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iOS 15 is about to make an iO-MESS of your email marketing.

In September, Apple will release the latest version of it’s mobile operating system, iOS 15. As an Apple guy, that’s good news. As an email marketing guy, that’s potentially very bad news.

And as a non-profit organization that relies on email marketing to help with your donor relations and marketing, it will certainly create a challenge for your digital marketing team.

90% of all mobile email is opened on an iPhone. Think about that. NINE out of every TEN emails is opened on an iPhone. So when Apple makes changes that will directly affect your ability as an email marketer to connect with your target audience, that’s a potential problem.

When iOS 15 releases, it will include what they call “mail privacy protection.” That means iPhone owners will be able to:

  • Turn off open tracking
  • Hide their IP addresses
  • Hide their email addresses

No longer will you have to share your personal email address to sign up for a mailing list. No longer will marketers be able to identify your geographic location using your IP address. 

When Apple introduced it’s app tracking protections in iOS 14.5, over 95% of users left those protections enabled. It’s likely to be similar with this update.

So what’s the immediate impact to those who market through email?

  • You won’t be able to track open rates for your emails.
  • Segmentation based on engagement will be affected.
  • Geographic segmentation will be impossible if you can’t see the recipient’s actual IP address.
  • List hygiene will be affected because you’ll no longer be able to clean your list based on who has opened previous emails.

It’s not the end of the world, and good marketing always requires us to be nimble and ready to pivot. So what can you do now to prepare for the inevitable change? Here are three actions you should take now:

  1. Start A/B testing variations of your email subject lines before the update to identify which have been most effective. In addition to measuring the open rate, you may want to shift to measuring the effectiveness of subject lines by looking at which ones generate the most clicks.
  2. A/B test the content and copy of your emails. Ultimately, open rates are nice to track, but the real impact of an email is measured in clicks. Did your copy move the recipient to action? Look at past emails and identify your most effective messaging.
  3. Once the change is implemented, you won’t be able to see who has opened your emails, so clean your list now of inactive contacts.

If you’re not tracking this data, start immediately. You have less than 3 months to identify what have been your most effective strategies to get recipients to open and read your emails.

Clicks are king. At least they will be. Maybe they always have been. Open rates have certainly been useful in helping us guide our strategy. They can’t click on what they don’t open. But ultimately, our impact is measured by how many people were moved to action by our communication.

And remember these principles of email marketing that are always important, no matter what Apple does:

1. The best way to get people to engage with your emails is to make it worth it when they open one. Folks are inundated with useless information. They filter stuff every day and make decisions about what is important. Their attention is priceless. Don’t waste it. If the only time they hear from you is when you want something, they’ll stop paying attention. If they pay attention and you disappoint them, you will likely not get another chance.  Engage them all year long with interesting content. Make them want to hear from you.

2. The formula is still the same. Heart+Urgency=Action. Make them feel something…love, compassion, anger, or any range of emotions. Then tell them what they can do about it, and why it’s important right now.

Tell me a story. Then tell me why I should care about it. Then tell me what you want me to do about it.

And if clicks are king, tailor your copy to inducing clicks. Give them a good reason to go deeper. And “we need it” is not a reason. What’s in it for them? What benefit will they get from clicking on your link and taking action?

3. Don’t be a one trick pony. Use all your channels, communicating a cohesive message, to reach the most people. Explore new opportunities like text messaging, push notifications, and other engagement technologies. What’s that old saying about when God closes a door? Find the windows that are open and figure out how to use them.

In an ever changing world, we are constantly required to shift gears, be creative, and think outside of the box. In this case, the box is going away completely…you don’t have a choice.

The time to figure out what you’re going to do about it is now.

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