They’re at it again! Apple is poised to release another milestone update that could have big repercussions for your email marketing efforts. Announced in June, Mail Privacy Protection is expected to roll out with the iOS 15 update later this year and the ripple effects for email marketers may be far and wide. Now’s the time to know what to expect and how to prepare to keep your marketing programs ahead of the curve.
What is Mail Privacy Protection?
When you receive a marketing email in your inbox, it generally contains images that are not embedded in the message itself but are hosted elsewhere on another server. When you open that particular email, it pings that server to download the images and graphics. In addition to loading the content, that ping also allows the sending platform to know that you opened the message and when you opened it as well as to collect other data like your IP address, the type of device you are viewing it on and your location. But Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection will put an end to that data collection. Instead, it will automatically download all of the hosted content remotely – regardless of whether the user opens the email or not – and shield any further user data collection.
What Does that Mean for Email Users?
Apple has long used privacy as part of its marketing appeal. Mail Privacy Protection will further enhance that effort. Similar to recent iOS 14.5 ad tracking privacy updates, users will be offered the choice to opt-in to the privacy protection measures. Those who choose to do so will block any email sender’s ability to know when they open an email, to view their IP address or link it to other online activity or location or to collect additional information about them using invisible pixels in the email.
While this will protect user privacy, some think it may also have a downside for users by making it difficult if not impossible for email marketers to deliver personalized experiences or content. It could also potentially lead to more unwanted email as senders will be unable to identify and purge lists of users who don’t engage.
What Does that Mean for Email Marketers?
Given that the opt-in rate for the recent iOS 14.5 ad tracking privacy measures has been reported at about 96%, email marketers can anticipate a similarly high opt-in rate for these new Mail Privacy Protection measures once they are available. That means that much of the data that many email marketers have relied on will no longer be available for Apple Mail users on iOS and Mac. Specifically:
- Because the system will automatically download remote images, emails will appear to be opened whether they have been or not – resulting in false open rate reporting of essentially 100%.
- The time of opening will no longer be correct for reporting or for send time optimization.
- The location and type of device will not be reported.
If you’re like most email marketers, Apple Mail and iPhone users represent a large portion of your email audience. In fact, recent data estimates that Apple controls 45% to 58% of email client market share. So that means losing access to a large chunk of user data.
What Should Marketers Do?
Apple Mail Privacy Protection will roll out with iOS 15, expected in the fall. That means a few months to prepare. So, what can you do to stay positioned for success?
Understand Your Audience Now: It’s important to know what the breakdown of your current email audience is and how heavily weighted towards Apple Mail users it may be so you can start to prepare for the changes ahead. You may want to consider cleaning your lists of inactive users now while you can to help manage your deliverability for the short term as you begin to navigate thsee changes. Now may also be the time to consider A/B testing subject lines and other content to tune up your campaigns as much as possible while data is available.
Examine Your Automation: Knowing when a user opens your email is a common metric used to trigger other email marketing activities like automated drip campaigns or re-engagement campaigns. That means that any automated email campaigns or flows that rely on an open metric will need to be rethought and re-engineered. In addition, any audience segmentation or targeting that you are using based on open rates, last open date or similar will no longer work. Neither will any IP-based geo-segmentation.
Evaluate Your Metrics: While open rate is not and should not be the only metric in evaluating email success, it is a useful tool for gauging overall engagement and for maintaining email list health. However, Mail Privacy Protection will mean that your email open rate metrics are essentially no longer valid. That means looking to other ways to measure campaign success and engagement. If you’ve only had eyes for opens, now is the time to start digging in on click rates, engagements on destination pages, growth of your mailing list, sale conversions and more.
Analyze & Adapt: You know the saying – the only constant is change. Nowhere is that truer than in the digital realm. As technology and platforms constantly change, marketers must constantly adapt. That means being creative and finding new ways to engage and connect with your audience. As with any marketing endeavor, creativity and authenticity are the key ingredients in creating positive experiences that drive customer engagement both on and off the screen.
Need help getting your email marketing campaigns headed in the right direction or just want to chat? Connect with Clementine today!