15 min read

How iOS 15 Changes and Updates Impact Email Marketing

Written by Guest
15 min read
Table of Contents

    In this article I’ll go over the iOS 15 changes, what the iOS 15 changes actually mean, how to prep for those within Klaviyo, and then how the marketing changes will actually be impacted when released?

    iOS15 Changes That Will Impact Reporting

    Mail Privacy Protection

    So when people refer to iOS 15 changes, most of the time they’re really only thinking of this mail privacy protection, which is what I will focus on for today.

    The new mail privacy protection impacts any iOS 15 users.

    The other three (the Safari hide IP address, Hide my email and Private relay) are only available to paid iCloud users, which is a very, very, very small percentage to the point where Klaviyo hasn’t felt the need to even put resources together to react.

    Safari Hide IP Address

    The Safari hide IP address (again, paid iCloud only) will impact location-based targeting because it gives a paid iCloud user the opportunity to hide their exact location.

    So instead of knowing that they were in Manhattan of New York City, it may just say East Coast. So it would be a very high-level location. It doesn’t remove it altogether, but it does take the accuracy away.

    Hide my Email

    Again, this iOS 15 update is for paid iCloud only, so the impact is very small.

    This new change creates a proxy email address for everyone’s actions on site.

    So if I opted in (because I’m a paid iCloud user) to hide my email, then I can start checkout or place an order with a proxy email address, such as 123@icloud.com, instead of my personal email address.

    And now the eCommerce owner tracking my behaviour on Klaviyo doesn’t accurately know what I really did on his website because of this random proxy email address.

    Privat Relay

    Private relay (again, paid iCloud only, smaller impact) is also location-based.

    You’re not tracked where you’re cross-site going. If, for instance, I was on nordstrom.com before being brought to Samedelman.com, the website won’t know it.

    There won’t be any history of where I went from one site to another.

    Focus on the iOS 15 Change That Impacts Email Marketing: Mail Privacy Protection

    Are Open Rates Dead Because of iOS 15 New Mail Privacy Protection?

    I want to start by saying that I don’t feel that open rates are dead. I don’t think that you need to ignore them completely.

    But to feel confident enough to stay it loudly, it is important to understand the volume of your Apple Mail users.

    We’re assuming the iOS 15 changes are going to be rolled out with the next iPhone and from everything we’ve seen with Apple, that’s expected to be by the end of October.

    So if you have many Apple Mail users among your subscribers, it’s a great time to start being proactive and anticipate the future.

    How Much Will the Mail Privacy Protection Impact my Audience?

    When iOS 15 is updated on your subscribers’ phones, the option to enable mail privacy protection or not will be suggested to them.

    So there is a chance that many Apple Mail users won’t really know what that new feature is, so they may just as well refuse it or ignore it.

    Therefore, if 17% of your audience is using Apple Mail, you can’t say that you will lose these 17% right away. There is a risk, yes. But chances are that only a fraction of these people opts into the iOS 15 changes.

    How Does the Mail Privacy Protection from the iOS 15 Update Work?

    When emails are sent from Klaviyo, there is a pixel within those emails. Once someone opens it, it fires that pixel, and that’s what actually tracks the open.

    What the mail privacy protection changes are doing is firing that pixel before any open even happens across the board for Apple Mail users. Because of that, it becomes impossible to know if the user opened the email or not.

    Open rates won’t be actually going down, because the Apple Mail users’ emails will be shown as opened emails even if they weren’t. But it will mess up with the statistics, and you won’t have any accuracy.

    Another thing should be considered if your Apple Mail users opt into the mail privacy protection: the granular location and time zone targeting will be lost for them. Not as drastically as in that relay IP address that we reviewed at the beginning of the article, but still.

    Usually, Klaviyo tracks IP addresses when someone visits the site for the first time. But this information won’t be updated through email marketing anymore.

    Let’s imagine: I’m on vacation. I visited a website using Klaviyo for the first time. Klaviyo will memorize that my location is Santa Monica, California, because that’s where I am. So I’ll be targeted with a location I’m not usually in.

    My location will only be updated when I place an order with my actual billing address.

    As soon as someone places an order with his billing address, it overwrites the IP address, because the software knows that a billing address is probably a bit more accurate than an IP address.

    Open Rates Weren’t that Accurate Even Before

    As we just learned, the new iOS 15 mail privacy protection impacts two aspects of email marketing:

    • The open rates
    • The IP addresses.

    But we have to say that both those aspects weren’t 100% accurate even before.

    Some inbox providers already arranged the option to enable the tracking pixel to fire before. Some inbox providers don’t even load images at all, which is the element that actually triggers that pixel to load.

    Inaccuracies have always been part of the equation. So these new iOS 15 changes really aren’t meant to be the end to open rate or location targeting.

    How to Segment Apple Mail Users at this Time?

    Until your subscriber opens your email, there is no way to know which service he is using – Apple Mail or something else.

    So we can create a segment that says opened email and client name equals Apple Mail. That way you’re able to understand the total volume of people that have opened your email on Apple Mail.

    But there’s no way to know how many users have not opened your email on Apple Mail because we wouldn’t have that information.

    So there’s no real easy way to segment Apple Mail users out of your main sense at this time.

    Time for a Mindset Shift to Adjust to iOS 15 Changes

    So what do these iOS 15 changes mean?

    Time for a mind shift. But again, I’m plugging all of this with the understanding that it needs to be taken with a grain of salt, keeping in mind how many of your subscribers are actually using Apple Mail.


    Open rates are still going to be available the same way that it is in Klaviyo right now, we’re not going to remove open rates from reporting just because of these changes.

    At the client level, depending on the volume of Apple Mail users, you may choose to ignore it, but it may still be a helpful metric for someone that has a lower amount of Apple Mail users.

    Still, inflation is possible if someone has a high amount of apple users – the average open rate may bump up a little bit.

    You already have healthy average open rates across the board. So unless you have a client top of mind, that’s like a 10% open rate right now. You should be fine.

    That being said, if you do have a client that’s really struggling with deliverability right now, prioritize that for the next three months before these changes roll out, so they’re in a better place come the time that inflation is occurring.


    A lot of times, if we’re thinking through an engagement segment, it’s solely based on the open rate or on the amount emails that have been opened in the last, let’s say, 365 days.

    Your engagement list can be inflated a little bit due to the iOS 15 changes. But again, it totally dependents on the total volume of Apple Mail users.


    Flows that are based on open rates can also be impacted by those iOS 15 changes.

    For example, the sunset flow, with a segmentation based on users that were not opening their emails in the last X amount of time.

    Some of those Apple Mail users could technically be falling into that flow before iOS 15, because they’re not opening. Whereas now if they’re using Apple Mail, it’s going to show them as opened and they wouldn’t fall into this sunset flow anymore.

    So you may want to adjust your sunset flows. Instead of segmenting with the open rate, you can use other indicators:

    • Users haven’t been active on-site in X amount of time
    • They haven’t placed an order and X amount of time
    • Etc.

    The sunset flow is the main flow that can be impacted by the iOS 15 update since not many flows are actually focused on open rate.

    So other than sunset, which is focused on disengagement, we don’t have to have too much concern there.

    The Health of Account

    The health of account, as we know, is based on metrics such as open rates, click through rates and getting into actual inboxes.

    So now that open rates won’t be that accurate, how the email list’s health is going to be measured?

    From the studies or from the articles that we found, from the conversations our leadership team has been having with different platforms, we concluded that account health has never only been based on open rates.

    Some of the main things that inbox providers are doing to determine if someone’s ending in the right Gmail folder or in spam (or even getting blocked), is based on their sending practices.

    They look at metrics such as:

    • Unsubscribed rate
    • Bounce rate
    • Spam rate.

    A lot of people don’t realize that the open rate doesn’t really have much of a role in account health in terms of inbox providers determination. They are more flagging negative metrics.

    So it may be time to take just a little bit closer, to prioritize the spam rate, for instance. But overall, there shouldn’t be any major shift in how inbox providers are establishing someone ending up the inbox.

    That takes me to Klaviyo and its high, medium, low, IP pools. The rule of thumb has always been: if your open rate is less than 10%, then that’s a pretty big indicator that you’re either going to fall into the low IP pool or you’re already ending up in spam.

    How will we adjust ourselves to this? We are just going to put a lot more emphasis on unsubscribed rates, spam rates, and click rates. And our deliverability and compliance team does actually build the algorithm to understand which IP pool someone’s falling into.

    So they’ll have to be some adjustments there to prioritize open rate a little bit less than it is right now, but we’re putting together the resources to confidently say: okay, if your click rate is above X, your unsubscribed rate is below blank, then you’re in the high IP pool versus the medium IP pool, versus the low IP pool.

    Preparations for iOS 15 Changes in Terms of Email Marketing

    Understand Your Audience

    So we’ve talked a little bit about how we can prep for this, but the number one thing everyone should do for their accounts after reading this is building this card out in the analytics dashboard. No worries, it’s super, super easy.

    • Go to the dashboard in your Klaviyo account
    • Then go to the Analytics dashboard and Create a new card
    • All you have to do is do the opens email metric, group values, and choose the client name
    • You’ll also have to determine the timeframe. A year may be the easiest way to get a really full picture
    • You’ll then get a list that will tell you how many of those opens came from Apple Mail. This is for both mobile and desktop.

    You can now establish the percentage of subscribers that are using Apple Mail. In our opinion, if it is under 25% of your audience, then the iOS update really should not be a huge problem in terms of inflation, especially knowing that all users may not have switched to the new protection policy.

    Depending on that total percentage, you can evaluate your priorities in terms of preparation.

    Start Testing Content

    One really easy thing to do is just do some AB testing on subject lines to understand what verbiage, what style works best for subject lines moving forward. Knowing that A/B tests will be a little bit inflated.

    If you think about it, an A/B test is splitting 50/50 randomly. We have no idea if the majority of people in variation A versus variation B are Apple Mail users. So those A/B tests based on the open rate could be inflated.

    So before the iOS 15 changes are implanted, I would recommend getting ahead of A/B testing anywhere where open rates are involved. So you can confidently go into your planning sessions for Q4 knowing what works best for that client in terms of the subject line.

    You absolutely have to test send times, to understand which hour has the best open rates. In the future, you won’t be able to know anymore which time gets the best open rates since the numbers are going to be inflated.

    So I would get ahead of testing send times now for anyone that has a lot of Apple Mail users, just to feel confident in send time moving forward.

    Optimize Your Calls-to-Action

    This is putting a lot of emphasis on click rate when it hasn’t been the star of the show in the past. It’s taken the front seat and we can take advantage of that.

    So if adjusting click rates, testing click rates, updating click rates month over month, just to add some variation and some newness, hasn’t been a priority, there’s really no harm in doing so.

    • Testing what works best
    • Understanding if the CTA is above the fold
    • Understanding if the CTA is clear enough
    • Testing verbiage
    • Understanding what’s actually drawing people to go to the site.

    And this really always should have been a priority. And I know it’s been a priority for Flowium to have consistent healthy metrics across the board.

    Yes, the open rate is great but it doesn’t actually have so much value if subscribers don’t click on links and go to the site for a conversion. So the click rate has always been just as important.

    UTM Parameters for Click Tracking

    Having all of the data possible on why subscribers are clicking, where they’re clicking, and what’s performing best is just going to give us even more of that customer-first data to use when we know that open rates may be a little bit insulated.

    But there is one thing you should keep in mind. If an Apple mail user goes make a purchase by himself, without opening your email, his action will be attributed to the email campaign by Klaviyo.

    There is a simple explanation for that: As we mentioned, the iOS 15 update triggers the pixel and “open” the email even if the user didn’t actually open it. Then, Klaviyo notes that there has been a purchase and the email has been “opened”. Naturally, the software attributes the revenue to the email marketing campaign.

    For this reason, we’re putting the focus on UTM tracking. So you can go back into GA and confidently be able to say whether that purchase actually was reflected by email or not.

    If you go into Shopify, revenue’s going to be the exact same, but your number in Klaviyo might be a little bit higher because Klaviyo’s tracking that as an email attributed for.

    And again, all have to be taken with a grain of salt. Everything depends on the amount of Apple Mail users you have. It’s possible that you won’t notice much difference from what you’ve seen month over month.

    If it’s that case, then we will simply continue with Klaviyo as usual and use open rates, because historically these are pretty consistent with what we see.

    Anyway, let’s make sure we have UTM tracking setups, so we can confidently go into GA and know exactly how much emails did contribute to sales.

    Marketing Changes to Adapt to the iOS 15 Update

    Segmentation: Rethink Who is Engaged

    So how are we adjusting our marketing strategies? We talked about this a little bit:

    • Put less focus on segments being only based around open rates
    • Be more focused on the data that’s been there the whole time.

    So instead of saying “has opened the last 30 days”, let’s switch to “has clicked in the last 60 days” or “been active on site in the last 60 day”.

    Segmentation: List Cleaning

    List cleaning is usually based on people that haven’t opened, but for iOS users that opt-in, it’s going to show they opened, even if they did not.

    So how do we accurately know who to remove from Klaviyo if you do have a higher amount of Apple Mail users?

    Before, list cleaning followed this logic: A subscriber received 10 emails but have not opened nor clicked on them in the last X amount of days.

    With the new policy, we’re still following the same scheme, but adding one more piece of information: engagement data.

    Now, we suppress someone from the list if:

    • He has not clicked
    • He has not been active on site
    • He has not placed an order.

    There’s no benefit in keeping this type of subscriber on the list because they’ve done absolutely nothing to engage with the website. So let’s remove them and not pay for them in Klaviyo.

    Segmentation: Proactively Collect Location Information

    As we mentioned, the iOS 15 changes make it harder to collect location data, especially for the paid iCloud exclusives. The third-party cookies won’t have the same access to this type of information as they use to.

    What can you do? Collect more first-party data directly from email or sign-up forms.

    That doesn’t mean you have to set up intrusive sign-up forms asking for too much information. Just a simple multi-step form, where you can ask for the email address, the birthday, and now the address.

    And you can also do this for people that are already opted into emails.

    And again, this is for anything across the board.

    It’s actually a really great opportunity to take advantage of:

    • Sign up forms
    • Loyalty programs
    • Quizzes
    • Etc.

    When a website tells you: “Take this quiz to figure out the best eyebrow brush for you”. You probably think, “Oh, perfect, I want to make sure it’s the right eyebrow brush.”

    But what the website is actually doing? It’s collecting data on you so that it can segment further on it in the future. You can use the same tactics to to build up these customer profiles a little bit more accurately.


    We talked about this a little bit: the user time zone will be less accurate because of the iCloud.

    This is something you should keep in mind. If you are using time zone to target your audience but don’t have that data on it, it just may be a little bit more inaccurate.

    But again, it will depend on the amount of Apple Mail users you have and of engaged subscribers.

    Engaged subscribers will open your email whenever you send it, regardless if it’s at 11:30 or 11:15 or 1:00 PM.

    Update Your Sunset Flow

    This is the only truly impacted flow that we already mentioned because it is based on opens.

    Knowing that open rates could be inflated here, we just want to adjust it to be a little bit more specific to click rate, active on-site, placed order.

    With these new additional metrics, the sunset flow will be more based on an engaged audience. In your emails, convince your subscribers to click on your links and go to your website. This way you are directing them exactly what to do in order to stay subscribed.


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