The email marketing landscape is constantly changing, which seems to be true more so now than ever. In June, Apple announced that it would soon be rolling out new privacy updates, Mail Privacy Protection (MPP), along with its new features in iOS15, potentially changing the way that email marketers track metrics. Changes will likely take effect in September when the update rolls out of beta, but no official date is set.
This leaves email marketers to find new ways to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns going forward. This is true not only for the upcoming Apple privacy changes but for future changes that other companies might roll out as they potentially follow suit.
Put simply, shift happens. And email marketers will need to find ways to adapt to change as higher standards of privacy are adopted.
Here is a recap of what was covered:
What does Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection include?
MPP will be protecting a person’s mail activity and personal information by auto-downloading all images through a proxy. This includes the open pixel, which is key to tracking.
Whenever an open pixel is loaded, and images are displayed, the service provider using that pixel will be able to report on who called that image for download, when, where, how many times, the device, etc.
However, Apple will now be calling all the images at one time from one place and caching them. This means that not only will a marketer not be able to accurately identify who opened, when, where, the device, etc., but they will also see inflation of activity, dramatically affecting the accuracy of the open rate data.
In addition to the MPP, Apple is rolling out additional privacy features with their iCloud + paid offering that impact tracking and offers more protection for a person’s data privacy.
These include Hide My Email (i.e., disposables), App Privacy (tracking who has access), and Private Relay via Safari (affecting the ability to see detailed traffic data).
What does it mean for the future of privacy policies and email marketing?
Apple’s privacy changes are likely going to make a big impact on reporting because, according to Litmus, more than 40% of consumers use Apple to read their mail. While this number considers user agents that are reported in the same manner as the mail app, it’s safe to say that the coverage is still significant, even if less than 40%.
Don’t forget, the Apple app is a mail agent, so it handles more than just Apple-owned domains, such as iCloud. Mail from other mailbox providers, including Gmail, Yahoo, MSFT, and more, can be ported into their mail client.
Although we don’t know how quickly others will take up changes similar to Apple’s tracking restriction, it’s likely that Apple will not be alone.
Given that privacy regulations have been consistently increasing with the rate of technology since the 1970s and consent-based marketing is required through regulations like GDPR and CCPA, it will be critical for marketers to stay flexible with their strategies and consent should be the foundation.
How should marketers approach email marketing from here?
While email marketers cannot control the regulations and updates that are adopted over time, there are some key areas that they can control in order to create a win-win for both the customer and the company: data, content, and strategy.
Looking at data differently
Although new privacy policies like Apple’s MPP will affect the depth of data that is available to marketers, data and metrics still remain one of a marketer’s most important tools that can be used to create a better customer experience.
For email specifically, it’s important to understand that the data we’ve been using as marketers is flawed, and it has been for some time. No email metric is 100% accurate. And even though the depth of our email data will be further impacted, the data is still a vital part of measurement and decisioning.
For example, we can receive bounce notices or NDRs, but the message was actually delivered. With engagement metrics, we have pre-fetched images, preview panes, blocked images, bots, scanning appliances for security, and only a subset of some feedback reports because not all complaints are or can be shared. All these things change how accurate our metrics truly are.
That’s why it’s critical to be able to zoom out, find the big picture, and dampen the noise by looking at the trend. Trends that can be spotted in the three main metrics in email marketing are still at play: opens, clicks, and conversions.
Opens – As described above, the metric that will be impacted the most by Apple’s MPP will be opens. However, just because we can’t measure an open for everyone does not mean that we can’t still measure them for non-Apple users.
You can still use opens as a gauge, so long as we remove the noise by spotting a larger trend. In other words, for now, look at the domains or user agents that don’t appear to be impacted by the change.
Use that data set as a guide for performance and issue identification with your campaign. And it will help guide you as you transition to new metrics and find the correlations between them and your success.
And even if our view of opens is obscured, the open action is still important for the receivers to see. Driving that interaction will still require a strong reputation, brand recognition, and relevant content.
Clicks – Since opens are going to be less accurate with the upcoming privacy updates, more emphasis may need to be put on metrics further down the funnel, like clicks.
Clicks will be relatively unchanged, and since they aren’t impacted, the noise level will remain the same for now.
Keep track of your progression and trending. Look for the peaks, valleys, and unexpected. Consider ways to drive a click or reply, where once before an open was enough.
Conversions – Since open rates will be less accurate after the new privacy rollout, the importance of conversion metrics will need to be emphasized to understand how effective your email campaigns are.
And getting good conversions (e.g., demos, sales) comes down to having the right kind of content that drives action further down the funnel.
Engaging your audience
Although we put an emphasis on data as marketers, people don’t experience data. They experience content. ~Vivek Shah, CEO at J2 Global
Focusing on delivering a good experience by engaging your audience with relevant, conversion-worthy content is ultimately what will drive your audience to take action.
There are several things to keep in mind when creating engaging content.
Give more than you take – As with depositing money into the bank, it’s important to make more deposits than withdrawals if you are to keep a healthy account.
It can often take a bit of nurturing to drive your audience to finally convert over time, but just like any investment, it will often pay off with consistency.
In your email marketing, deliver value up-front before asking your audience to take action.
Use preference data to personalize – Companies that extensively personalize their messaging report greater than 20 times ROI, according to the Adobe Personalization Survey 2020.
Personalization also improves customer loyalty, retention, and conversion rates.
Go multimedia – While good copywriting is always in style, it may lack the eye-catching qualities that get subscribers to ultimately read, click, and convert.
Images, video, and good email design are good ways to mix up your content in order to engage your audience in different ways.
Continuing to evolve your strategy
The new privacy initiatives from Apple put some big changes in store for marketers. And with those changes comes the need to adapt and evolve our email strategies.
In doing that, we need to look at the things that will never go out of style:
Reading the pulse of your customers through preference pages, surveys, and engaging with them on social media.
Engaging your audience in new ways through actions that won’t be affected by the privacy initiatives.
Examples include encouraging your audience to consume content on another medium, providing in-email actions to like or share, engage through MUA actions like ‘add a reminder’ or ‘star’ your email.
Also, enhance your message to drive engagement with provider tools like Google Actions or annotations, MSFT markup, Schema.org, BIMI, and AMP.
Maintaining a positive sender reputation is crucial, not only to your audience but with mailbox providers through email best practices and authentication.
The movement toward privacy in the digital world poses some challenges to marketers. But hey, shift happens. By looking at our data differently, engaging our audiences in creative ways, and staying flexible with our email strategies, we will be able to create effective email campaigns, no matter what changes are thrown our way.