How the new Apple iOS 15 update affects email marketing campaigns

Every new privacy policy change by any of the big tech companies has the potential to frighten email marketers. The sweeping changes to email privacy contained in the new iOS 15 released by Apple are the most recent example of such an event. But is this really the death of email marketing as we know it?

The answer is mixed: things will change, yes. But email marketing is far from dead for used car dealerships both large and small. Still, it’s important that you understand what the changes are, what they mean, what impact they’ve had so far, and what action steps you can take.

What Are the Changes That Came with iOS 15?

While there were several changes in Apple mail with the release of iOS 15, two primary changes stand out. They are Mail Privacy Protection, an opt-in on Apple Mail now, and Hide My Email, in which the user can create a unique email to sign up for things online and delete that email at any time to clean up their inbox. What do these actually mean?

Mail Privacy Protection

Essentially, mail privacy protection limits whether or not a sender “sees” if a user has opened an email or not and other activity by hiding the recipient’s IP address and location. What it does not do is limit whether a sender can see if someone clicked on a link in the same email. That can be tracked using Google Analytics, a Facebook pixel, or other tracking methods.

The truth is, open rates were a poor metric to begin with. Yes, you want users to open your emails, but mostly you want them to take action on something in the email and click on a link. Senders can increase these clicks with “softer” calls to action, like to answer a survey, follow a social media account, or click on an article that interests them.

What this really means is that click rates are the new open rates, and will rapidly replace open rates as metrics of whether or not an email campaign is working.

Hide My Email

Hide my email is another opt-in feature. When a web visitor reaches an opt-in form on a mobile device using iOS 15, they get a message: “Use hide my email?” This allows them to create a one-time or even multiple use email for subscriptions that forwards email to their regular iCloud inbox. In most cases (so far) this is used to get a coupon or free offer, and then the user unsubscribes quickly. They can delete this address at any time, or unsubscribe, and as a marketer, you never had their “real” email address.

This is much less of a disaster than it seems. Many “freebie seekers” often unsubscribe quickly from email lists anyway, or use “junk filters” or “spam addresses” anyway. However, it does mean that for cross-platform tracking, like creating lookalike audiences on Facebook or other ad platforms, the email address likely won’t provide you with information that would have been previously discoverable.

Adoption Rates, Mobile Opens, and iOS Impact

What are the numbers? Well, first and foremost, not a lot of users exclusively use Apple mail, especially on laptops or desktop devices. Gmail is still the most common platform, even among Mac users. (Although privacy changes are likely coming to Google sooner rather than later).

Overall, about 60% of emails are opened on mobile devices. In the US, iOS has just over 58% of the mobile market, and 27% worldwide. What that means is that this affects about 30% of your email opens in the US, not a majority, but a substantial portion.

However, adoption rates for iOS 15 are lower than initially expected, and of those users, not everyone is opting in to Mail Privacy Protection, in fact just under 30% as of this writing. That means of the potential impact of 30% of your emails sent, only about 30% of those are actually affected. This means these changes affect less than 10% of the emails most businesses send.

Taking Action

What do you do? Well, there are a few things to consider. 

First of all, used car dealerships need to understand that email marketing still has the highest return on investment and the greatest conversion rate of any marketing effort you can undertake. Even with privacy changes, email remains a critical part of your marketing plans.

Include a “Soft” Call to Action

Adding a soft call to action and adding content to your website, where you can track visitors and look at their behavior, along with your sales and shopping links, gives you audience insights and new metrics to look at. Remember, clicks are the new open rates in email marketing, and getting users to click on links in your email should be a top priority.

Stay Abreast of Regulations Surrounding Email Marketing 

Your membership in NIADA not only helps you save money but also keep in touch with the changes happening in the industry. As individual privacy takes a front seat across big tech, you will want to adjust accordingly.

Add Value to Your Audience

Finally, it is important to reach new audiences, and the way you can do that is by adding value to your email marketing. For example, provide up-to-date information on the market, financing, and other information potential buyers would be interested in. 

If users see value in your emails, they will subscribe with their actual email address, open and click on your content, and you’ll create loyalty that can’t be replaced by any other marketing method.

iOS 15 is not the death of email marketing. It just means that senders have to be smarter and add real value to their customer communications. And in reality, that’s what we should be doing anyway.

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