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Apple’s recent announcement about protecting users’ privacy has marketers wondering about the implications for their email marketing efforts. Some pundits are declaring the end of email marketing, while others are mostly shrugging off Apple’s maneuvers.

Nothing is scheduled to take effect until September when a new version of the Apple operating system rolls out, and a lot can happen between now and then, but marketers will need to pay attention and likely make some adjustments to their email marketing tactics.

Apple’s new Mail Privacy Protection applies specifically to the native Mail app on iPhones and iPads, and the desktop email application.

According to the Apple press release, “In the Mail app, 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.”

There will be other changes as well, but these are the most significant for industrial marketers:

Email open metrics

You will no longer be able to track email opens from those using the Apple mail app. Apple will also block forward tracking. If your subscriber forwards an email to another email address, you will not receive any tracking information on the forward.

Masking IP address

Apple will mask a user’s IP address, which will prevent marketers from tracking a user’s location or other online activity. This means less insight into your subscribers’ behavior and tendencies.

Dynamic content and device information

Apple will block dynamic content, such as live poll updates, carousels, and hamburger menus, forcing the user to actively download this content. In addition, marketers will no longer be able to discover what type of device is reading the email, which will impact email design decisions.

How industrial marketers should respond

Marketers should start preparing now for the upcoming changes Apple is implementing. One important measure is to look back at your analytics over the last six months to a year and identify trends.

Email opens have long been a metric tracked by industrial marketers to measure engagement. Your history of email opens documents how you’ve been trending in this area. Now you can expect a change, depending on what percent of your subscribers use the Apple email app. Your email open metrics are bound to increase, which will be inaccurate because with the Apple changes the open will be recorded as soon as you send the email.

Open rates can often be equated to the strength of the sender and subject line. They are not, however, the best measure of engagement. Nor is this the first time that marketers have fretted over open rates. Remember when email preview panes first became a thing? Subscribers could read some or all of the email content without actually recording an open of the email.

Most important: be relevant

The more important engagement metric is a click-thru on email content. A click-thru shows how interested your subscriber is in what you have to say and what you have to offer. The key takeaway is: make your content relevant to your audience. Click-thrus and subsequent conversions are the most powerful measurements of how relevant your content is and how well you engage your audience.

You may also need to pay more attention to other engagement metrics beyond email to get a better perspective on your audience. These include website visits, social media activity, orders, and account activity.

Another way to gain valuable information and increase engagement opportunities is to ask subscribers to update their preferences. Typically, you might ask what type of content subscribers are interested in receiving and how often. You can also add questions about whether they prefer dynamic content and what type of device they prefer to use.

Getting around masked IP addresses and the blocking of live content are more complex issues, although fewer marketers will need to contend with them. If you send live content and use IP addresses to track online behavior or location, you will likely need to get design and technical experts involved to work on solutions.

Ultimately, the impact of Apple’s privacy changes on email marketing remains to be recognized. It will likely be neither doomsday nor a non-event and instead fall somewhere in between. The Maven will continue tracking the situation and keep you updated as the new Apple OS rollout gets closer.

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