iOS 15 – Everything you need to know and how to handle it
Jun 2, 2023

iOS 15 – Everything you need to know and how to handle it

We have all been waiting anxiously for a while now – and it’s finally here. *insert mixed feelings*. Apple’s iOS 15 update is finally here.

Let’s just take a moment of silence

Ok. Ready? Let’s go.

In the world of marketing, it seems like the second you get comfortable and think, ‘damn! I got this’, something sets the industry on fire – a real dumpster fire, affecting how we go about our business, forcing us to get more creative with our approach – and Apple’s iOS 15 update is no exception to that. The new update means definite changes to how we do things, but it doesn’t have to be a black hole of doom.

Take it from someone who willingly spent her Friday afternoon investigating this and chose to create this blog post that contains EVERYTHING you need to know about iOS 15 and how to handle it as a marketer.

In fact, there are great things that will come from this, including modified and improved marketing strategies that put the customer first. But if you are a marketer like me – and especially someone, who works with e-mail marketing, then… Well, just remember to breathe.

But let’s just rip the bandaid off and dive into the new normal for us as marketers, and then you can see for yourself.

Buckle up! Here we go.

iOS 15 update

What will the iOS 15 update change?

At Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June (this year), they announced a bunch of new iOS 15 privacy features that would help their users control and monitor apps’ use of their data. The new privacy features with the new iOS 15 update are:

Mail Privacy Protection (Free)

Mail Privacy Protection hides a user’s IP address, so senders (i.e., marketers like you and I) can’t link it to the user’s other online activity or determine the user’s location. And it prevents senders from seeing if and when the user has opened their e-mail. This privacy option for iOS-users means that e-mail marketers will no longer have access to information like:

  1. When or where their e-mails are being opened
  2. Results from pixels will be hidden
  3. No more linking users to their online activity by using their IP addresses

iCloud Private Relay (only available with iOS 15’s iCloud+ subscription)

Private Relay is a new internet privacy service that’s built right into iCloud, allowing users to connect to and browse the web more securely and privately.

When browsing with Safari, Private Relay ensures all traffic leaving a user’s device is encrypted, so no one between the user and the website they are visiting can access and read it – not even Apple -or the user’s network provider.

All the user’s requests are sent through two separate internet relays. The first assigns the user an anonymous IP address that maps to their region but not their actual location.

The second decrypts the web address they want to visit and forwards them to their destination. This separation of information protects the user’s privacy because no single entity can identify who a user is and which sites they visit.

NB: When using Private Relay (Beta version), some websites may have issues, such as showing content for the wrong region or requiring extra steps to sign in.

Hide My E-mail (only available with iOS 15’s iCloud+ subscription)

Hide My E-mail allows users to create a unique, random e-mail address that forwards e-mails to their personal inbox so they can send and receive e-mail without having to share their real e-mail address.

Built directly into Safari, iCloud settings, and Mail, the Hide My E-mail privacy feature also enables users to create and delete as many e-mail addresses as needed at any time, providing users complete control of who can contact them.

This means that while promotional e-mails sent from a brand to the user’s “fake” e-mail address will still go to the user’s inbox and shouldn’t impact important communication, brands will not be able to see the user’s real address or info unless the user shares it.

New privacy protection

Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) now also prevents trackers from profiling you using your IP address.

App Privacy Report

A section in ‘Settings’ on Apple-users devices lets the user see how often apps have accessed their location, photos, camera, microphone, and contacts during the last seven days.

It also shows the user which apps have contacted other domains and how recently they have contacted them. This is a good complement to an app’s privacy label, so the user can be sure it’s treating their privacy.

NB: This feature is coming in a software update to iOS 15.

iOS 15 lets you opt-in to Apple’s own privacy features

Lastly, Apple’s own privacy features are now opt-in only as of iOS 15. When you click through the iOS 15 welcome screen, you will be asked to confirm you’re ok with Apple’s personalized ads.

What do these new iOS 15 privacy features mean?

While the paid (iCloud+) features might not create a huge impact for marketers as they require users to buy a service (see! I told you there was some good news), the free Mail Privacy Protection feature has already caused a stir in the marketing-pond!

This is due to the way we track our e-mail engagement, our KPIs, and the way we go about personalizing our e-mail marketing, which now will have to change.


As someone who handles Custimys e-mail marketing, one of the key metrics I use to measure e-mail success is my opening rate. You know … like everyone else.

And as you know – if an open rate is high, it usually means that the subject line did its job and made people interested and pulled them in. Or it means you’re sending your e-mails at the most engaging time of day, or your content is exactly what they needed.

Opposite, when it’s low, it signals that your e-mail subscribers might not even be reading your content because it wasn’t catchy or interesting enough – or the timing was off.

But with Apple’s iOS 15 mail privacy features, the way e-mail marketers leverage open rates will change.

The new features allow the e-mail receivers to turn off their e-mail tracking, which marketers like you and I use to measure factors such as e-mail opening rate and opening time.

Roughly put – You can wave goodbye to your dear and beloved open rate data *semi-sad face*.

But ok. To be honest – I think we could all probably live with that.

The thing is… other things rely on open rates as well, and these will also be affected, such as segmentation and automated triggers since they rely on open rate engagement.

While Apple hasn’t expanded too much on its Mail Privacy Protection feature yet, marketing experts say that besides the tracking of open rates, it could (it will) impact e-mail A/B testing.

A positive change?

If you have read this far, you deserve some good news! And as I said earlier – there are also things to be excited about when it comes to Apple’s iOS 15 updates.

First. any marketers believe this will be a positive change for user experience and personalization – which I’m very excited about. Yay!

Second. It doesn’t look like the setting on the Mail Privacy Protection feature will be turned on by default.

Third. Apple’s iCloud+ Private Relay might help break the identity chain in a similar way to a VPN but is only launching in Beta at first. When the real thing arrives, it should be game-changing. But then again – it’s a paid feature, so…

Fourth. E-mail marketing has been around forever, and just like the marketing world itself – e-mail marketing loves reinventing itself, so I’ll eat my hat if this new update will be the death of e-mail marketing. But at the end of the day, it will come down to:

  1. How many people use Apple mobile products and their adoption rate of the new features
  2. How Apple users will choose to opt-in when it comes to the new “Mail Privacy Protection” privacy feature
  3. How well are we as marketers can adapt and find other ways to tap into user data

And trust me when I say that – we will find our way – we always do. That is why I have created a list of how to cope with Apple’s new iOS 15 update.

iOS 15

How e-mail marketers should navigate Apple's iOS 15 privacy changes

Remember, this change won’t impact all e-mail receivers.

Although Apple Mail and Apple mobile devices make up over 35% of the e-mail provider market globally, Google, Outlook, and other e-mail providers haven’t announced similar privacy moves (yet), which means that you’ll still get open rate data from them and still can make some judgments on the success of this data.

Adjust your open-rate goals

Although open rates aren’t going away any time soon, we can’t avoid the fact that from Monday the 20th of September 2021, your open rate will drop.

Consider tracking your e-mail open rates for a month or so (the first month or two you’ll experience the most dramatic drop) after the rollout to see what new averages look like based on hard data and to find your new low open-rate and high open-rate.

Usually, the drop will happen over a month or so – which means right up to the Christmas sales and black Friday.

Before the drop, it will be important to audit and communicate how many opens you usually get from iOS users to help yourself or your manager and team to estimate how they could potentially change after the rollout.

Leverage other e-mail marketing data.

While open rate is a key e-mail marketing KPI for many marketers, it’s certainly not the only data you can use to determine if your e-mail content is successful. In fact, here are some of the others that I plan to zoom in on:

Clicks and click-through rates

If you share links to content, such as blogs, product pages, and offers in e-mail, the number of clicks and your click-through rates give you insights on how many or how often e-mail readers engaged with and clicked on your content.

Traffic to your site

With the use of tracking URLs, you can determine how much traffic came to your website from one single e-mail – or which pieces of content sent the most visitors to your site.

At the end of the day – a lot of e-mail traffic hints that you’re successfully getting visitors where they need to go with your content.

Click maps

Many e-mail providers allow you to see which content people clicked most or least in the e-mail.

This can help you see which content within your e-mail was most and least clickable.

Create surveys or e-mail persona research

You can also leverage other strategies, like surveys or polls, to learn more about your subscribers’ interests, what they’d like to see more of, and where you can improve your content.

Remember! Evolve your content for a more private world

Apple’s announcement is not the only privacy pivot that’s impacted digital marketers, and in 2021 – it certainly won’t be the last.

Although the world might be changing in a way that poses some challenges for digital and e-mail marketers, that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to innovate your strategy to meet prospects or audiences where they are.

While open rates are certainly important, there are many other ways to get to know your e-mail subscribers, learn from KPIs, and continue to create great content for them.

If you haven’t already – you should start preparing your e-mail marketing strategies, test new KPI and tracking practices. Because it will only help you improve your practices and your marketing funnel.

Here is a list of how I suggest you approach the new iOS-changes before they get too influential on your e-mail marketing:

  1. Make an e-mail audit and see which and how much of your data will no longer be available.
  2. Prioritize collecting first-party data. As we are losing 3rd party data/cookies, 1st party data will be increasingly more important, and at the end of the day – 1. st party data is of higher quality.
  3. A way for you to gather 1st party data is by using a CDP like Custimy or by creating landing pages, website forms and make polls yourself to obtain more information about your subscribers.
  4. Make it all about opting in. If you are GDPR compliant – and you will be if you use a CDP like ours – then you’re already ahead of the game. Make sure that every form you have on your site includes a box for users to check that opts them into your e-mail marketing. When you focus on building subscribers that opt-in, their engagement will be higher because they actually want to receive messages from you.
  5. Identify new e-mail KPIs. As previously stated, you can’t rely on open rates anymore, so make sure you tap into the other e-mail marketing metrics that matter, such as Click-through rates and conversion rates. These will matter more than ever, so make sure that you’ll adjust your e-mail testing, segmentation, and triggers so they don’t rely on open rates.
  6. Pay attention to the bottom funnel. The bottom of the funnel is where personalization gets more and more granular. And since you’ll be losing access to things that can help with personalization, it’s time to examine the infrastructure of this area so it can still be successful at converting.'