iOS 15: The state of the update

When iOS 15 was first announced, there was a lot of hype – and fear – around how the update would impact marketers. But what has been the real impact of the update, and how can it be mitigated? Read our article to find out.

Since we published our article back in July, Apple’s iOS 15 has gone into effect, with its privacy update poised to wreak havoc on open rates and make marketing communication impossible to track. Fast-forward to today, and the full effects of iOS 15 are still revealing themselves – but the impacts, and the tools to mitigate them, are increasingly clear.

For a refresher on what is included in the iOS 15 privacy update, please see here.

Since the update renders open rates unknowable for any iOS 15 users of the mail app, many metrics which marketers have traditionally relied on were feared to become obsolete. For Agillic users, this implicated the reporting, inactive email address, A/B subject line testing and send-time optimisation features of the platform.

In reality, the change has been slower than expected, but it is a notable one: According to our own data, before iOS 15 launched in September 2021, open rates on icloud.com were 35%; now, they are up to 75%. This slow change is due to slow adoption rates of iOS 15. At the end of November 2021, only about 50% of iOS users had enrolled to iOS 15, and our data shows that open rates on icloud.com domain were 54%. Today, with 72% adoption as of January 27th, they are up to 75%. Since not all Apple devices have had the update yet, the false open-rate increase could continue to rise. This means that any metric which includes open-rates will remain unstable, as it will continue to rise with iOS adoption.

Open rates, though unreliable, can still provide insights into your marketing communication, but they have never been the best indicator of user engagement. Non-open-based metrics are more reliable, and can tell you more about which content users are engaging with.

To help compensate for the unstable open rate metrics, we’ve introduced the clickthrough rate in the Agillic Reporter module. This metric is calculated without using open rate, as follows: (unique)/delivered *100 = % click through rate.

Comparative metrics, such as A/B subject line testing, are still stable so long as you use a large enough test pool. In a large test pool, the spread of Mail app users should be about 50/50, so unreliable open rate data will be distributed equally. However, there is no way to ensure equal spread of Mail app users between the two groups, so the data can not be reliably compared. The larger the test pool, the more reliable the data will be. However, we recommend that you calculate subject line testing with clicks instead of opens, as this is a completely reliable metric.

To learn more about the impact of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection Initiative on Agillic features, please read our knowledge base article.

Ultimately, the iOS update has impacted marketers’ ability to measure their communication on platforms like Agillic. With evolving data regulations and consumers increasingly demanding privacy, this is likely not the last update that will force marketers to change tactics. Although it requires adjustment, updates like iOS 15 still leave room for marketers to send personalised communications, if they have the right tools.