Apple Privacy Protection

…rather, it’s a chance for marketers to track email performance beyond just open rates. In this blog, we look at ways in which Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection can impact email marketers, and five alternative and effective strategies they can employ to work around this feature  

In the last few years, marketers have taken a fundamental leap in the way they interact with consumers. Instead of groping in the dark, they’ve gained access to heaps of consumer data to create targeted, highly relevant and timely campaigns.  

Think about the last time you looked up a product or a brand on the web. Chances are that the very same day, you received an email from that brand nudging you towards a purchase. That’s the power of targeted marketing. 

But, in recent times, such wide access to personal data has also come with a number of security measures like GDPR compliance and ePrivacy regulations. These measures have been introduced to protect consumers and give them more power over how their personal data is used. These are necessary measures, no doubt. But they’ve also sent marketers into a tizzy and back to their drawing board to come up with new ways to reach out to their consumers. 

One such big jolt marketers faced in recent times is Apple’s new Mail Privacy Protection feature. In September 2021, Apple announced that its iOS 15 and macOS 12 Monterey users can opt to protect their mail activity or hide their IP address, or both. 

How Apple’s Mail Privacy Feature works 

Usually, when marketers send an email, they can add a tracking pixel to collect data related to your IP address, location, the number of times you’ve opened the email and so on. But, when Apple’s mail privacy protection is fully enabled, at indefinite intervals, Apple will download and route all your emails, including tracking pixels, through a proxy server to an Apple privacy cache. The cache requires permission from the email service provider (ESP) to download email content and images.  

So, when the contents of the email are downloaded into a cache, the ESP counts it as an opened mail. Whereas, the receiver may not even have opened the email.  

How does Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection impact e-mail marketers? 

Today, while marketers employ a number of campaign strategies such as organising focused webinars and virtual conferences to draw their customers to the brand, email marketing continues to be one of the most effective tools for tracking a customer journey through the sales funnel.  

Take a look at these statistics, for instance. Globally, there are 4.3 billion email users (Source: Statista). And, nearly 64% of small businesses use email marketing to reach out to customers. Marketers, in particular, send around 3-5 emails a week to engage with their customers. And not without results. 31% of marketers have found email newsletters to be the best way to nurture leads. And, marketers who used segmented campaigns have seen 7x growth in revenue numbers. (Source: Campaign Monitor). 

To understand how Apple’s MPP is going to affect email marketing for these brands, let’s first look at the various metrics marketers employ to track a customer’s journey.  

  • Tracking open rates 

Open rates is one of the basic metrics marketers use to track how many customers have opened their email. With Apple’s MPP, since the emails are pre-downloaded, it’s likely the marketers will see a 100% email open rate, but not be able to measure how many customers ACTUALLY opened the email.  

  • Segmenting email campaigns  

Marketers segment customers into groups based on location, age group, personal preferences and the like, to send more relevant content to them. If marketers have segmented customers based on most opens to least opens, the data they receive from Apple mail users may not be entirely accurate. In fact, it may not work even if they’ve set up an email campaign to trigger a series of emails based on whether a customer opens or doesn’t open their email. 

  • Taking customers through a nurture journey 

Marketers set up a series of emails to be triggered based on how the customers respond to the email. For example, if the marketer has set up an open-based trigger, the emails may periodically go into the customer’s inbox, but there’s no data on whether the customer read the email or not. And there’s every chance that every email triggered based on the customer’s email activity may or may not be useful in taking them down the sales funnel.  

  • Measuring performance through subject line A/B testing 

Marketers send two sets of emails with two different subject lines to track which of these has a higher open rate. This, again, may get affected by Apple’s MPP.  

  • Tracking individual customer data 

At times, marketers add pixels into the email to track the time, location and device the customer used when opening the email. Since Apple’s MPP feature prevents tracking this data, marketers cannot rely on this metric anymore. 

5 alternative tactics marketers can employ to create effective email marketing campaigns 

One of the basic shifts that marketers need to do is reduce weightage on success of emails based on open rates and clicks. There are several other alternatives they can look at to still find out how effective their email marketing campaign is.  

Let’s look at what they are. 

Measuring conversion rate: Instead of merely focusing on open rates, marketers can track how many customers have clicked on the link and visited the landing page, or how many have purchased from the email link.  

A/B testing with other email users: We bet not all your customers are Apple users. You can still create effective email marketing campaigns and see how well it is performing with customers who use Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook or other ESPs. This should give you a fair idea into how likely your Apple mail user will open your email.  

Make your emails more engaging: How about a poll? Maybe a game to engage your users? Or how about just being honest about asking what your customer wants to read in his/her inbox, and how frequently they want to hear from you? Here’s what the women’s clothing brand, Loft, did. They emailed their customers and asked them to update their preferences, so that they receive only what they want to see. The subject line was; ‘Happy Inbox, Happy Life’.  

Measuring growth rate (number of email subscribers): A great way to find out if your emails are effective is to measure how many subscribers and unsubscribe/ spam notifications you’re getting from your customers. You know you’re doing good if you are getting more sign-ups on your content or newsletter. Alternatively, have a simple mechanism in place to help your customers express how they feel about your email content. For example, you can add emojis in your email for your customers to express how they feel about your content in just one click.

Measuring forwarding or email sharing rate: There are many third-party tools, like SalesHub, that you can use to track how many times the customer has opened your email, and how many times it has been forwarded to another recipient. This is a good metric to find out how your email is performing. 

In conclusion, the onset of Apple’s MPP is not all bad news for marketers. It’s in fact an opportunity for them to go beyond measuring just open rates to finding ROI on email marketing through other, more solid metrics like conversion, click-throughs, subscriptions and purchases. It pushes marketers to be more thoughtful about what their customers want from them, rather than making it an all-in-sundry email. 

As we wrote in one of our earlier blogs, GDPR awareness has played a role in reducing revenue growth, especially at small businesses that rely on e-mail and digital marketing channels. As a marketing data expert at Merit puts it: “The key is to rethink your marketing efforts with a customer-first approach. Deeply understand what the end-user is looking for. Work backwards from there. And having access to the right data to feed into your marketing process is the first step ”  

Merit Group’s expertise in Marketing Data    

At Merit Group, we partner with some of the world’s leading B2B companies. Our data teams work closely with our clients to build comprehensive B2B marketing contact lists that provide a direct line to their target audience.   

If you’d like to learn more about our service offerings or speak to a marketing data consultant, please contact us here:  

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