Apple’s Privacy Protection: What It Means for Your Email Marketing

In another move to further promote consumer privacy, Apple recently announced that they’ll be implementing new privacy protection features in the fall of this year. These include changes to their Mail app, which will block email senders from using pixels to collect information about the user.

Marketers and media are buzzing about Apple’s new privacy changes and some are even predicting the end of email marketing all together (AGAIN!)

What does the Apple Privacy Protection update mean for my email marketing?

Have no fear! Email marketing isn’t going away anytime soon, and our team is here to provide insights on the changes.

Melissa Sellner, Email and Digital Strategist, brings more than 18 years of experience to team Spodek & Co., building email marketing strategies to connect with customers and prospects, enhance brands, and drive sales. She knows her way around best-in-class email and other digital channel marketing practices and loves diving into data and metrics to improve clients’ business outcomes.

Today, Melissa is sharing what the latest privacy update could mean for your email marketing campaigns once it goes into effect, and what you can do to prepare.

Mail Privacy Protection and the impact on Email Marketing

In a nutshell, Mail Privacy Protection will stop senders from collecting data on email opens, including who opened the emails, when the emails were opened, and the recipient’s location and device. Apple will achieve this by preloading the content when it is delivered, as opposed to loading it dynamically when a recipient opens the email.

The Mail App will require users to opt-in to this privacy setting but based on the verbiage they’re using and past privacy-related opt-in rates, we expect most users to accept this setting.

This will impact all users reading their emails on the Apple Mail app on all Apple devices and will be launched sometime between September and November with the release of iOS 15, iPad OS 15 and Mac OS Monterey. Based on market-share numbers from Litmus for May 2021, this could impact over 93% of users opening email on mobile phones and over 58% of desktop email opens.

How Mail Privacy Protection will impact Email Metrics & Measurement

For many companies, the biggest impact of this privacy change will be on the reporting of email metrics. Since Apple Mail will pre-load emails for all their recipients, open rates will be significantly over-inflated and no longer present an accurate picture of how many people actually saw an email.

Open rates can be very helpful for indicating subscribers’ interest in hearing from a brand, and gauging interest in the email content (based on the subject line and preview text).

That said, email marketers have debated how reliant we should be on a vanity metric like open rates, since they don’t necessarily correspond to a positive impact on the business or indicate purchase intent. Except for in the case of a few transactional emails (e.g., appointment scheduling or cancellations, profile changes, etc.), at Spodek & Co., we don’t consider an email to be effective unless the user clicks on a link in the email to perform the desired action.

Email senders will still be able to see reports on any click activity within an email and with the proper tracking in place can continue to attribute website activity tied to traffic from that specific email campaign.

While the loss in open rate data is not ideal, we welcome the shift to focusing on more meaningful email metrics like click-through rate and conversion rate, which have more impact on our clients’ bottom line and will ultimately lead to companies sending more valuable email content.

How Mail Privacy Protection will impact Campaign and Test Strategies

The privacy update has some profound impacts on email campaign strategies and testing. There are a few different types of testing and technology that rely on open rates, such as subject line testing and send time optimization. Many companies also use open rates (or non-open rates) to help determine their engaged and unengaged subscribers to either cull from their list or to conduct a re-engagement campaign.

Once Apple’s privacy changes go into effect, these types of campaigns and testing will no longer be possible using open rates. However, a shift to using click-through rates, which will still be trackable, could help keep the focus on really trying to engage subscribers with their emails, not just read them.

How Mail Privacy Protection will impact Email Content

In addition to the loss of open rate data, because Apple will be caching email images before a user opens the email, real-time personalization in emails will no longer be possible. This includes live countdown timers to events or promotions, and sending specific content based on location gleaned from a subscriber’s IP address.

However, since there are many other sources of location data (and some much more accurate) you’ll still be able to send emails based on a subscriber’s location by gathering that information from a user’s profile and purchase data to name a few.

How to Prepare your Email Marketing Strategy for Apple Privacy Protection

Luckily, there are a few things that can be done in the short term to help prepare for the impact of the privacy changes on your email marketing:

  • Determine how many users in your audience are viewing your emails using Apple Mail – this will help to better understand (and navigate) the potential impact.
  • If you don’t already have location data for your subscribers, encourage them to update their profile to gather that information and ensure that the information is migrated to your email platform.
  • Start thinking about ways to optimize your campaigns for clicks. For example, if you tend to use long copy, consider shorter teaser-type copy with a link to your website to read more. We love this approach for blog posts to drive traffic to the blog and engage email subscribers.
  • Ensure that you’re tracking all email metrics so that you have a baseline for comparison, and you start to shift your focus to clicks and conversions, rather than opens.
  • Conduct time of day and subject line testing before the privacy changes are launched, to get a sense of when your subscribers like to open your emails and what types of subject lines perform best. While this changes over time, it varies widely across industries and audiences, so it’s important to have some understanding of your specific audience.

In the longer term, we’ll be helping our clients continue to build effective email campaigns and measure the impact of these campaigns moving forward.

Do you have questions or concerns about Apple Privacy Protection and its impact on your Email Marketing? Reach out to our team today – we’d love to help.

Line drawn peony from Spodek & Co Digital marketing site