What Does iOS 15 Imply for Electronic mail Deliverability?

6 minutes reading time

John Peters – 11/12/2021

In the fourth article in our Demystifying Deliverability series, we take a look at Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection function and its effects on email deliverability. To catch up on the rest of the series, read our posts on Boost your email marketing, Bot clicks, and BIMI.

The 2021 peak email marketing season is just around the corner. Christmas decorations are on the rise, and just as quickly, email marketers are sending Black Friday deals to their subscribers.

As usual at this time of year, global email traffic will increase in the coming weeks. And so the mailbox providers will come under pressure to cope with the increase in volume.

It can be a stressful time for email marketers, as well Apple’s mail privacy (MPP) has added an additional layer of complexity. Ignorance of the full impact this feature has on email deliverability can create serious concerns for email senders.

But don’t be afraid of Fear is the killer! In this article, we examine the email ecosystem, what has changed in the light of MPP, and what factors are affecting your deliverability this holiday season.

A brief overview of the email ecosystem

To win the highly competitive Inbox game (especially at this time of year) we need to know the rules of email and the other players in the game.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s consider the four main actors.

Image showing the four key players in deliverability.

  • The sender: the person or organization sending the email
  • The e-mail service provider (ESP): The service that, like Campaign Monitor, is used to send email
  • The Mailbox Providers (MBPs): the service like Gmail or Yahoo that gives individuals or organizations a mailbox to receive their emails
  • The subscriber: the person who receives the email

Subscribers have the power

In October 2021 averaged over 90 billion spam emails were sent daily. It is the responsibility of the MBP to protect its users and to reduce the risk of unsolicited and unsafe email ending up in the inbox. For this reason, MBPs use strict anti-spam filters to keep their users safe.

MBPs rely on their users and their interaction with an email to train their anti-spam filters to handle future emails from the same sender. In fact, user engagement and the sender’s reputation are the most influential factors behind inbox placement.

Image showing the actions a subscriber can take to achieve deliverability.

The more subscribers interact with and engage with an e-mail – which MBPs refer to as “positive signals” – the more e-mails from this sender reach the inbox. And the less an audience is concerned with emails from a particular sender, the more likely those emails will be filtered (or blocked entirely) in the spam folder.

These positive and negative signals contribute to the sender reputation of your domain. And a domain can also have different reputations with different MBPs. That means Gmail may rate things a little differently than Yahoo, so your domain can have slightly different sender reputations for each. It is less of a single, universal score than a combination of many factors.

However, because engagement is the most heavily weighted factor in deliverability, it is imperative for marketers to put user engagement and the subscriber experience at the center of their marketing strategies.

It is also important, especially in this time of strong sending, to know yours Delivery and Engagement Metrics for every MBP regularly. That way, you’ll know when you’re having trouble reaching certain inboxes.

How does iOS 15 affect email deliverability?

In September 2021, Apple released iOS 15 to the public and with it a new privacy feature called Data protection for emails.

We have MPP discussed in detail here, but the brief summary of the function is as follows:

MPP obscures broadcasters’ ability to track open rates, meaning the future of open rates and the use of this metric to measure success in real time are changing.

This feature caused quite a stir in the e-mail world (and understandably!). Since its announcement earlier this summer, marketers have been preparing for MPP and its impact on email.

However, we are still learning how deep the effects of this feature will be. Although iOS 15 has been available for a few months, its adoption is still relatively low.

Hence, it is difficult to predict what impact MPP will have on this holiday season. Even if acceptance was higher, it is important to remember that MBPs do not treat incoming email differently just because a user chooses MPP. In fact, deliverability hasn’t changed with the release of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection.

However, this means that when you monitor your delivery and engagement metrics, you’ll need to change the way you look at engagement.

MBPs still use the same signals to determine how to filter incoming email. And senders still need to adhere to email rules and best practices. Proceed as follows to ensure your ability to deliver this Christmas season:

  1. Get a clear opt-in when you collect your list. Sending to a fully subscribed list means higher engagement. Which in turn shows the MBP more positive user activity.
  2. Manage and segment your lists. Sending to active subscribers means more engagement and more inbox placement. Sending to an old and unused list means lower open rates, higher bounce rates, and more spam complaints – all negative signals for the MBP.
  3. Focus on list hygiene. Permission to send emails is not always valid, and list hygiene monitoring is an on-going process. If a subset of a list has poor engagement metrics, try targeting that particular group again. And if that doesn’t work, feel free to say goodbye to the dormant contacts entirely.

Wrap up

Senders still have time to review their marketing programs and prepare for the holiday season. Even if your vacation programs have already started, it’s not too late to follow these deliverability best practices.

Be sure to check out ours Ultimate Guide to Christmas Email Marketing in 2021 as. It contains lots of useful tips for marketers who will increase their email output over the next few months.

And as always, make sure you interact with your audience with honesty, respect, and clear communication. If you do these things, you will get through this season well.

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