Measuring Email Marketing in a Post iOS15 World

Apple rolls out iOS 15 on September 20, 2021 with desktop updates coming later in the year. iOS 15 will introduce Mail Privacy Protection, and I detailed much of the basic operational changes in this blog post here. However, one of the key questions that keeps coming up is, “what should we do about measuring email marketing after iOS 15?”.

Here’s the thing: the best practices have not changed. The most effective measurement methods have not changed. And when iOS 15 rolls out, they will still not change.

Why? After all, metrics like open rate will be rendered useless; surely that makes measuring email marketing harder? It doesn’t, and here’s why.

Email Marketing Measurement Best Practices

The best practice for measuring email – or any other digital channel – isn’t by measuring the activity (opening, clicking), but by measuring the outcome. What happens after someone reads an email from you? Do they read more on your website? Do they pick up the phone and call you? Do they put items in a shopping cart? Do they schedule a demo? Do they donate to you?

Let’s take a look at an example. In Google Analytics 4, here’s what my goal completion funnel looks like:

Attribution funnel

I see the top, middle, and bottom of my digital marketing funnel by channel, with email and other digital channels clearly laid out. Because I rigorously use tagging and tracking codes on everything I do, I know what’s working and where in the funnel.

I can even tell down to the individual issue of newsletter what’s working:

Attribution funnel detail at campaign level

The August 29th issue of my Almost Timely Newsletter knocked it out of the park.

To achieve this level of performance measurement, you need to do two things:

  1. RIGOROUSLY use tracking codes on every link in every email. For Google Analytics and Matomo, that means UTM tracking codes. For Adobe Analytics, that means etcid tracking codes.
  2. Make sure you have meaningful goals set up in Google Analytics.

Put these two items at the top of your to-do list immediately.

Email Marketing Performance Metrics

What about email marketing performance metrics? How will we know if people are actually reading our emails if the open rate is 100% for Apple Mail users and they’re a substantial part of our audience? This is straightforward: measure with clicks instead. When someone takes an action like clicking on something, by default you know they’ve read it. If no one clicks, then you know no one’s actually reading.

Here’s the catch: you have to give people something to click on that isn’t transactional. The easiest way to do that is to include images. Here’s an example from a recent newsletter:

Click opportunity

Anyone who wants to see that chart in more detail can click or tap on the link – and that in turn shows up as a click in email marketing performance reporting. The more you load up your email with click opportunities – especially opportunities that aren’t pressuring the reader into a sale or some other transactional marketing – the closer your click rate will be to your old open rate before the iOS 15 change.

However, email marketing performance metrics are quantitative, and you also need qualitative data to make your email marketing perform at its best. Send out surveys to your audience asking them what they want less or more of. Read feedback and replies people send to you when you send out your emails.

Survey data

Then give people more of what they want, what they value, and less of what they don’t want. That survey data, combined with the quantitative data, will help you boost your email marketing performance all along the customer journey.

The Sky Is Still In The Sky

The sky hasn’t fallen on email marketing. Yes, iOS 15 will obscure some marketing data but it’s not very much and it’s not the most valuable data. Follow the best practices for measuring email marketing, understand what its impact is on your marketing overall, and you’ll still be able to know what email is doing for you.


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