How Apple’s Mail Privacy Will Change Email Marketing

How Apple’s Mail Privacy Will Change Email Marketing

Privacy protection is more important than ever to consumers. With that, we’ve seen the rise of measures such as GDPR and CCPA compliance intended to protect internet users’ personal data. It was only a matter of time before tech companies took those protections a step further.

This month, Apple joined Google and Yahoo with plans to ramp up email privacy protections for its users. Its latest update, iOS 15, includes a new feature called Mail Privacy Protection, which “stops senders from using pixels to collect information about a user,” according to Apple.

The tech giant adds that 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.”

Marketers have long had a wealth of resources—digital marketing, social media, and email marketing—at their disposal to tap into their audiences and reach them directly. And while the Apple update is big news for the industry (almost half of the U.S. population uses iPhones), Gmail and Yahoo mail have masked IPs for years. This is not a new change for most email marketers but will require them to continue shifting how they approach their online marketing strategies.

What is mail privacy protection?

Like Apple’s App Tracking Transparency tool released earlier this year, Apple Mail users will have to opt-in to the new mail privacy feature. When someone first opens the Apple Mail app after installing the iOS update, a message will prompt them to either “Protect Mail Activity” or “Don’t Protect Mail Activity.”

Research indicates it is highly likely most users will opt into the privacy protections. An analysis by Apple Insider found that only 4% of users opt-in to ad tracking when prompted. With similar language, we will likely see similar rates for email tracking.

The implications of this update for marketers are twofold. The two major features of Mail Privacy Protection are open tracking prevention and IP tracking prevention.

With open tracking prevention, instead of downloading the content when the recipient opens the mail, Apple will download remote content in the background to prevent accurate tracking of opens.

The update will also impact open tracking. It will no longer be possible to use opens as a metric to report on or to create specialized email campaigns.

The update’s IP tracking Protection feature means mail will now download remote content through a series of proxy servers to hide the IP address of the subscriber.

Email campaigns that target email personalization based on IP location will also see an impact. Geo-based tracking will become vaguer (Apple will return location based on region).

How the update will affect email personalization

The big question for many marketers is if they will still be able to personalize email messaging. The answer is a definitive “Yes,” but the way you track your email engagement, and the way you go about personalizing your email marketing, will have to change.

How much your email marketing will change will come down to three things:

  1. How many people use Apple mobile products
  2. How many of those users opt-in to Mail Privacy Protection
  3. How well marketers can adapt and find other ways to tap into user data

How this will impact personalization with Monetate

It’s more important than ever to convert visitors when they land on digital channels due to these rising costs in customer acquisition. This requires a holistic solution that offers email as part of a wider personalization strategy, with less moving parts and fewer data sources.

Currently, Monetate clients’ product or content recommendations are delivered when the recipient opens the email. With the new release, Apple will download content in the background before the actual open event. This means recommendations or content will go from real-time at open to near real-time.

The experiences and strategies that Monetate clients have created to power recommendations and content in their emails will still leverage the same browse and purchase behavior of the recipient, but the timing of the delivery will go to near-real-time after the Apple update.

Clients will still be able to personalize email campaigns with product or content recommendations based on actual browse, purchase, and other user interactions, but there will be new limitations on IP/geo visibility. Furthermore, open-rate tracking will go away, which will impact email reporting based on opens and email campaigns that use opens as an event for subsequent email campaigns. That said, click-through visibility and tracking (when a user clicks a link within the email) will not be impacted by these changes.

As these and future privacy-oriented features continue to evolve, Monetate is committed to honoring consumer privacy while enabling our clients to deliver personalization across all channels, including email. Email should remain a vital part of our client’s personalization strategies, and we look forward to partnering with each client to enable their success.