Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

iOS 15 – Staying on your customer’s list

By Magith Nookhukan, Customer Engagement Evangelist at Braze

Another month, another update from Apple allowing consumers to take greater control over their data. But, this time, there’s a significant change that will impact marketers. With the introduction of iOS 15 this month, Apple becomes one of the first companies to prevent brands from seeing whether consumers open their emails.

The update aligns with increased consumer demand for more control over their personal data and how they engage with brands. Users can now choose whether they wish to block the email trackers, often in the form of pixels inserted within the body of the email, that provides feedback to a brand to confirm if the email has been opened, and for how long.

This represents a hugely important change for the marketing industry, as brands will need to use new methods to calculate the effectiveness of their email communications with customers. So how can brands make sure customers keep them on the list and what are new tactics that marketers need to use?

 What are the specific changes in iOS 15?

iOS 15 includes a new feature for the native Apple Mail client called Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) — handing back control of personal details to users who can opt out of sharing their behavioural data.

A significant impact of MPP is that, for Apple Mail App users on iOS 15 or MacOS, email open metrics will be very inaccurate across all Email Service Providers (ESPs). This is because Apple Mail will be loading images on their servers before an email is opened by the intended recipient, and then serving copies of those images to users when they do open their email. ESPs have used images to track email opens for years.

This update will render that strategy obsolete, as all emails accessed via the Apple mail app will appear to have been opened regardless of the recipient’s action. Brands that once relied on email open behaviour to determine what message to send next will now need to shift their strategy to measuring more accurate downstream metrics, like link click rates, purchases, website or app interactions.

The consequences for brands of not adapting to these changes could be severe. If you don’t know whether mails are being opened and continue to send ‘unwanted’ messages, this could damage the user experience and hurt the communication reputation of the brand.

In addition to the introduction of MPP, the iOS update introduces changes to push notifications that will have a notable impact on brands’ customer engagement strategies. New features such as Focus Modes, Notification Summary, and Notification Interruption Levels follow Apple’s established pattern of giving users more control over messages received from the apps they use.

Brands that already send personalised, relevant and timely push notifications shouldn’t be as impacted by these changes. Still, for brands that are yet to move to this modern strategy for customer engagement, the new iOS changes could be damaging.

 How will iOS 15 impact marketers in the short term and the long term?

For brands without a comprehensive customer engagement strategy, customer loyalty and retention could be damaged. Unfortunately, it’s as simple as that.

Unprepared marketers are at risk of delivering unwanted and bothersome messaging campaigns to customers, triggered by incorrect behavioural data. With each irrelevant interaction with a brand, consumers’ loyalty and trust will erode until they churn. This is an unfavourable position, as brands can very quickly lose customer engagement, that in some cases has taken years to build.

The long-term implications of not understanding how iOS 15 will impact a brand’s customer engagement strategy will ultimately lead to lower retention rates, weakened customer loyalty, and declining growth.

What new tactics will marketers need to use?

The launch of iOS 15 is a perfect opportunity for brands to check back in with their customers to get a sense of their preferences, and then align their engagement accordingly, to make sure that message cadence is suitable for customers. Brands should also implement a sunsetting strategy, to identify inactive subscribers who have not engaged with previous messages.

With this change, marketers need to leverage other supplement channels and think beyond open rate metrics as the only source of benchmarking. The shift needs to happen towards meaningful metrics, including customer conversions and purchases. 

Further to this, push notifications could become even more important for marketing teams. An in-app push primer is an effective way to highlight the value of the brand’s notifications and a personalised way to ask users if there are specific categories or types of notifications they want to receive (or not receive). If users trust that a brand will send them relevant notifications, they’re more likely to opt in.

Now more than ever, brands need to understand the importance of using first-party data about their customers in order to create personalised messaging experiences that deliver value and build retention. Brands must prioritise their customers’ data privacy to build strong brand loyalty by delivering relevant messaging campaigns at the right time, on the right channels. Additionally, brands should diversify the channels used to communicate with customers and shift towards a cross-channel engagement strategy. For example In app messages are a great way to communicate the value of push notifications and encourage users to opt-in.

The introduction of iOS 15 creates a challenge and an opportunity for marketers to modernise their customer engagement and ensure meaningful conversation with their customers. Waiting a month from now may be too late to avoid the worst impacts of the shift to iOS 15.