Every year when September rolls around, three things are certain. Kids are back in school, pumpkin spice lattes are back in season, and Apple is back with a new iOS version.
This means new emojis (yay), software updates, and for us marketers, privacy features that in the past have been… anxiety-inducing to say the least. iOS 14 made Facebook ads less effective and more expensive, and iOS 15 made opens unreliable.
Apple released iOS 17 earlier this week. Here’s a breakdown of what’s changing, and what these changes mean for marketers.
iOS 17 Privacy Updates: Here's What's Changing
The key impact of iOS 17 is from Apple’s new Link Tracking Protection in Messages, Mail, and Safari Private Browsing feature, which will automatically remove tracking parameters from URLs when users share them in Mail, Messages, and Safari private mode.
This means that links that used to look like this:
Will now look like this:
What iOS 17 Means for Marketers
At a high level, some of the data used to track individual user behavior across websites will be removed when someone shares a link in Apple Mail and Messages, uses Safari Private Browsing mode, or if they’ve opted out of tracking in Safari.
For email marketers in particular, there are two pieces of good news.
The first is that based on our own testing, we confirmed that UTM parameters remain intact in the three scenarios above. This means that you’ll still be able to track UTM source, medium, campaign, and content through links in Drip.
The second is that the impact is likely to be small because Link Tracking Protection is limited to people who use Safari Private Browsing and who share links from Mail and Messages (i.e., forward an email or a text).
How iOS 17 Impacts Drip Customers
One of the ways that Drip identifies and tracks people’s website activity is through the __s (subscriber tag) tracking parameter. Our testing confirmed that this tracking parameter was removed when:
- A consumer opens the link in a private Safari window.
- A consumer has explicitly opted out of tracking in Safari.
- A consumer receives an email and it’s forwarded.
This will result in Drip not being able to identify and track people’s website activity from email as often (given the above scenarios). However, methods that don’t use __s will still work.
If your heart rate is starting to rise, take a deep breath. We’re confident that the impacts on our customers will be limited.
While Apple Mail holds the largest email client market share, tracking parameters are only stripped when opened in a private/opted-out browser.
Safari holds 18% of the worldwide browser market share, behind Google Chrome at 64%. An even smaller percentage of users use private or incognito browsing, approximately 20% of browser users.
Keep in mind that most people who use Safari and don’t want to be tracked across sites have likely already explicitly opted out of tracking. And if consumers don’t want to be tracked across websites, we should respect their preferences.
Customer-First Marketing Is Here to Stay
The headline here is that iOS 17 impacts on email marketers are limited, and you shouldn’t expect to see significant impacts on your email marketing in Drip.
However, the larger question in this privacy era remains: how do we, as marketers and customer-focused brands, reconcile respecting and protecting consumers’ privacy with wanting to provide a personalized customer experience?
One thing is for sure. The days of relying heavily on third-party data are over. And we need to get creative about how we get to know our customers.
Our marketing strategies need to be built on a foundation that makes people feel connected to us without feeling like they’re being watched at every turn.
The days of customer-first marketing — putting your customers at the center of everything you do — are here.
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