What Has Changed With iOS 15
13 October 2021
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Over the last few years, Apple has been on a roll to bring massive changes to the digital environment. The issues that have been mulled over time and again are user privacy and security — Apple claims to keep those close to heart. The latest iOS 15 (that has been released mere weeks ago and has a ver 2.0 patch for a serious vulnerability already) takes this righteous crusade even further. However, these new features and policies create many obstacles for marketing campaigns. We will take a look at the latest changes and try to figure out possible solutions for marketers.

Permission to track

Since the release of iOS 14.5 and the introduction of ATT, users can prohibit third-party tracking. Before the 15th version, Apple didn’t have to ask for tracking permission within their own applications. This time they made some concessions, it seems, to get on an equal footing with all the rest. However, Apple has cheated because they call this feature “tracking” for the third-party apps vs “personalization” for Apple services (which is on by default, by the way). We see negative versus positive attitudes embedded in the wording, so the users are more likely to opt-in for the Apple apps tracking and decline the rest. And experience shows that less than 50% of iPhone owners choose to opt-in to tracking. This gravely affects ad personalization and makes campaign targeting and analysis very difficult. Advertising strategies and approaches that have been viable for years have to be completely reformed or even discarded.

Mail app security

With iOS 15 it has become impossible to track the number of users who open your emails. This is a serious game-changer for email marketers who hugely rely on KPIs and different indicators to assess the quality of the audience. The rates are also important for audience segmentation. Now marketers will never know whether half of their audience opens the messages or not.

Moreover, premium iCloud+ users will now have an opportunity to mask their IP address with iCloud Private Relay (IPR), so it will become impossible for the advertisers to track their location too. The information inside the emails, e.g. images, will be downloaded to remote Apple servers via multiple relays, thus making mail tracking virtually impossible. This also contributes to an alarming rate of false open reports: iPhone users are now undetectable, however, the moment Apple downloads some part of your email content, you may get a report about an opened mail that has never happened.

Another email feature within iOS 15 is Hide My Email. If they choose so, iPhone users can present websites and shops with a random email address that will be generated by their phone specifically for the occasion.

Personalized notifications

The new iOS has introduced time-sensitive notifications that can be configured in the so-called Focus mode.  Users can set the notifications to be shown at a specific time of day in a notification summary,  for example in the morning or in the evening.

Focus mode also enables users to set the number and type of notifications they would like to receive, depending on the activity they are engaged in at the moment and the urgency of the notification. The notifications will be divided into the so-called interruption levels: passive, active, time-sensitive, and critical.

These changes may be very convenient for the users, but they bring new obstacles for marketers especially for those who run push campaigns or use calendar notifications. In general, many well-loved user retention practices will become obsolete when it comes to iPhone users. With summaries and interruption levels it will be very difficult to target ads for a specific time of day or to deliver them at all.

Can we panic now?

Not really. New challenges mean new creative ways to solve problems and stay afloat. Here are some takeaways to think about in light of the new iOS 15.

  • Rely on retention and great content. Invest in personalization, make your content and delivery style unique — and see how new security policies have no effect at all on your campaign performance. 
  • Look at other marketing channels, for example, SMS messages. This approach will be most useful for e-commerce campaigns, especially during the oncoming shopping season.
  • Create different campaigns for Android and iOS audiences. iPhone users retain a big share of the mobile audience, and it would be stupid to ignore this traffic source. To start with, a great opt-in notification for your apps can be a lifesaver. For instance, at the beginning of all this, some companies including Facebook have been asking users to opt-in because they would like to keep the app free, others said that it’s necessary to provide the best user experience, and so on. Let your imagination run free on this one.
  • Collect first-party data, ask the users about their intentions, reasons to leave your website, interests, etc. Yes, sometimes it’s just that simple — you just have to ask.
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