The end of the third-party cookie era is turning the digital marketing world on its head, with many changes already underway to boost user privacy across the internet. Apple has been developing privacy protection features that put the user in control of their information and is taking its efforts a step further with the introduction of Mail Privacy Protection. Set to begin rolling out this month, Apple Mail app users will have the ability to opt into a more secure way to get their email.
This has significant implications for marketers who are accustomed to tracking their customers’ email behavior based on when, where and what device they’re opening the email on.
According to Apple, “Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. [It prevents] 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.”
Mail Privacy Protection is available to people who exclusively use (and connect other email addresses to) the Apple Mail app. According to Litmus, over 46% of Apple users opened their email through the Apple Mail app in 2020, and that number is growing every year.
Users opting into this increased privacy option will allow Apple to act as a gatekeeper by loading the message content and tracking pixels to the Apple cache server before it gets to their inbox. These tracking pixels will recognize this preemptive upload as an opened email prior to hitting a subscriber’s inbox and mask individual IP addresses – and therefore losing a lot of data brands are used to seeing and collecting.
What This Means for Marketers
While this added level of protection has upsides for users, it has strategy-shifting implications for marketers who, as we just noted, not only track behavior but also rely on email campaign metrics or other personalization techniques to be able to reach their audience more effectively.
- Performance Metrics: Most email campaigns currently rely heavily on open rates to better measure the success of how often and where subscribers engage with their brand. That’s why it’s important to fully understand what metrics your brand might lose access to with this update. It’s going to be essential to find a broader set of data to leverage for a more holistic strategy going forward. Examples include subscriber-centric metrics that prompt action beyond just opening an email and click-through rates (CTR) that measure subscriber engagement.
- Testing Changes: For campaigns powered by open-rate metrics, some testing and automated flows may be interrupted, as the send time and A/B testing subject lines might have statistical inaccuracies as the open rate could be skewed.
- Visibility: This update will also block visibility into what type of devices emails are being opened on, potentially creating issues with email design and requiring quick modifications on the fly – an important thing to flag for teams in charge of these efforts.
- Loss of Personalization: While Apple will provide general geolocation targeting information on a regional level, there will be a loss of specific geotargeting – which means marketers will have limited ways to customize emails for their audience. This will result in a focus on generic, regional information around behaviors such as alerts around emergency services and store closures in the general area, rather than targeted behaviors in a specific location, like sending coupons for a preferred store.
Tips for Navigating This Transition
With these changes on the horizon, now’s the perfect time to enter testing mode to discover new ways to engage your audience.
- Use Testing and CTRs to Inform Initiatives: The loss of the almighty open rate will likely prompt finding new ways to measure engagement, specifically CTRs. In A/B subject line tests, for example, using deeper metrics like clicks and conversions can be tailored to align more closely with business goals. Turning a more focused attention to CTRs can help understand behaviors to set triggers for retargeting campaigns and make informed segmentation decisions that can help keep your subscriber list healthy and current. This might also mean testing out additional text and visual assets within the email to see what’s driving actions.
- Segmentation: Consider setting parameters around segmented users that use the Apple Mail app vs. users of individual apps like Gmail or Outlook. Keeping this separate can help you use other apps to capture metrics that will be lost under Mail Privacy Protection, such as time optimization, last open date, subject line tests and accurate locations. This can be beneficial to help gather metrics that can be segmented and expanded upon in the future to target accordingly.
- Explore other notification options: Email will continue to be a key method of communication, but it’s not the only way to reach your target real-time. It’s also worth exploring other tactics to add to your toolbox, such as apps that allow you to use push notifications to engage with your audience. SMS campaigns may be one avenue for providing a more personalized feel for subscribers and/or data collection.
While there are still a lot of unknowns during this transition, one thing we know for sure is now’s the time to evaluate, innovate and implement tactics around the new evolutions to email campaigns. This will not only provide an overall better experience for your subscribers, but a better path to success for marketers in this space.
Interested in learning how to develop a new strategy for your brand email campaigns? Email Dana at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a call.