At its Worldwide Developer Conference in June, Apple announced the rollout of a new email privacy feature that allows users to prevent email marketers from seeing when they open an email.
Naturally, this new development concerns anyone involved in email marketing—as open rates are a crucial performance metric. It also upends the CPM model of email advertising services, where some publishers get paid by their clients based on how many people see their ads—which, in email marketing, means tracking open rates.
How it Works
The new privacy protection feature will launch in the fall, and users who update their iPhones to iOS 15 will see an opt-in screen. The message that appears is:
Mail Privacy Protection works by hiding your IP address and loading remote content privately in the background, even when you don’t open the message. This makes it harder for senders to follow your Mail activity.
Users can then choose from two options: Protect Mail activity and Don’t protect Mail activity.
The privacy protection is opt-in. However, it’s likely many will opt into it, based on the wording. Who would choose not to have their activity protected?
What it Means for Email Marketers
This will have wide-ranging effects on email marketing. Some examples include:
- Removing the ability to identify less engaged recipients based on date of last open—making list hygiene more difficult.
- Removing the ability to A/B test subject lines or other components of an email based on open rates.
- Completely deconstructing automated flows and journeys that rely on a recipient opening an email as a starting point.
- Removing the ability to determine optimal send time based on when an email gets the most opens.
Most publishers in the business are recommending that email marketers start doing things like cleaning up their lists and A/B testing crucial subject lines ahead of the iOS 15 update, which is projected to occur in September or October.
Another important step will be to re-engineer your marketing strategies to focus on things like purchase activity, click rates in the body of the email, and metrics across multiple channels—such as website activity—to monitor engagement.
Apple Mail Privacy Protection may require email marketers to change how they define engagement, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The true goal of email marketing, after all, isn’t necessarily to get recipients to open an email—it’s to spur purchase activity, or get the recipient to take action in some way.
Measuring purchase activity and other actions users take after receiving an email—paired with click-through rates within the body of the email—may give you more relevant data with regard to campaign performance.