For the majority of businesses operating online, emails are a vital marketing tool. Nearly 9 out of 10 marketers use email marketing to distribute their content organically. Emails offer a range of benefits for marketing, including:
- They are simple to set up and get started, require minimal start-up costs, and can show an immediate impact.
- You get to reach the right people at the right time with the right content. With email marketing, you are targeting an audience who have already shown an interest. You can schedule email delivery for when recipients are most likely to open them. And you can segment your mailing list to send personalised content.
- The ability to generate more traffic to your company’s website by targeting an engaged audience that is more likely to click email links or follow CTAs.
- Email marketing drives sales for your business and has the highest ROI among online marketing channels, with an estimated $38 return for every $1 spent.
Part of what makes email marketing so successful is the ability to track its performance. An important metric to assess email marketing success is opening rates.
Given this fact, Apple’s new Mail Privacy Protection announcement has many in the industry concerned. Apple is implementing new features that allow users to prevent marketers from gathering email opening data.
Open rates for email marketing have become an invaluable tool to assess performance. They help marketers understand what is working and test different approaches. From subject lines to delivery times and the volume of emails sent, opening rates provide meaningful and actionable data for implementing email marketing.
Apple’s New Email Privacy Update
Apple has been showing an increased focus on privacy for some time now. On June 7th, at this year’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC21), Apple announced the new Mail Privacy Protection feature for their Mail app on iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey devices.
Set to launch between September and November this year, the major change in Mail Privacy Protection comes in a prompt upon opening the Apple Mail app. The first time a user opens the app, they choose whether they want to protect their mail activity.
Choosing to protect mail activity removes invisible tracking pixels embedded within emails that let marketers or publishers know if a user opens an email. Another important feature of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection allows users to hide their IP addresses from email senders.
It works by sending emails through a proxy server first to pre-load content, including tracking pixels. This change makes all emails appear open to marketers even when the reader doesn’t click on them.
Mail Privacy Protection is not on by default, and users have to actively opt-in when given the prompt. But, given 96% chose to prevent ad tracking when Apple introduced its App Tracking Transparency tool, it is safe to assume we will see similarly high opt-in rates.
This change affects any email opened from the Apple Mail app on any device. However, it should not affect emails opened on apple devices from other email apps such as Gmail and Outlook.
What does this mean for Your Business?
This is a colossal shake-up for email marketers. Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection rollout makes it impossible to obtain accurate open rate data from subscribers using Apple Mail.
While not everyone uses Apple email products, they do have the largest market share. Research in March 2019 shows Apple iPhone, Apple iPad, and Apple Mail clients account for a combined 45% of all email opens. Losing almost half your email opening data is a considerable loss for marketers.
This change announced in June and dropping this autumn has sent the email marketing industry abuzz with speculation. What the long term effects will be is difficult to predict. But without the whole picture when it comes to email open rates, many tried and tested email marketing strategies require a rethink.
Some metrics and techniques that would be extra challenging to track include:
- Testing engagement for different subject lines
- Send-time optimisation
- Retargeting customers that opened a marketing email but didn’t click through
How to Best Position Your Business for the Update
While it may be difficult to predict the effects of incomplete open rate data for email marketing, it doesn’t mean your company is powerless to wait and see what happens. Instead, you should actively take steps right now to best position yourself for the new email world Apple has created.
Assess your current email marketing strategy
Take a deep dive into what your current email marketing strategy looks like.
- How much of your revenue is driven by email marketing?
- Can you estimate how much of your audience uses Apple Mail? (could be as simple as checking for email addresses with .icloud, .me, and .mac)
- Where is your email opening data currently used?
Having answers to these questions and a clear picture of where email opening data fits into your overall strategy informs the decisions that follow. It is likely open rate data currently is incorporated into your:
- Market segmentation
- Send time optimisation
- Subject line testing
- Automation based on open events
And these areas will likely require a rethink once you no longer have access to accurate opening data to work with.
Turn to other metrics
Being unable to rely on email opening data means businesses must look to other metrics, like click-through rates and conversions. Whilst these can’t wholly replace information gained from opening data, you gain insight into the people who take the next step and click a link or make a purchase.
Set new baselines based on these metrics for upcoming email campaigns.
Use your current, complete data (including open rates) to understand the ratio between opening and clicking/conversion for different segments of your audience and different email marketing strategies.
Segment your audience based on current opening data
In the time left with complete email opening data, businesses need to spend significant time researching their mailing list. Segmenting your audience into cohorts based on all engagement metrics will at the very least help in the short term.
You will be able to continue sending targeted content to subscribers based on recent opening information. This will help bridge the gap to the post-iOS 15 update world and bide your business some time to determine how best to adapt your email marketing operations.
A helpful technique could be to compare specific cohorts within your apple mail subscribers to non-apple mail subscribers. You may be able to develop segment proxies based on similar engagement metrics from contacts in your mailing list, whose data you can continue to use in the future. While this is not a perfect solution and does not account for new apple mail subscribers in the future, it can help estimate some of the email opening data marketers are losing.
Test new email strategies now
Businesses should test new email marketing strategies now to mine as much information as possible about what content their audience finds compelling. It could be:
- Subject lines
- Send times
- New creatives
- Email volume
Making the most of the time remaining with accurate opening data will put you in the best position to drive engagement moving forward.
Clean up your deliverability
Now is the time to focus on getting your mailing list in order. You can’t rely on complete email opening data anymore, but you can improve your:
- lead quality
- list hygiene
- sender reputation
Fostering a high-quality mailing list made up of interested and engaged subscribers will lessen the impact of losing opening data.
Ready Your Brand for the Apple Update
Apple’s new Mail Privacy Protection feature coming this autumn promises to shake up the email marketing industry. Marketers must adapt to the new reality and transform their existing practices to utilise the available data and build successful new campaigns.
Businesses that take steps now to prepare for the iOS 15 update give themselves the best chance to succeed in the future.
Crazy Domains email marketing platform is a great way to assess your current email marketing strategies, research your mailing list, clean up your deliverability, and continue tracking other engagement metrics. Get in touch today to find out more.