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The Impact of Apple Mail Privacy Protection

Apple is at it once again! User privacy has become a big focus of Apple’s and after their iOS 14 update and the in-app tracking opt-ins, they have doubled down and made mail tracking something that will become a thing of the past. Yes, Apple has announced that when iOS 15 launches this fall, they will introduce a new feature to their built-in mail app, Mail Privacy Protection. Mail Privacy Protection could mean a lot of different things for a lot of different people. As a user, it gives you a sense of security that more steps are being taken to protect your personal data. As a marketer though, this means some of the historically best indicators of email campaign success are no longer going to be viable. Apple has stated that “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.” Yes, you read that correctly, you will no longer be able to get data about email opens from Apple mail and the devices using them, which unfortunately makes up nearly half of all email clients used for opens across both mobile and desktop. So, it’s time to start using other metrics to gauge the success of your email campaigns. Clicks and click-through rates should still be reasonably reliable and should be used moving forward to establish a new baseline of a successful email campaign. Since open rate will no longer be a great indicator of success, we as marketers need to make sure our email content has lots of opportunities for interaction that we can still track. In a way, an email campaign can be thought of like a digital ad and if we assume that an open and an impression are now more similar than they were before, we need to make sure that our click-through rate and site metrics are in line with what we want. Impressions, and now, opens are great but since we cannot accurately track if an open happened or not, it’s similar to an ad showing up on a page to generate an impression but a user not even noticing it. The other challenges marketers will need to overcome with the inability to track opens will be with automated processes where an open will trigger the next step. Large pieces of data regarding opens that trigger a next step will be missing. These email journeys will need to be re-built in a way that gives the best chance to monitor success. Finally, the last new hurdle, that can affect the user as well, is subscriber list health. It will be incredibly difficult to know just how engaged someone is on a subscriber list. Just like switching the mindset of opens to clicks, the inability to track opens will take away another measurement to know if someone is engaged or inactive, and how to fix it. It will be difficult to reengage potentially inactive subscribers since we will not know, not only if they opened or not, but what is the reason for their inactivity. Is the subject line not captivating enough? Does the content not push further steps to a landing page? Is our message even relevant to the targeted group? These are all questions that will need a new mindset of how to be answered. As for the subscriber, their inboxes could become overly cluttered with email content they no longer want since it will be that much more difficult to measure success. It is a worthy endeavor to support the privacy of personal data but taking away the ability to give consumers marketing opportunities that match their profiles is a tough pill for us as email marketers to swallow.
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