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How Apple iOS 15 is Impacting Email Marketers [New Data]

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How Apple iOS 15 is Impacting Email Marketers [New Data]


Back in September 2021, the announcement of Apple’s iOS 15 data privacy changes triggered a mass hysteria among email marketers, with some even proclaiming that email marketing as we know it could come to an end. 

Considering that Apple Mail and Apple mobile devices make up over 35% of the global email provider market share, those fears didn’t seem too far-fetched.

But the question remains – were these fears well-founded or were they false alarms? 

Now that enough time has passed to see the impact of data privacy changes, I surveyed 300 email marketers to understand how iOS 15 and GDPR changes have affected their marketing strategies and the steps they took to adapt.

The Impact of Data Privacy Changes

Change can be scary for all of us, but when that change includes reduced visibility into email analytics, it’s no surprise that email marketers were shaking in their boots when iOS15 was announced.

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Surprisingly, my survey shows that the changes, while definitely impactful, were not all bad.

While two-thirds of email marketers surveyed report a moderate-to-significant impact on their email marketing strategy, whether the impact was positive, neutral, or negative, is not as clear-cut as you might assume.

Screen Shot 2022-03-28 at 12.38.03 PMFor starters, 47% of email marketers say the impact of data privacy changes was neutral on their email marketing strategy. Admittedly, 29% said the changes had a negative impact, but 24% said the contrary, claiming data privacy changes had a positive impact on their marketing strategy.

How is this possible?

To answer this, let’s break down our survey data on the specific ways data privacy changes affected email marketers, and the strategies they took to adapt. 

This will help us understand how some marketers made the most out of the situation and came out on top, while others weren’t able to keep up.

How Are Data Privacy Changes Affecting Email Marketing Strategies?

In the survey, I found that 65% of email marketers say they’ve been impacted by both Apple’s iOS 15 updates and GDPR. 

I also asked them to share how their email marketing strategy has been affected by each, and interestingly enough, the results were very similar.

Email marketers in both camps were most impacted by the same factors, in the same order:

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Screen Shot 2022-03-28 at 12.39.37 PMSo what can we take away from this?

For one, these changes have a similar impact whether you are affected by Apple iOS15, GDPR, or both. 

More importantly, data privacy changes clearly have a meaningful impact on certain functions that have been core to email marketers’ jobs. 

With location-based targeting, click-through rates, open rates, and A/B testing taking a hit, many email marketers have no choice but to adapt. So let’s explore how exactly they did that.

4 Ways Email Marketers Are Adapting to Data Privacy Changes

After the initial panic, email marketers began finding creative ways to reach their target audience and measure the impact of their marketing efforts. These are the most popular strategies they used:

Screen Shot 2022-03-28 at 12.40.44 PM

1. Prioritizing Different KPIs

At #1, 62% of impacted email marketers started prioritizing different KPIs to measure the effectiveness of their marketing efforts. 

To HubSpotters, this isn’t surprising. In fact, it’s one of the first strategies our own email team used when navigating the changes.

So let’s take a closer look at which KPIs became more and less important in a post-iOS15 and GDPR world.

The KPI hit the hardest by iOS 15 is email open rates. With the update, users can prevent email marketers from seeing when and if they opened a marketing email.

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But don’t worry, this just means it’s time to turn to other KPIs like clicks, click-through rates, web traffic, click maps, unsubscribe rates, and audience surveys:

Clicks, Click Rate, and Clickthrough Rate

Ultimately, KPIs like clicks and click-through rates can tell you how engaging your content is. And, aside from those metrics, features like click maps, let you see exactly where people are clicking in your email, offering you a glimpse of what portions of your email are most (and least) engaging.

In a previous blog post, Jordan Pritikin, who leads HubSpot’s Email and Growth Marketing teams, similarly explained, “[Focusing on clicks, click rates, and conversions] is the right course of action. Looking at clicks and conversions is much more closely tied to how your database is engaging with your email programs,” 

Website Traffic and Leads

For email marketers, engagement isn’t their only goal. For example, while HubSpot’s acquisition team might send emails with goals of landing page conversion, our Blog team sends emails filled with blog posts to encourage traffic to our blog. 

That’s why website traffic and even conversions from your marketing emails can be tracked when sending through software like HubSpot. High email traffic indicates your email content is succeeding at getting recipients to visit your site. Meanwhile, high lead counts from emails indicate that you’ve successfully nurtured contacts to a landing page. 

Unsubscribe and Spam Rates 

Spiking unsubscribe rates can indicate that the content you are sending, or the frequency, has caused you to lose more of your audience than usual. On the other hand, a low unsubscribe rate means you are retaining your readers.

Similarly, getting one spam report here and there doesn’t necessarily mean everyone dislikes your content – but seeing a rise in spam rates could mean that subscribers suddenly see no value in your content, find it annoying, or aren’t getting what they signed up for. 

Open Rates (with a Grain of Salt)

As Pritikin wrote, “Open rates will not be going away. They will just be — different.” 

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And, while you could say, “We will never look at open rates again,” you could still be doing yourself a disservice by ignoring them completely. At this point, you should continue to monitor your average open rate (and how it changes). This way, you can create a new Open Rate benchmark for your team that’s adjusted to meet new tracking standards. 

While an adjusted open rate benchmark won’t be 100% accurate, it will still tell you when you’ve successfully gotten a large chunk of subscribers to open an email, and when your subject line might need work. It can also be used as backup evidence if you’re using all of your KPIs to determine the success of a new strategy or email campaign. 

Surveys or Feedback Forms

Each time the HubSpot Blog tests a major email experiment or a new type of content in our emails, we try to include a feedback survey where readers can let us know what they thought. Meanwhile, The Hustle and other HubSpot emails offer a rating scale where you can rate your email experience and give feedback. 

While this doesn’t always lead to make-or-break data, surveying, polling, or seeking feedback from your audience can also be a great way to understand their interests and what they want to see more or less of in the future.

2. Gaining User Data From Other Sources

The second most popular strategy is leveraging user data from sources unaffected by data privacy changes, used by 52% of impacted email marketers.

An example of this would be analyzing email data coming from non-Apple users, which can still give you a clear idea of an email’s open rate, among other metrics.

3. Expanding on Messaging Channels

Coming in at #3, 37% of impacted email marketers started leveraging channels other than email marketing, like SMS.

Before you scoff at the idea, consider these facts. 3.8 billion people currently carry a cell phone with them everywhere they go and 48 million opted in to receive marketing messages over text in 2020. 

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Still not convinced? Here’s the kicker – SMS has a 98% open rate, while our survey shows that only 3% of marketing emails have an open rate above 50%. Furthermore, 65% of marketing emails have an open rate that falls in the 16-35% range, significantly lower than the open rate of SMS correspondences.

If you’re ready to add SMS to your marketing strategy, you can find 30 SMS templates here

But there are plenty of channels marketers can lean on. In our recent media planning survey, we found that while email marketing is the most popular channel marketers leverage, it comes in #3 for ROI, and doesn’t see high engagement.

Paid social media content, however, has the highest ROI and engagement of any marketing channel, followed by organic social media content at #2 for both ROI and engagement. Organic search (SEO) also has comparable ROI and engagement levels when compared to email marketing.

which media channels have highest ROI

4. Improving Email Deliverability

Lastly, 28% of email marketers responded to privacy changes by focusing on improving email deliverability. 

That means leveraging strategies like maintaining a healthy email list, providing easy unsubscribe options, personalizing emails, using engaging subject lines and preview text, and making sure your emails and mailing list are GDPR compliant.

While this data on how email marketers adapted to privacy changes tells us which strategies are most popular, we also want to know which are most effective. 

The Email Strategy Pivots That Help Most

So let’s compare these strategies by splitting our data by those who say privacy changes had a positive impact on their email marketing strategy vs. those who report a negative impact:

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Screen Shot 2022-03-28 at 12.41.42 PMLooking at the data above, we can see that those who say the data privacy changes had a positive impact on their email marketing strategy are:

  • 9% more likely to prioritize different KPIs to measure the effectiveness of email marketing
  • 7% more likely to leverage channels other than email for marketing
  • 21% less likely to focus on improving email deliverability
  • 5% less likely to leverage user data from sources unaffected by data privacy changes.

While the differences between these groups can give you an idea of where to get started, remember that these strategies can all be effective, and every situation is unique. 

For example, if a majority of your customers use Apple mail, it may not be as effective to study email data of the handful of your clients who use Gmail or Outlook. 

Navigating Email Privacy Impacts

All in all, email privacy protection is not even close to “the end of the world” for email marketers. That said, it does and will continue to require some creative pivoting. 

Like any major online marketing strategy, email marketers must learn how to adapt to a changing world that continues to prioritize consumer privacy. And, although privacy features will continue to evolve and pose new challenges for brands, companies that navigate them successfully will still be able to create experiences that feel personalized, memorable, and – importantly – secure for online audiences. 

Ultimately, that’s good for everyone.

Want to learn more about Apple iOS 15’s email privacy protection updates? Get the backstory here, learn how HubSpot’s email team has responded, or this Community thread if you’re a HubSpot user.

Looking to find a tool that offers transparent email data estimates and can help you optimize your messaging for the most engagement possible? Check out HubSpot’s own Email tools

email marketing free



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MARKETING

the second key persona for modern marketing operations leaders

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Marketing operations talent is suffering burnout and turnover

This 4-part series presents a framework that helps rationalize the roles and responsibilities modern marketing operations leaders are taking on. This installment summarizes the framework briefly, and dives into how MOps leaders are now “orchestrators.” 

In case you missed it, part 1 is here.

Inspiration for this framework

Two years ago, marketing technology pioneer and chiefmartec.com editor Scott Brinker outlined the four key responsibilities of marketing technologists, summarized here.  

That work espoused the view that you could be both a marketer AND a technology leader. They are not mutually exclusive! It was my inspiration for this framework, explaining how today’s MOps leaders are instrumental for marketing and business success.

X-Axis:  A range of skills from a focus on technology to creativity and arts

Y-Axis: A range of decision-making skills, ranging from emotional to rational approaches

The resulting grid captures four MOps archetypes or “personas.” MOps leaders exhibit characteristics across all parts of this framework and will operate in multiple quadrants, similar to Brinker’s frameworks.

Modernizers – Are most likely to be the “original” technologists, constantly modernizing their martech stack.

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Orchestrators – Are the closest to Brinker’s Maestros and the focus of this article. He described this archetype in 2020 as the “Operations Orchestrator — MAESTROS who design and manage the workflows, rules, reports, and tech stacks that run the marketing department.

Psychologists – Are now increasingly responsible for “reading customers’ minds,” i.e. interpreting customers’ interest through intent data and digital engagement.

Scientists – Are constantly testing and evaluating. Experimentation is their specialty.

Orchestrators: Leaders of the band

Now that you’re familiar with the framework, let’s dig deeper into the Orchestrators!

I’ll start with a personal story. My exposure to orchestration started with 8-straight years of practice in violin and trumpet during my formative years. Each week was literally a blur of private lessons, group lessons, orchestra and/or band practice. I probably spent as much time with music directors as I did with my family.  

It was painfully obvious to those conductors when we hadn’t prepared or practiced. Moreso, we would get – literally – an “earful” from the conductor when we were not listening to the other instrument sections. If we were not coordinating our efforts and timing, the outcome was awful for anyone listening.

Source: Unsplash

This orchestration metaphor is powerful because there are multiple levels for MOps leaders:

  • As a project management team within marketing, and often as a conductor across external agency partners.
  • As a cross-function business partner and primary contact for IT, compliance, and legal, in addition to the traditional MOps role of achieving marketing/sales alignment

Notably, all marketers have to be project managers for their own tasks/deadlines. They must be aligned with overall campaign and program timelines. 

However, as organizations scale they are more likely to have dedicated project management teams to handle coordination across the specialist teams within marketing. The orchestration responsibility may include timeline, scope, and capacity trade-offs even after campaign briefs have received approval. 


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The orchestration responsibility multiplies when agency execution teams are delivering on individual tactics and media buys. Last year, Optimizely described these evolving orchestration duties as a “transformative shift and approach towards how marketing synchronizes their teams, content, channels, workflows, and data!”

I believe the shift is even more impactful, with orchestration benefits being felt beyond marketing. The highest value “program orchestration” responsibilities occur when MOps leaders are representing marketing’s interests in enterprise-wide programs with other functions within the organization, including product, compliance, and IT. Examples of orchestration duties with these other key functions can include:

  • Product teams – Coordinating campaigns with major product feature/functionality launches, and managing brand standards.
  • Legal/Compliance – Overseeing compliance with Can-Spam, GDPR, and CCPA, and customer preference and data privacy initiatives that may be initiated by a marketing touch-point. 
  • IT/Procurement – Technology stack management, vendor evaluations and negotiations, platform integrations and data management.

All of this departmental and cross-departmental coordination requires skill sets that can be analogized as the difference between a chamber orchestra (marketing) and a full symphony. It’s the highest level of conducting across the enterprise. 

MOps leaders are holding individuals and teams to target timelines while managing the scope of a particular campaign and business initiative. They do this while also overseeing targeting of customer and prospect segments.

In order to accomplish this complex segmentation and coordination, MOps leaders are now responsible for cross-functional data – embodied by the modern martech stack imperative: integration. Integration across systems has been the #1 issue for marketers since the modern marketing tech stack started exploding in the early 2010’s, but software and solutions providers finally listened. A tipping point was reached in 2020. Marketers reported that we were finally working within an integrated, multi-system environment, according to a CDP Institute member survey analyzed here.  

Continuing with the orchestration analogy, the conductor is the integration “synchronizer,” deciding if/when the data flows across the stack. The sheet music is the data model standard showing how to map common attributes. 

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However, just because we now have this more integrated environment does not mean our work is done. The instruments do not play themselves (yet!) and they require configuration and deliberate training to play effectively — both individually and in groups. 

Training was one of the top responsibilities for marketing ops leadership, ranking it in the top 5 of MOPS tasks by percentage of work, according to the 2022 MarTech Salary and Career Survey, published jointly by MarTech and chiefmartec.com (free, ungated download here). conducted by chiefmartec.

In the 2020 version of that same study, training was highlighted as one of the top two responsibilities for many of the primary marketing technologists personas, and 91% of operations orchestrators reported that training and supporting technologies were among their top priorities.

MOps leaders are never done

Finally, under the category of “MOps leaders are never done”, the last several years have also forced a whole new category of orchestration duties – a combination of conducting, training, and martech growth: marketing work management.

The largest growth (67%) over the last several years was in the category of “work management”, according to the 2022 edition of the Martech Landscape. Established entrants such as Adobe expanded with the acquisition of Workfront, while newer players like Trello and Monday gained traction.  

Although this was already a prevailing trend BEFORE the pandemic, the hybrid/remote work environment brought on by the last 2+ years forced these project management and agile-planning tools to the forefront.  The marketing work management category grew to over 1000+ tools, according to the State of Martech 2022

Source: State of MarTech 2022 – chiefmartec.com and Martech Tribe

MOps leaders are Maestros

In summary, modern MOps leaders are indeed Maestros. They are skilled orchestrators, conducting a symphony across multiple levels. They lead:

  • Omni-channel campaigns within marketing and across business functions
  • Integration across an ever-growing, integrated martech stack
  • Training and deployment as one of their primary responsibilities 

Editor’s note: In Part 3 of this 4-part series, Milt will expand on MOps leaders’ growing role as Psychologists. For background on this framework, see Part 1 of this series here


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


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About The Author

Milt is currently Director of Customer Experience at MSI Data, an industry-leading cloud software company that focuses on the value and productivity that customers can drive from adopting MSI’s service management solutions.

With nearly 30 years of leadership experience, Milt has focused on aligning service, marketing, sales, and IT processes around the customer journey. Milt started his career with GE, and led cross-functional initiatives in field service, software deployment, marketing, and digital transformation.
Following his time at GE, Milt led marketing operations at Connecture and HSA Bank, and he has always enjoyed being labeled one of the early digital marketing technologists. He has a BS in Electrical Engineering from UW Madison, and an MBA from Kellogg School of Management.

In addition to his corporate leadership roles, Milt has been focused on contributing back to the marketing and regional community where he lives. He serves on multiple boards and is also an adjunct instructor for UW-Madison’s Digital Marketing Bootcamp. He also supports strategic clients through his advisory group, Mission MarTech LLC.

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