Marketers, Stop Panicking About Apple Mail Privacy Protection

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Marketers, Stop Panicking About Apple Mail Privacy Protection

A glut of ink, mostly digital, has been spilled about Apple’s upcoming Mail Privacy Protection and the doom it will supposedly spell for email marketers.

If you’re doing email marketing correctly, with best practices for tracking, you will largely be unaffected.

What Exactly Is Happening?

Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection in iOS/iPadOS 15 and the upcoming Monterey desktop OS will do two fundamental things:

  1. It will auto-load every image in every email on a remote proxy server (as opposed to the user’s devices). What this means is that your effective open rates for any email read in Apple Mail will be 100% – aka pretty much useless.
  2. It will mask the IP address of the image loads so you won’t know what IP an email is being read from.

What Does This Mean?

A 100% open rate will screw with a few metrics and measures:

  • A/B testing will be pointless for open rates because everything will be opened. You’ll want to conduct A/B testing based on clicks, not opens.
  • Marketing automation drip/nurture campaigns will automatically fire if they’re triggered on opens. Trigger them on clicks instead.
  • Analyzing the best time to send email based on opens will be ineffective because everything will be opened within moments of sending to Apple Mail users.
  • Anything that’s triggered on open needs to be triggered differently or retired.

How Big A Deal Is It?

Litmus estimates that Apple Mail makes up:

  • 39% of all email clients
  • 58.9% of desktop app email clients (non-webmail)
  • 93% of mobile app email clients (non-webmail)

In other words, a significant minority and perhaps a majority of your customer base will be affected in some way.

Who Will This Affect Adversely?

The only marketers who will be substantially impacted are those who rely on email opens as a key metric, mainly publishers who sell advertising based on things like number of opens and open rates.

Those folks will need to pivot to a different form of measurement.

What Are The Best Practices for Email Marketing After iOS 15?

Measure Based On What Happens After Email

Here’s everything in a nutshell: measure your email marketing by what happens after email marketing.

Did someone click on a link and go to your website? Great. You’ve got web traffic from email now, as long as every link in your email has the appropriate tracking codes for your web analytics, like Google Analytics UTM codes.

Did someone install your app from an email? Great. Check your app store analytics to see where those installs came from.

Did someone decide to do business with you? Great. Survey your prospective and converted customers for how they heard about you.

Bottom line: use URL tracking codes in your links and you’ll still know what’s working in your email marketing.

A/B Test Based on Clicks

If you’re testing something in your creative, measure based on clicks. Opens won’t mean anything any more.

Set Nurture Campaigns to Click-Based

If you’re using nurture campaigns based on opens, switch them to clicks ASAP.

Use This For Email List Cleaning

With so many users on Apple Mail and the likelihood of Apple loading images, this will be a boon to anyone with an email list where you’re not sure if you have valid email addresses. Any valid email address that uses Apple Mail will suddenly come alive and look like it’s reading your emails, so you know those email addresses at least work. If you use a paid service of some kind to validate emails, this will save you a pretty penny – you don’t need to put those email addresses through validation because Apple Mail did that for you.

Switch to Surveys and Preference Centers For User Preferences

You won’t be able to judge what interests users by subject line testing any more because every subject line sent to an Apple Mail user will get a 100% open rate. So if you want to know what appeals to your audience… ask them with surveys. Build out your market research capabilities so that you’re asking people regularly and frequently for how to serve them best.

Decide Active Users Based on Clicks

With these changes, you won’t know if someone’s an active user based on opens, so judge based on clicks instead. Which means…

Key Strategy: Make Your Email Marketing Clickworthy

If there’s nothing worthy of a click in your email, you will have no metrics to calibrate on for user activity. So what’s clickworthy? Well, anything that earns a click:

  • Promotions
  • Free stuff
  • Unique content

Use some self-awareness: what do YOU click on in emails? Related content? A promise of something else unique? A free download?

Ask your users in focus groups and panel discussions: what could you do that would make your emails more valuable? Then do those things.

Conclusion: Sky Remains in the Sky, Has Not Fallen

Apple’s changes to mail privacy mirror those of its ad tracking changes. It takes away an easy answer, but an answer that was questionable to begin with when it comes to marketing analytics. It’s not the end of email marketing any more than we’ve seen the end of advertising. What it does is force marketers to be more strategic, more effective, and more customer-centric.

If your emails are so valuable that you would pay money to receive them, you will see your downstream metrics like clickthrough rates, traffic, and conversions do just fine. If your emails aren’t valuable and users don’t want them, then fix that first. No amount of changes to user privacy mean anything if your email marketing sucks.

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2 responses to “Marketers, Stop Panicking About Apple Mail Privacy Protection”

  1. […] with desktop updates coming later in the year. iOS 15 will introduce Mail Privacy Protection, and I detailed much of the basic operational changes in this blog post here. However, one of the key questions that keeps coming up is, “what should we do about […]

  2. […] We know that data quality is getting worse, thanks to technological changes like Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection, which distorts metrics like email marketing open […]

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