privacy Protection will stop agents and their marketing teams from knowing if a subscriber has opened an email, the subscriber’s location, or the device used to read the email. It will also prevent some personalised email campaigns from being as personal, which will negatively impact marketing activity further.

A drop in reported email open rates should be expected. Agents and their marketing teams will probably need to focus on producing high-quality content that compels their audience to pay attention. It would also be helpful to adjust open-rate targets or look for new targets such as click-through rates or web traffic referrals from email.

Furthermore, if agents run automated email systems that rely on someone opening an email, they may need to reconfigure their process. Similarly, content powered by location information may not be as reliable and could worsen the user experience.

It’s clear that there’s more to this than worse open rates, but the good news is that the change is limited to Mail App and Safari users.

However, that could all change. Google and other email providers might follow suit.

Ride the crest of the golden email marketing wave today but prepare your business for what could very likely happen tomorrow.

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