As any good digital marketer or fundraiser knows, you live and die by your KPIs. But what if one of the most important email metrics may not be accurate?

Just under a year ago, Apple released iOS 15, which allowed users to hide their mail activity/habits by opting-in to Mail Privacy Protection while using the Apple Mail app, and this has massively impacted open rate statistics. (This update came shortly after the  more publicized iOS 14.5 update which affected in-app tracking and paid advertising.) 

Open rates are usually measured by software downloading a pixel rather than the actual action of opening and reading an email. By opting-in to Mail Privacy Protection, users’ settings changed so that emails automatically download all content in the email, including the pixel used to track opens. Therefore, for many Apple users, an email counts as “opened” even if it wasn’t.

In summary, users with iOS 15 and the Apple Mail App connected to any email address (Gmail, Yahoo, etc.) will automatically be recorded as “opened” even if they never looked at the email, vastly inflating open rate statistics.

So, how much did the update really affect nonprofits’ stats in the year since the update release? The short answer is: it varies.

Apple devices account for approximately 52% of all email opens. Most studies estimate 35-47% of those users prefer Apple Mail as their main client, and the vast majority of people opted in to avoid tracking on their phones. 

To further back up the data, M+R reports that fundraising open rates climbed in 2021, while response rates did not. It is likely that the impact of “false opens” is significant.

Knowing these uncertainties, what do you do as an email marketer? You can still use open rates as a general benchmark, especially to ensure your open rates aren’t too low, but it is probably better to base your email results on more accurate metrics such as click-through rates and conversions.

The digital world is constantly evolving, so make sure you’re on top of the latest changes. NextGen can help continue to grow your digital program. Connect with us or learn more about working with our digital team.