Email Analytics and the Curse of iOS 15!


Aaron Baker — Harvard University


To promote our university news site, the Harvard Gazette, we send a daily email to about 300K subscribers. Since October, 2021, we started to notice a steady increase in our average open rate. Maybe you have seen this increase too, with your own email campaigns. In this presentation I will show how I came to the conclusion that the increase is due to a new privacy “feature” in Apple’s iOS 15 which automatically opens emails on behalf of users (perhaps to thwart behavioral marketing). Unfortunately for us email marketers and newsletter editors, the increase in open rate isn’t because our subject lines are more persuasive. Actually it’s the phone opening the email whether the user does or not. To prove this to myself and others I created a dashboard in Google Data Studio that plots iOS 15 adoption next to email open rate. Throughout the presentation I’ll cover what metrics are generally available for email newsletters, what they are useful for, and how to supplement what we don’t know about email users with what we do know about website users. I’ll also show how to spot the difference between human and non-human behavior (spam-checking bots), and propose some steps you can take to clean up your own email measurement strategies.

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