5 Creative Ways Email Marketers Can Navigate Apple's iOS 15 Update


Email marketers globally are bracing themselves for Apple’s iOS 15 update releasing  September 2021.

Apple’s announcement of Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) heralds a pivotal change in the way email engagement is measured.

Greenday’s “Wake me up when September ends” seems to be a marketer’s current favorite. 

Some marketers fear the worst as September begins.

With iOS 15, Apple’s Mail app users can:

  • Turn off their open tracking: so open rates become irrelevant. 
  • Block their IPs: so, geo-location data will be inaccessible.
  • Hide email addresses: so randomly generated email addresses will skew performance results. (Note: this is a paid feature)

In addition, there will be no real-time content like countdown timers for your holiday season sales or real-time tracking info for recent orders.
They’re  toast!

Apple’s share of email opens is around 47%, with a 13% mail app market share. In addition, 65% of smartphone sales in the US belonged to Apple in 2021.

That’s a sizable  email audience for whom you may not get any response data very soon.

In our recent ‘For The Love Of Emails’ webinar on image caching, Matthew Vernhout suggested that the adoption of iOS 15 will be gradual, not overnight. Marcel Becker from Yahoo! added that image caching happens with other MSPs, just that the marketers are oblivious to it.

Though the change could be slow, it is still inevitable, and marketers need to prepare accordingly.

Yes, the iOS update could greatly impact email performance tracking, but there are always creative solutions to problems. 

There’s a lot you can still do right now.

Use this post as a directional thought to keep your email program healthy, efficient, and results-driven.

Here’s how.

Download the free guide: The Email Marketer's Survival Guide to Saying Goodbye to Apple Mail Tracking Pixels

1. Incentivize clicks to track performance

With Apple pre-fetching images, you will start seeing an unusually high percentage of email opens even if your emails are not truly opened. Naturally, you will have to focus on other performance metrics to get a pulse on your true subscriber engagement.

Clicks will become the new north star metric to measure your email program.

Clicking on a CTA shows more upper-level customer intent any day than just an open.

The challenge will be on incentivizing them to know more about your audience.

Some creative ways to do this:
  • Provide a performance indicator inside your emails, such as a ‘like’ button.
  • Introduce a poll or a question in your newsletter and ask them to reply with the answer. 
  • Redirect your email content to your website/app to continue reading/exploring.

Any way you can get more clicks from your subscribers will help you trace the data points to give you a larger story of your engagement and conversions. 

For instance, a Youtube influencer I follow does a free giveaway for the products he endorses. If you reply to the emails with a witty answer, you can have the product for free or earn a short call with him. This encourages positive engagement and allows him to easily track what percentage of his list is active. 

It will also be even more necessary to have clear CTA buttons so that there is no ambiguity  about what the subscribers are clicking on. Other performance metrics like conversions, LTV, and website visits should also be looked at for deeper clarity on customer interactions.

I suggest starting with the clicks before gradually diving into other metrics.


2. Prepare a high-level segmentation plan

We know that a detailed segmentation plan allows you to target the relevant offers to the right audience, increasing clicks and conversion possibilities. A thorough segmentation plan becomes doubly important now in the wake of the privacy changes.

Segment based on subscriber engagement but change the metric to clicks or score rather than opens. Other important attributes to consider will be device OS version, purchase history, lifetime value (LTV). I would also suggest segregating your Apple users separately if you can get their device OS versions to treat them differently. Your ESP can do the heavy lifting work here to provide you all the details.  

Collect more information during the signup process and get to know your customers better. Get as many attributes as you can with progressive profiling. The more you know what your subscribers like or dislike, will make your segmentation more granular. You can begin to segment based on interests, geographic area, age range, and other data points that will allow you to adjust your messaging even more effectively for each subscriber.

At Netcore Cloud, we are looking into advanced AI features like predictive segmentation to suggest advanced ways for marketers to target their audience.


3. Listen to your customers

Soon you may not have easy visibility into your email engagement, so you will have to get in touch with your customers regularly.  Get an update from them on what they need from you.

Build a stronger customer journey that has consistent touchpoints every 3 months. Tweak the rules on your automation journeys to trigger them based on clicks and not opens. 

A timely preference management right from the signup process to feedback emails will help you know which customers are truly engaged and which expect more from you. Collect more zero-party data and get to know them better. Progressive profiling is be a way to interact with the customer  and to find more data points on targeting them effectively.

For instance, every 6 months, ask your subscribers ‘if they wish to stay on your list’ by confirming their opt-in. Those who won’t click need to be segregated as inactive and need to be re-engaged. If they continue not clicking or replying, they need to be sunset.

If clicks are the new currency for email performance, customer feedback will be king. 


4. Test rigorously for better deliverability

Open rates till now have indeed told a better deliverability story than other metrics, especially with major MSPs like Gmail. But that’s got to change now!

Testing emails internally for deliverability checks at MSPs including Apple mail will go a long way in diagnosing issues and fixing them. I suggest following best practices and following a rigorous testing protocol. Make sure your messages are inboxing internally on your Apple mail test IDs before you are pushing the send button.

Tailor your content to the relevant audience and keep it meaningful. Get your subscribers to take some kind of action like reply/click/share your emails to indicate positive signals to mailbox service providers (MSPs). Monitor your sender reputation for any anomalies that might come up once the changes are in effect.

Watch the spam complaint rate and abuse feedback loops. They are the best indicators of users disliking your content.

Due to the absence of real opens, deliverability could go through some hiccups. But if you follow good content and testing practices, you won’t have to worry.  


5. Create omnichannel strategies

We know that email is a crucial channel for having direct communication and promotions. But it’s not the only channel you have at your disposal. You need to understand how your users interact with your content on all channels so that you can refine it accordingly. Take a look to see what 50 Billion Emails says about email content.

Other channels like Whatsapp, web-push, app-push, and good ol’ SMS can help you touch base with customers  who don’t respond to emails. 

In case your push for confirming the opt-ins incurs more unsubscribes than intended, you can always reach out to them on these other channels with personalized offers, urgent deals, etc. Having a cross-channel strategy has never hurt your marketing plan. In fact, some customers are savvier on these other channels and will respond. Just don’t irritate them with too much messaging. 

For instance, recently I was not receiving the relevant deals for upcoming real-estate projects in my city. So I ignored their email offers, however their SMSes soon after were on point for me to check out. That interaction led me to engage back with their app.  

Diversify your marketing channels just like your investment portfolio, you don’t want to be caught with all your eggs in one basket. 



Apple’s privacy changes are an important milestone in the email evolution. But it’s not going to be the endgame of email. Neither will it be an overnight problem for marketers.

Apple Mail users are not your whole email universe. They are a part of it. You will still receive other diagnostic information from other email clients.

For Apple Mail users, you will have to focus on being creative, getting more clicks and conversion data, and reaching out for regular feedback. It’s a great opportunity for brands and marketers to get really good with meaningful email content and omnichannel strategies.

At Netcore Cloud, we can help marketers put their best foot forward and thrive post iOS 15. Check out our AI-powered email platform here.

Start preparing now for upcoming changes, so that you get to smile at what you have achieved when September ends! :)


About Netcore Cloud:

Netcore Cloud is the largest ESP in Asia, and has two primary products:

  1. Netcore Email API: a transactional email service powered by artificial intelligence, using API-based and SMTP relay-based solutions
  2. Customer Engagement: a full-stack, multichannel SAAS solution, with email, SMS, web notifications, app notifications, and social advertising.

    Netcore has over 700 employees and thousands of customers internationally.
    Netcore is the only ESP (Email service provider) to offer cashback on all opened emails each month.  The other benefits that it offers are expert deliverability solutions, reporting, and

consulting services.

Visit: www.netcorecloud.com to know more!

About the Author 


Tejas Pitkar is a Senior Product Evangelist at Netcore Cloud. 

He likes analyzing data and diving deep to find valuable insights for marketers. He loves writing Industry benchmark reports and marketing leaders’ reports. He also likes to give back to the email industry with his volunteer work at the Only Influencers Diversity Committee. 

An #emailgeek at heart, he likes writing blogs, sharing email knowledge, and making thought-provoking videos on all things email.He enjoys hiking, backpacking, reading books, and drinking his favorite Chai, in his free time. 

You can reach him via his social handles:

Reach Tejas on Linkedin.

Reach Tejas on Twitter.

Verify, Protect and Grow Your Database