CX + Loyalty Performance Marketing

What Does Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection Update Mean for Email Marketers?

Apple recently made waves at their Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC 2021) with the announcement of new privacy advancements for iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and watchOS 8. As the world tuned in to the unveiling of enhanced protections in app permissions, Siri, and iCloud+, there was one feature that had email marketers on the edge of their seat: Mail Privacy Protection within the Mail app.

With the new Mail Privacy Protection feature, senders are no longer able to use invisible pixels in their emails to collect user information. For most marketers, the use of invisible pixels is the key to understanding their customers and what they are doing. These pixels allow marketers to know not only who is opening their emails, but also in which email platform, where they are physically located, and even how long they spend looking at the email. When these changes are implemented by Apple, any customer or prospect that opens an email campaign within the Apple Mail application will no longer provide these data points back to the marketer.

One thing that interests me about this topic is how our end customers want their privacy and don’t like the idea of being tracked, but from the marketer’s perspective, we utilize these metrics to make sure we are targeting the customers that want our campaigns and not sending campaigns to those that don’t. It will be definitively harder for marketers to ensure the right message reaches the right people with these privacy updates on Apple Mail, and even more-so if other email platforms make similar changes to their settings.

So, what does this truly mean for email marketers?
User protections will continue to evolve, and rightfully so, creating inevitable unknowns within the email marketing world– just like with Apple’s new Mail Privacy Protection feature. As we learn more about what will be implemented, there are things we can be thinking about now to prepare for impact.

How will we change the way we measure the effectiveness of campaigns?

    • Engagement will look different – Perhaps we will have to focus more on clicks instead of open rate, and rather than simply having one main Call-To-Action (CTA) within an email, we might need to provide customers with more options that link to the same end result in order to trace engagement.
    • Focus on metrics that you can collect and track. It is important to remember this will only impact email campaigns that are opened in the Apple Mail native app, so any customer that uses other mobile or desktop platforms such as Gmail will not be impacted, and you can utilize these other email clients for trending purposes.

How will we continue to improve the customer experience?

    • Marketers will need to find new ways to improve our customers’ experiences based on different data setsLeveraging the many “pieces of the puzzle” will continue to be vital to understanding overall engagement. Considerations can include:
      • Are you utilizing a seedlist to see if your emails are even likely to reach the inbox? 
      • Are you seeing a spike in bounces? And how is your click-thru rate calculated—is it based on opens or deliveries? The latter might be something to consider focusing on for the future given these changes, especially as most are based on opens currently. 
      • Testing will continue to be key, not just the generic A/B subject line testing, but really creating strategic plans to understand your customers, what they find relevant to them, and what it takes to get them to take the actions you are wanting them to take. 
      • Leaning on other channels will also be important to augment what is potentially lost from iOS 15 open rates, such as measurement of transaction attribution, SMS clicks, and mobile push engagement. 
    • Preference centers should no longer be a “nice to have” but a requirement for any organization. Through a preference center, you can directly ask your customers what type of communications they want, how often they want them, and a million other data points that help you create an accurate profile on them rather than relying on if they opened an email or not. 

Where do we go from here? What should we be looking at?

    • Will this really change everything you are doing in email?
    • How much of your customer base is exclusively using Apple Mail? Or are they like me, where they check their email first thing in the morning on their phone but then go back and open the important emails in the actual desktop interface (be it Outlook, Gmail or Yahoo)?
    • Will this change impact segmentation? If you have been focusing mostly on open rates, it likely will change but make sure that you are looking at the metrics that matter.
    • What happens with elements such as countdown timers, local weather opens, and send time optimization may be skewed.
      • Countdown timers may start at the point of caching rather than the open
      • Depending on the region where the “open” takes place, any caching may delay content display
      • Is send-time optimization something we as marketers should continue to focus on or will this cause more confusion in the metrics?

Over the past 15 years of working in the email industry, I can look back at numerous times where marketers thought a change from a major mail provider was going to either kill email or make our jobs more difficult. For example, the inception of the spam folder, or Gmail’s “promotions” tab separating emails into a different view within the user’s inbox.

No matter what the overall impact from this specific change ends up being, we as email marketers must always find better ways to engage our customers and respect their privacy at the same time.   As a leading innovator in email marketing, Ansira works with clients to create results-oriented strategies that go beyond the basic email metrics. To speak with one of our experts about your position amid Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection update and learn more about our email and eCRM capabilities, contact us today.

By Spencer Kollas

Spencer Kollas is a recognized industry leader in subscriber engagement as well as email strategy and deliverability.