How to Prepare for iOS 15 and Mail Privacy Protection

Published On: July 20, 2021

If you haven’t heard yet (we’re guessing you have), on June 7 Apple announced Mail Privacy Protection for their Mail app on iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey. According to Apple, “Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. [It also prevents] senders from knowing when they open an email, and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity.” 

While the full rollout of this feature is slated for September 2021, it’s already available to Beta users. Since it will have some big implications for email marketing KPIs, it’s important to get ahead of it now, while you have time to plan. We’ve outlined what we know, how it will impact you, and what you can do to prepare so you don’t miss a beat come September 1.

Who will have Mail Privacy Protection? 

This feature will be available to all Apple Mail app users on iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey. It will be an opt-in feature – when a user updates to iOS 15 and opens Apple Mail for the first time, they will receive a message asking them to “Protect Mail activity” or “Don’t protect Mail activity.”

Users who update to iOS 15 but use Gmail, Yahoo Mail, or another email app other than Apple Mail will not be affected. However, since Apple Mail supports reading and sending mail from any email client, including Gmail and Microsoft Exchange, you won’t be able to use email domain name to determine if a member has Mail Privacy Protection.

How this will impact email marketing: 

Here’s what will happen after someone selects “Protect Mail activity” in their Apple Mail: 

  • Apple will route all emails through a proxy server to pre-load all images and message content before serving to readers. 
  • This means any email sent to a user with Mail Privacy Protection enabled will be shown as “opened,” even if the recipient never opens the message.
  • Apple will also hide all IP addresses, meaning IP-based location data will not be available for Mail Privacy Protection users. 

This will impact a few key areas for marketers: 

  • Open rates as a reporting metric 
  • Open rates as an automated campaign trigger
  • Email deliverability & list hygiene 
  • A/B subject line testing

Have more questions, or want to talk with a member of our team about how Personica can help take your marketing to the next level? Get in touch today or email us at

We’ve outlined the basics of each of these key areas, including what you need to do now to prepare your email marketing strategy for this release. 

Open rates as a reporting metric

Open rates for any members using Apple Mail will be unreliable, possibly inflating the open rates because images will be loaded remotely even if the recipient does not open the mailing. This could show us false positives for open rates, making the open rate a less reliable metric than it has been historically.

What to do:
Be sure to include clickable CTAs and other links that encourage clicking in your email campaigns. Relying more on clicks than on opens will help you gauge how email campaigns are working across all recipients, regardless of what email client they use.

Open rates as an automated campaign trigger

Similarly, automated campaigns that use open rates as a trigger, such as reengagement campaigns, will no longer work as expected for Apple Mail users with Mail Privacy Protection.

What to do:
Set up your campaigns with different triggers – such as clicks, promotion/offer redemptions, and transaction data will all be much better indicators of restaurant guest engagement than email open rates ever were. 

Email deliverability & list hygiene

Since emails sent to an Apple Mail user with Mail Privacy Protection will show as being opened, whether the recipient has opened it or not, this will stop being a reliable indicator of member engagement. This means that emails may continue to be sent to unengaged members, spam or unsubscribe requests may go up, and future email deliverability could be affected.

Click data will become an even more crucial KPI, as that will be a true indicator of member engagement. 

What to do:
Identify any unengaged members and unsubscribe them from your lists before September 1, 2021 to ensure your lists are clean before Mail Privacy Protection is rolled out. This will ensure that you have engaged members on your lists when the changes take effect, giving you the best possible deliverability. Personica clients should work with your Account Manager to make a plan for performing list hygiene after iOS 15 is released.

A/B subject line testing

Almost all A/B subject line testing relies on open rates to determine the winning subject line. As email marketing evolves, we will most certainly find new ways to effectively A/B test subject lines with better KPIs. But for now…

What to do:
Test test test. Between now and September 1, test as many widely varied subject lines as you can while your open rate data is clean. Creating a baseline of tried and true subjects will give you some breathing room while we all adjust to the new metrics. It’s also not a bad idea to start testing creative as well, using CTR and other metrics to determine what’s most compelling to your members. 

Some good news for Personica users

Send by Time Zone

Good news: Personica’s Send by Time Zone feature uses zip codes – not IP addresses – to determine a member’s location and time zone. So this feature will not be impacted by Mail Privacy Protection and will continue to run as normal!

To recap, here’s your July/August 2021 checklist: 

       Scrub or unsubscribe unengaged members from all of your lists
Adjust all CTAs and campaign triggers so they rely on clicks, not opens
Do LOTS of subject line A/B testing
       Take advantage of any open rate-based KPIs while you have them

While this is certainly an adjustment for marketers – email marketers especially – the balance between privacy and personalization in marketing will continue to evolve. According to a recent report from Twilio, 69% of consumers say they appreciate personalization, as long as it is based on data that they’ve shared with a company. If our goal is true engagement and personalized experiences for restaurant guests, both on-premise and online (spoiler: that is our goal), then we’re ready to innovate beyond the open rate. 

Interested in learning how Personica can take your restaurant marketing to the next level? Talk to one of our experts today


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