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Apple's mail privacy protection


As of Sept. 20, 2021, Apple launched iOS 15, the latest version of their software. Since this release has such a significant impact on email marketers, we’re here to help with the necessary preparations and adjustments based on these changes.

Apple is offering Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) to iOS users as soon as they upgrade to iOS 15, and we expect most users will agree to MPP. This will impact email marketing in two major ways: it will mask email opens and IP addresses.

1. First, total email opens will no longer be accurate. This is the biggest change to email marketing we’ve been preparing for. For any subscriber using the Apple Mail app on their devices, images will be downloaded by default by Apple when the email is received. This will obscure who has actually opened the email and who has not, since all vendors rely on a pixel being opened to determine an open. Data shows that more than 40% of subscriber bases use the Apple Mail app, and therefore your open rates will start to become inflated once adoption of iOS 15 begins.

2. Second, IP addresses will be obscured. Apple is making it difficult, or impossible, for email senders to be able to tell the location of an email recipient.

Although some marketers may want to find ways to work around Apple’s MPP changes, we believe Apple is making these changes for the right reasons. In fact, according to a recent Cordial study, 81% of marketers agree that the industry-wide privacy changes will help marketers focus on more meaningful engagement metrics.

Six things marketers should do right now

1. Check to see which of your automated email campaigns use "opens." For example, you may want to change your segmentation methodology if you’re using opens as a rule for whether a subscriber should or should not receive an email.

2. Conduct an audit of your testing strategies that use "opens." Email testing is going to change, so you’ll want to ensure you do not have email testing strategies that use "open" as a metric to determine whether a test is successful or unsuccessful.

3. Re-strategize emails that render content upon email open. For example, if you’re using an open-time vendor such as Moveable Ink, LiveClicker, or Zembula to render content specific to the time of open, such as a countdown timer, this might create a disjointed customer experience.

4. Adjust emails that render content based on IP address. This would apply to messages that, for example, alert a subscriber to their closest store, or render product recommendations based on the weather in their location.

5. Realign expectations in your reporting. If you’re exporting email data to your own systems, let your teams know that open data will be inflated starting today, and should not be considered an accurate measure of subscriber engagement.

6. Make sure you’re tracking every customer interaction. Cordial allows you to track so many amazing metrics in the platform, from purchases to page views—you name it. Work with your Cordial team to ensure you are tracking every customer interaction. For example, you’ll need this data when determining if a customer has disengaged with your brand. This type of tracking is included for all Cordial clients—take advantage of this unique data and ability to inform your email programs.

Recent changes: Audience builder segmentation for iOS 15

We’ve introduced a new option to further segment your audiences. Within the Email system event Opens, the Audience Builder has been updated to include a new filter called Open type. In the drop-down, you can specify whether to further segment your audiences based on emails that have likely been opened by a human, non-human, or any type.

  • Human: likely opened by a human
  • Non-human: likely opened via pre-fetched or proxied source
  • Any type: by default all open types are included in the result


Non-human opens are evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • User agent matching iOS 15 MPP requests
  • Bot detection score from Cloudflare AI

Human and non-human opens will begin to populate upon the code release starting Apr. 5, 2022.

Future considerations, and what we’re still learning

Let’s face it, open data hasn’t been perfect for some time now, and we’re still learning whether email opens are truly going away with this iOS update. While it’s a major hit to our favorite metric, there are still a lot of unknowns around how this will affect overall engagement reporting.

Consider an engagement strategy based on a scoring system

Cordial provides you with ways to attach a custom engagement score to your email records. Here is an example model:

  • Page view in the last 30 days = 1 point

  • Clicked in the last 45 days = 2 points

  • Browsed in the last 60 days = 3 points

  • Cart abandoned in the last 60 days = 4 points

  • Purchased in the last 60 days = 5 points

Consider alternative strategies for sending messages based on time-of-day

Although clients can use Cordial to customize send times to subscribers based on the times of their previous interactions--as a strategy--optimizing when to send a message will become less reliable since opens and open rates will no longer be accurate.

Please reach out to your Client Success Manager, or another Cordial team member with any questions about the release of iOS 15 and how it might affect your email programs. For further reading on this topic, check out these resources:



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