How To Prepare Your eCommerce Email Marketing For iOS15: 5 Key Steps with CJ Flood

How is the iOS15 update going to impact email marketers? What should we do to prepare their ecommerce email marketing? Today we’re talking to CJ Flood, the customer engagement strategist  from 100° Celsius, on what brands and stores need to know and exactly how to prepare.

What is the iOS15 update and when is it coming?

Firstly, there’s no hard and fast date. But rumor is that it will be in September, my suspicion is it will at least happen before Black Friday.

Basically, iOS15 is going to change the way email engagement data is shared on Apple devices, and subsequently other tech companies will have to follow suit. 

The main change for brands and marketers is that when you send an email through your ESP (email service provider) they attach a small pixel to tell when it’s been opened and with iOS 15 that pixel will become irrelevant. We aren’t sure if that means it will get stripped out or all pixels will then be triggered as ‘opened’ even if the subscriber never reads the email.

The other big change for brands and marketers is the use of a dummy or proxy email address. That works like a decoy. They get the email but you never see their real email address. Bye Bye customer audiences based on subscribers!

All in all this means that open rates are going to become incredibly unreliable, and eventually useless. Because this is the main way we measure subscriber engagement and list health you can see why this is a big deal.

The accuracy of open rates is going to have 3 main effects:

  1. How you maintain and keep your list clean.
  2. Knowing what is engaging your subscriber. 
  3. Most of all because your list hygiene is less accurate it could also impact your sending reputation, since email providers take into consideration engagement for your sending reputation but you won’t be able to know if people are really engaged. This means you could end up in the spam or promotions tab very easily.

The timing is unfortunate because understandably, many eCommerce people are banking on Black Friday Cyber Monday to help solidify Q4 sales after a weird 2 years.

How much impact will the update have on email marketing and stores?

This is going to get heavy. I am nervous to say this but I think the privacy evolution (iOS 14 & 15, Google killing cookies etc) will be the biggest shift in digital marketing since social media. It won’t be obvious like the changes that came with GDPR which were a bit annoying but business relatively as usual, it will be more of a slow burn.

When you think about the typical eCommerce store generate about 20-40% of their revenue through email. Often, there isn’t another individual channel that handles a bigger chunk by itself. For example, Ads includes Facebook, Instagram, Google etc, so it is split over multiple platforms.

The issues might not be felt initially, but perhaps by Black Friday Cyber Monday 2022, we’re going to see more people with poor email sending reputations that are really starting to impact them.

Unfortunately, there are no perfect workarounds so far. But there are still some good things you can do.

How should eCommerce brands and stores prepare?

I think people should see this as an opportunity to get better practices in place.First off – brands who want to succeed in this new era will need to transition from thinking about marketing on a “channel by channel” basis, and move to a more holistic approach.

Also, you’re going to need to move as fast as you can do personalised communications.

But for readers, there are 5 practical things you can do right now:

1. Start putting people into buckets of interest.

For smaller stores, think about 3 different buckets, and for larger stores, think maybe up to 5 buckets.

A bucket of interest could be something like, for an eyewear shop as an example, sports users, office workers and parents/kids.

2. Start getting as much data as you can from your ESPs (and other platforms), while you can.

Platforms like Klaviyo have released things like multi-step forms to help with collecting data from new subscribers and also more detailed reports that you can use and see granular detail so that you can start profiling your readers and what they’re interested in.

3. Review your sending strategy.

What does it look like to people receiving it? 

Consider how you can make this as personalised as possible. Can you use dynamic content blocks that show them stuff based on what they’ve engaged with. 

4. Clean up your workflows.

Ensure people aren’t receiving campaigns and automations at the same time or in a confusing way.

For example, readers shouldn’t be receiving a welcome series at the same time as a newsletter, and sales promotion. It’s going to be a mess, the customer get’s whiplash then that hurts your engagement, then ultimately your sending reputation.

You’ll need to work out a way to exclude people from certain workflows as part of the process. ESPs (email platforms) like ActiveCampaign and Klaviyo can help with this with sophisticated triggers and automations based on user activity.

5. Automate your re-engagement with subscribers when engagement is decreasing.

For example, rather than waiting for your sunset workflow (a workflow to handle what to do with disengaged contacts) to kick in, pre-empt this with workflows designed to bring them back into the fold.

For example, rather than waiting for 180 days of disengagement, bring the date forward and send users a strong CTA to drive engagement. As an illustration, you might want to send readers a surprise box which gives them a strong discount or bonus product with any purchase on the site, provided they meet certain requirements.

Ultimately you want to think of your engagement like a rock being dropped in a pond. As time increases the ripples get further away and weaker. So, what can you do to get a new bit of engagement? A reset on the clock if you will.

What tools do you recommend to help with the preparation?

You’ll need to focus on shoring up the foundations of what you have now. 

Make sure you have an ESP that has some capacity for on-site browsing tracking. Whether it be recording all page views, dwell time, etc, even if it is not perfect it will be invaluable in making sure you have the data you need on what is engaging your readers.

Also, make sure you’re using the custom properties or tags in your ESP. These can be a powerful source of data and a great way to measure as well as personalise your email — but you need to use it correctly.

You can then use this data to drive your engagement campaigns, such as how often and how many emails you send, as well as the volume and frequency of other channel promotions such as SMS.

Right now, in our own work we’re using a mixture of SMS and email which works in balance depending on the engagement on each platform. As email goes down, SMS may increase, for example.

What specific metrics or issues do you recommend readers look out for now?

Now is the time to look at your open rate. If it is below 20%, you need to close your engagement segment, bring that back to the 30-60 day segments to increase your open rate, and as that goes up, towards 25-40% you can expand your engaged audience back out to 90 or 120 days.

For clicks, depending on the campaigns, look at trying to get a 3-5% click rate. Obviously this depends on the campaign itself, for example, content campaigns that are focused on clicks versus sale promotions, but the range is where you want to be.

Lastly, look at doing a last ditch attempt to re-engage anyone that has lapsed and then thoroughly cleaning your list while you still have access to the data. That could be a win-back campaign, giveaway or even just an ad campaign to bring people back that have lapsed thus protecting your sending reputation.

Thank you for sharing this in depth advice and information on the upcoming changes.

What’s the best way to learn more or connect with you?

You’re welcome!

If you want to read more, check our agency’s blog on 100Celsius.co we will be doing updates on what’s working and what’s not as it happens.

Also, people are welcome to connect with me personally on LinkedIn here.

🎯 For those who want to get a better handle on iOS 15 and privacy evolution you can join the waitlist for a free PDF I am working on called “How to tackle iOS15 for Shopify stores and survive” over at www.cjflood.com.

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