What happened with iOS 14.5
Apple originally announced that iOS 14 would change the way users are tracked and opt them out of tracking. They opted to require app makers to receive specific permission to opt them back in. The company most impacted, Facebook.
With the elimination of tracking on iOS devices Apple directly threatened Facebook’s lucrative advertising business. Apple’s move resulted in Facebook taking out a one page ad in the New York Times claiming the move was a war on small business.
Facebook would later change it’s tune as it worked with Apple to achieve a 6 month delay in the rollout so they could be better prepared.
For many eCommerce companies the idea that Facebook, their main paid ad source, will have less access to data translated to a lot of downside. As the cost of ads continues to increase the loss of even some effectiveness in targeting would serve to drive the prices up even further.
Facebook’s model is predicated on advertising to the masses then retargeting those that show interest in your website or products, they accomplish this by tracking users behavior across the internet to determine when to show ads from certain companies to the users they feel are the best fit.
With the removal of tracking and the ability to opt out, Facebook would no longer be able to profile or retarget users based on their interests as accurately as before.
This was the first blow that Apple dealt to eCommerce companies that rely heavily on Facebook ads for at least part of their revenue.
Email marketers were quick to suggest that retention marketing should fill in the gap. Upon the announcement many retention positions opened up across the industry and owning your data became the rallying cry from marketing experts everywhere.
However, people failed to mention that the majority of email and sms marketing relies on nothing more than either an email, or a phone number without further context. A shortcoming that has plagued the eCommerce industry since its inception.
This served instead as the canary in the coal mine for what was to come.
An underlying issue with retention continues to be the mentality that it’s all reactionary and chases a customer rather than builds around or for the customer.
The majority of email and sms marketing relies on nothing more than collecting an email or a phone number without further context. A shortcoming that has plagued the eCommerce industry since its inception.
In essence, during the early stages of a journey post sign up marketers are left guessing and relying on indicators such as Open Rate and Click Through Rate as well as Revenue to determine the quality of their audiences.
Ads largely function the same way. This highly quantitative approach has led to an over reliance on KPIs that were questionable at best.
The plot thickens with iOS 15
Apple just announced iOS 15 this week which is removing the ability of email service providers from being able to tell if an email was even opened in the name of privacy.
Though Apple isn't the first to do this, Brave’s browser has done this for years, the amount of people that use Apple’s mail app is quite a bit more market share than those that use Brave’s browser.
These changes, when combined, seek to change the traditional strategy for all marketers using of advertising and email marketing.
Suggestions for adjusting for iOS 15 being shared
Some suggestions are being touted as an alternative approach for when iOS 15 launches. Not being able to see open rates requires people to focus on other actions taken by a subscriber. Actions that include focusing on a Click Through Rate, Active on Site, Placed Order or Created Order.
Segment, segment, segment long held rally cry from all email marketers. However, the majority of all email marketers have been relying on segmenting based on open rates primarily. However, the majority of all email marketers have been relying on segmenting based primarily on open rates.
By the time most email marketers start to segment their audience, more than half of them will never open an email.
A good open rate is around 25%, and this is the high end of engagement.
It only goes down from here.
What we’ve seen is misinformation being passed out about the best strategies to overcome these changes, largely because many email marketers function on adding information based on behaviors after a sign-up, not before.
Most suggestions fall inline with what was proposed with iOS 14 was announced, a focus on the basics.
We’ll take these one at a time because they deserve to be focused on individually.
- It’s all about creatives, invest in making things people want to interact with so you can use other metrics.
Testing creative for people that don’t interact with your email won’t matter. Unlike ads, the creative of emails is all down to the timing and the email subject line.
Without accurate open rates being available, there is no way to even test the creative of the emails reliably.
If you are A/B testing an email you’d have to rely instead on other variables like Click Through Rate which is notoriously too low to really factor in.
For most emails the open rate was between 20% to at most 50% on something highly segmented, that level of segmentation will be next to impossible moving forward.
- Track other metrics like Click Rate
What used to be, does not predict what’s going to happen in the future.
I like the idea of getting a baseline but the click and delivery rates are often not statistically significant to tell if the audience is truly engaged when they average less than 4% on the entire segment sent to.
No matter how good you are, if you’re relying on these as metrics post sign up with no other segmentation, you’re going to be in a world of hurt. Your messages already aren’t resonating enough with 96% of your audience.
- Focus on lead quality, keeping a clean list, and avoiding spam complaints.
Let’s go through these one at a time.
Lead quality: there currently isn’t a brand out there that actually understands the quality of their list beyond Open Rate, Click Through Rate, or a purchase.
We’ve already covered how open rate is going away, how click through rate is too small of a percentage and well purchases are an even smaller percentage, so that’s great over generalized advice that can’t or shouldn’t be just accepted.
I’ve talked at length about the need to shift to a blended qualitative and quantitative approach to understanding the quality of traffic and a sign-up. You can find more via my posts on LinkedIn.
Keep a clean list: if you don’t know who’s opening and you’re basing this entirely on Click Through Rate you’re going to lose 80%+ of your list due to cleaning, not an overstatement.
Avoid spam complaints: yes, you shouldn’t be spamming people, you should let people unsubscribe, you shouldn’t blast everyone with emails, but this won’t help your problem of knowing the quality of your list.
- Playing the long game everything changes sometimes out of the blue
Apple has been telegraphing this was coming for more than a year, they chose consent based marketing.
We need to stop complaining and make the switch to actually following a customer journey rather than a company journey.
Apple is actually ahead of the curve here, as a company they’ve always been about seamless experiences that improve the lives of people, I for one, think this is a much-needed step in the right direction.
If you take offense to what just happened it’s because it doesn’t benefit the company journey that we’ve been pushing for ages rather than just paying better closer attention to building a customer journey.
Who will this really affect?
Agencies and companies that have built reputations on doing the bare minimum and failed to move past the tired strategy that companies have been using for years.
Harsh, I know, but someone has to say it. I think this is the problem with most of the advice actually being handed out by marketers; it’s blindly accepted when in fact a lot of it doesn’t make a ton of sense and isn’t an actual solution.
A lot of people think you don’t need data to create a great customer experience. You don’t need data to know that customer experience matters, but you do need data to create good customer experiences.
Ask anyone: without data you’re guessing, if you’re guessing you can’t optimize.
The vast majority are not optimizing for customer experience - it’s all company experience.
Easy example, when I unsubscribe from an email everyone asks me why. When I subscribe, no one asks me why. This solidifies how everyone is actually more interested in guessing what they should send me up until the point I’ve had enough.
I’ll stop there, because you didn’t come here for me to tell you what not to do, there’s enough of that bad advice floating around.
Instead, let’s tell you how to overcome this, rise above this, be smart about your approach and completely crush your competition by building the most badass customer journey that leverages data directly from customers to create the best customer experience possible, because you actually need data to do that.
Where do we go from here?
The simple solution just requires a wholesale shift in approach anchored in the sign up.
Segment before the first email goes out.
There’s only two places of intent where someone has to physically type something in, when signing up for an email list, usually for a discount, and when they are checking out. That’s it.
Yup, it’s that simple, during sign up, build an incentive based sign up that allows you to collect data relevant to the customer journey, what the customer is more interested in, what matters most to them in a product, how many they own, and when they are looking to purchase.
By collecting these data points and heavily incentivizing people towards providing them along with an email, iOS 14 becomes near obsolete with the ability to retarget actual subscribers with relevant content and ad copy mapped to the answers provided.
Additionally, all of your email correspondence can be tailored to the reasons why they actually signed up.
This removes the need to send a generic welcome series.
As far as iOS 15 is concerned, when you have existing data points relative to the customer journey, you can tailor the content from the first send to better resonate with the customers.
For those that don’t open email, rather than generic retargeting, you can use the data and the information to fill in for the lack of open rate and double down on building segments to close the customer journey via external channels like ads.
Apple is forcing your ads team and your email team to work together. Something they should have been doing all along.
So what’s next?
Apple is making changes. If I were a betting person, SMS is next on the list to make more private.
Rather than shifting and chasing a new channel, the smarter more long-term play is to partner with a company capable of collecting more than just an email address or phone number during sign up and to leverage that data throughout the rest of the journey to create something that isn’t impacted by any additional privacy changes and allows you to build a journey that is all about the customer.
Privacy isn’t going away - if anything, it will become the norm. This is just the start.
We’ve been working on this inevitability for years, we’ve built the strategies and solutions that allow brands to focus on the customer journey rather than the company journey and look forward to supporting the agencies and brands that recognize we’re heading into a new era.