What you’ll learn about the Apple Mail Privacy Protection Update:
- Apple has launched a new privacy feature that blocks marketers from seeing open rates on Apple Mail apps
- This removes a key metric from marketers’ tool belt—albeit a vanity metric
- There are many things marketers can do to stay ahead of this change
- Reprioritizing metrics
- Focusing on best practices
- Being creative
- Being proactive
Finding the balance between personalization and privacy is one of the biggest challenges in marketing, and it feels like Apple is tipping the scales. In early 2021, the tech giant launched a feature that allowed users to opt out of sharing personal identifiers for advertisers (IDFAs). This made it much harder for advertisers to target specific individuals based on their demographic or employment data. Now, they’ve taken it a step further.
A New Feature: Apple Mail Privacy Protection
With iOS 15, Apple is introducing the Mail Privacy Protection feature. A new component of the Apple Mail app, this opt-in feature stops invisible third-party pixels from gathering and sharing information about a person’s activity on the app. This means that email marketers won’t be able to see when someone opens their email on the Apple Mail app (both on mobile and desktop) or where they are when they open it.
If this feels like a big deal, it’s because it is. Apple mail products were used to open almost 50% of emails in 2020—so marketers could potentially lose half of their open rate data points overnight. And while there may still be people who choose not to implement this feature on their devices, the previous IDFA update shows us that people value their privacy. Only 20% of Apple users have opted in for ad tracking since the privacy update launched.
Losing insight into open rates has some downstream implications that you’ll need to account for. Without them, A/B testing subject lines will be pointless. You won’t have enough data to indicate which subject line is more effective. Plus, you’ll lose access to location information, making it harder to target individuals with personalized location information.
That all said, this shouldn’t be cause for throwing in the towel. In fact, we think it’s an opportunity for marketers to once again show their resiliency and become even more effective with their email marketing capabilities. Here’s how.
4 Ways You Can Mitigate the Impact of Mail Privacy Protection
As we suggested above, creating the perfect blend of privacy and personalization is an ongoing challenge for marketers as they try to engage prospects and existing customers alike. This is why our industry is constantly finding new ways to deliver engaging content that drives conversions—whether that’s focusing on content marketing or building a robust video strategy—in ways that feel like we’re speaking directly to our audience.
For email, as we navigate Mail Privacy Protection and the other features that are bound to follow, there are many things we can do to tip the scales back in our direction.
1. Reprioritize Your Metrics
You know this, we know this: open rates are largely a vanity metric—and they always have been. Due to their limited scope, they can’t really speak to the value of your email’s messaging or the product or service you’re trying to sell. In addition, as people are becoming more privacy aware and adopt different solutions to protect their personal information, comparing one email’s open rate to one from a few months prior doesn’t really tell us much.
Some marketers also use favorable open rates as a way to make us feel better when the click-through rate is lagging—but that doesn’t really get us anywhere. Yes, you do need people to open your email to read it, but how can a successful subject line really make up for the fact that people aren’t clicking through to read more of your content or buy your product?
Instead, it’s important for you to focus on what prompts your audience to engage with your content once they’ve opened it. Are they interested in controversial or humorous headlines? Do they click on eye-catching design elements? Or do they respond to appealing calls to action?
Getting this visibility will be critical to refining your email marketing strategy—and inform the approach you take on your subject lines and previews moving forward.
2. Don’t Forget Your Best Practices
With Mail Privacy Protection around the corner, your instinct may be to find a workaround like an external CSS pixel, but we don’t suggest going down that route. Chances are, Apple has the resources to stop these tricks in their tracks so that they can continue to advocate for their users’ privacy. And then you’ll just be right back where you started.
The alternative? Take a look at the best practices you’re already implementing, and keep doing them. These are the elements that will continue to keep your audience engaged—even if you can’t be sure they’re opening your emails.
- Send your emails from a real person on behalf of the brand—not the brand itself
- Write short and snappy subject lines
- Have your preview text build on the subject line
- Use conversational, human language
- Depending on your brand voice, write content that’s funny, valuable, or provocative
As privacy measures continue to increase, marketers will have to keep doing all the things they’re already doing, but better.
3. Be Creative
Now that your performance metrics will rely more on click-throughs and engagement within the email itself, maximizing creativity in your emails is a must. Pushing the envelope on your brand elements and finding different visual ways to capture your audience’s attention can be the key to success in your email marketing efforts. Designing bold, attractive emails can also help your readers look forward to reading your content while also building familiarity with your brand—which is key when they want to explore their options.
4. Stay Proactive
You have all the resources and best practices you need to stay ahead of Mail Privacy Protection, so don’t wait til it’s too late. As people start installing iOS 15, get your team to work together and reprioritize your performance metrics—as well as where you spend your time on email campaigns.
Don’t forget to take a look at the information you already have. Your current and historical data can be valuable resources that inform your future campaigns. For instance, as you head into the holiday season, any learnings from last year or the year before can inform your subject lines, design elements, and the type of language you use. As you implement those changes, you can rest assured that your open rates will likely remain the same or improve, and you can focus on the substance of your emails instead.
Changes that affect the marketing space can be scary—that’s true for all of us. However, choosing to look at these changes as opportunities to do better and improve how you engage with your audiences will set you and your team up for success in the long run.
Want to continue the conversation? At Umami Marketing, we’re always keen to talk about any changes in the industry and how they’re affecting our clients. Get in touch and let’s chat.
Photo by Stephen Phillips