June 9, 2021

Beware, Marketers: Apple to Disable Email Cookies in iOS 15

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Apple announced on Monday that it will release new privacy features within iOS 15 that would reduce the ability for marketing teams to track the efficacy of their campaigns. In addition to stripping cookies from emails within its Mail app on Mac OS Monterey and iOS 15, the company will also hide IP address tracking within Mail and Safari. The plans were announced on Monday, June 7, during Apple’s WWDC 2021 event. Apple plans to release the new versions of iOS and Mac OS in fall 2021.

The changes are in line with Apple’s latest privacy moves to inform Apple customers of the ways that their data is being collected by apps and tools that run on their software and hardware. Most notably, Apple recently let users opt out of data tracking within individual apps—a move that Facebook took out two full-page ads in three major newspapers to protest.

Good for privacy; bad for marketers

The reduction of location, cookie, and IP address data that gets passed to marketers is undoubtedly a win for consumer privacy. These data points have been called out by journalists and data privacy experts as the most likely to endanger individual privacy. Data aggregation is difficult but not impossible, and privacy experts agree that combining data sets from multiple sources could be used to not only build individualized anonymous marketing profiles, but could also be used to identify people based on their interests, location, and other markers.

According to Litmus.com, Apple email tools are used by over 44 percent of email users. Not to be catastrophic or anything, but marketers are about to see the quality of their email open rates decline by nearly half.

Email has consistently remained one of the highest-converting channels. It is one of the few owned data channels that marketers have left, so a reduction in the quality or amount of data showing open rates will significantly impact a company’s ability to understand the effectiveness of their email campaigns. It’s more important than ever for marketers to move away from vanity metrics like open rates—that may indicate nothing more than an open directly before sending the email to the trash—and focus on hard metrics like click through rates (CTR), conversions, and opportunities.

Marketers will need to work quickly to improve their marketing metrics, shift away from open rates as a qualifier, and test their marketing campaigns to pivot now, while the data can still help them.

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