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Could Apple's new Mail Privacy Protection mean the end of your email marketing?

Apple CEO Tim Cook previews powerful new privacy protections at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference at Apple Park, on June 7, 2021. Brook Kraft — Apple

Apple’s iOS 15, coming this fall, has new privacy features that will dramatically impact your email marketing.

 Email marketing has been the workhorse of digital marketing efforts. Businesses rely on analytics to gauge the effectiveness of their communications. A few days ago, Apple made an announcement about mail privacy, that will limit the data you’ll see, reflecting open rates, the impact of subject lines, and overall subscriber engagement.

Let’s look at how Apple describes it:

Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email, and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.

What does this mean for your emails? How will your data be affected? And how important is this announcement to your email-based marketing efforts?

To answer these questions, let’s start by looking at how this data is collected.

How is email marketing data tracked and collected?

These invisible pixels that Apple talks about have been used to track email open rates for a long time. When a message you send out is opened, this pixel included in your message loads up from a third-party server. The request sent out to the server by the user’s email client lets you know when, and how many times your message has been opened. It could also assume the recipient’s location, based on their IP address.

With the new privacy update, users who opt in (and let’s assume most Apple users will) opens will not register. However, if they click on a link in your email, that can still be tracked.

What does Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection mean for the emails you send out?

In short, it means you can’t track open rates accurately. Does this mean your open rates will drop?

On the contrary, some testing shows that Apple is preloading images (including invisible pixels) as soon as the email is sent out, resulting in false opens. This means emails to users with Mail Privacy Protection could display as opened, even if they aren’t.

While these are still early days for Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection, here are a few things that could be affected.

  • Email performance tracking: Open rates will not be reliable, thanks to Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection update. But smart businesses can focus on click-throughs and conversions to calculate email campaign effectiveness.
  • Email list maintenance: Marking users as inactive and removing them from your lists based on the last time they opened your email might not work anymore, with Apple Mail users. List cleaning is essential to improve overall deliverability and the standing of your email sender status. Emails sent to too many inactive recipients are filtered out by service providers and end up in junk or spam.
  • Automated email campaigns: If you use opens to determine what email gets sent out next in a drip-email campaign, false opens thanks to Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection could affect that.

What’s the potential impact of Apple Mail Privacy Protection on your email marketing?

While these issues have email marketers up in arms everywhere, it’s a good idea to look at how your business will be impacted before you panic.

A survey of 2000 email users around the world showed that just over 13% used Apple mobile devices or desktops. However, we looked at our own audiences, and we have over 45% of users with Apple devices.

So, depending on your audience, the Apple Mail Privacy Protection update might have a huge impact, or may not make much of a dent in the data and analytics you have access to.

What can you do to have your email marketing thrive in the face of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection update?

Even if you don’t have too many Apple Mail users in your lists, being prepared for these changes is a good thing.

Apple announced a new App Tracking Transparency feature tracking in April 2021. Google followed Apple’s lead and recently announced that they will be including a similar feature in Android 12, launching later this year. Most emails are opened on smartphones, and if Android were to adopt similar privacy features, 98% of email opens might become untraceable.

Here are a few suggestions from Mystique email marketing experts, of things you could be doing now to prepare.

  • Understand the impact: Size up the potential effect on your marketing. Use analytics to figure out what fraction of your audience relies on Apple Mail to read your messages.
  • More A/B testing: Testing your creative communications now will help you understand what style of messaging your audiences respond best to. When Apple Mail Privacy Protection kicks in, you know what works for your audience, and can send effective emails that drive engagement.
  • Focus on new measures for effectiveness, and triggers: Click-through rates and conversions are an improved way to track the effectiveness of your email campaigns. Your drip and nurture campaigns might need to be tweaked to change those triggers too.

Make your email marketing work with Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection

Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection could certainly become a stumbling block for email marketing if you aren’t prepared. At Mystique, we keep ourselves updated on all the latest innovations in email marketing, as providers continue to innovate in the face of new challenges.

If you’d like to learn more about what Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection might mean for your business and find out what you can do, we invite you to schedule a 15-minute conversation with us. We’ll be happy to share some insights and suggestions.

 marketing specialist at mystique brand communications

Viren Fernandes

Title Copywriter | Marketing Specialist

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