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No, Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection Isn’t Going to Kill Email



With Apple's announcement of its new Mail Privacy Protection, Digitas' Erik Instefjord and Erin Blake discuss why marketers must take action now to prepare

No, Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection Isn’t Going to Kill Email

Apple recently unveiled a slew of new features coming to the Apple ecosystem this fall with the release of iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey. In addition to much-anticipated enhancements to iMessages, Facetime and notification settings, Apple has continued its push for customer privacy with a handful of features that will have significant, wide-ranging implications for marketers. Given that Apple Mail is the most used email browser -- both Litmus and Movable Ink report that Apple Mail accounts for nearly half of all email opens -- it is imperative that marketers take action now to prepare. That said, reports of email’s death have (once again) been greatly exaggerated. These new features are just the latest in the ongoing shift to give consumers more control over their data, and marketers who view this as an opportunity to evolve their approach to focus on consent and explicitly-shared information will come out on top.

What is Changing?

When iOS 15 launches in September, Mail Privacy Protection will give users of Apple’s Mail app the ability to block certain information from senders. For users who opt to enable this feature, Mail Privacy Protection will block users’ IP addresses and location so senders can’t link email activity to other online behaviours to build a profile. Additionally, it will prevent senders from knowing if and when an email is opened by blocking tracking pixels, impacting not just a commonly tested and reported metric but also any and all segmentation, dynamic personalisation and journey work tied to opens. 

Apple also announced that it is expanding Hide My Email to give users even more control over who can see their personal email addresses. Hide My Email will be built into Mail, Safari and apps enabled with Sign In With Apple, and will give users the option to create a randomly-generated email address rather than providing their personal address at sign up or sign in. Messages will then be forwarded by Apple to the real address. So while this won’t impede marketing messages from making it to subscribers’ inboxes, it will reduce the reliability of email address as a digital identifier for profile-building and cross-channel experience orchestration for customers who opt to mask their addresses.

Three actions to take:

  1. Educate your organisation. Expect your open rates to decrease starting in September. Get ahead of this by briefing your leadership teams on what’s happening so there are no surprises when adjusted metrics start rolling in. Communicate beyond those who own email and CRM. If 'Hide Your Email' has significant usage, it will have implications for your data and media teams.

  2. Shift away from opens as an indicator of engagement. Aside from being a primary reporting metric, there are use cases where an email open is commonly used to make decisions for the next customer touchpoint. Email automation may be programmed to change the customer flow based on whether they open the emails within it. This update will force us to consider alternatives like click-through, site/app behaviour, and conversion as indicators that a different messaging stream is needed. Similarly, unengaged or dormant audiences are typically defined by a lack of open and click behaviour over a given time period. As long as you are looking for clicks, you don’t necessarily need to change your logic. However, use this as an opportunity to think a little deeper. If a customer is not engaging with email but still purchases, should you really consider them unengaged? The impression of an email in the inbox alone may be contributing to conversion in that case.

  3. Monitor the number of randomised Apple email addresses on your list to understand the potential impact of 'Hide Your Email'. If you see a steady or substantial increase, work with your data and media teams to manage your first-party data strategy to address it.


Three behaviours to continue:

  1. Keep using open rate as an input to the overall health of your email marketing program. The open metric is still relevant. You will need to establish new benchmarks, but comparisons going forward will be valid. Industry benchmarks will also continue to have a role in the measurement process. Remember, this is happening to the entire industry, not just you.

  2. Continue testing your subject lines. You likely have plenty of non-Apple Mail volume to make your test results significant and actionable. You may need to increase the size of your test groups to get enough response, but this remains by far your best path to subject line optimisation.

  3. Real-time email personalisation is not dead. While countdown timers and location targeting have been the shiny objects that often drive brands to these solutions, contextual targeting represents just one piece of the many use cases these partners drive. Most are capabilities that will still be actionable, such as activating customer data in real-time. Whether through your own solutions or a third-party partner, continue to explore ways to deliver the most relevant content possible.

Make no mistake, this update is a disruption to the digital marketing ecosystem. The age of consumer privacy is here to stay and we should expect continued evolution in that area. But there’s no reason to over-react or panic. By taking a few steps in the time you have to prepare, you’ll be well positioned for success.

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Digitas USA, Tue, 22 Jun 2021 09:27:57 GMT