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.

Why Mail Privacy Protection Matters for Email Marketing

Understanding the significance of Apple Mail Privacy Protection is pivotal for marketers as it brings forth a new era in the realm of email marketing. There are several reasons why this feature is not only important but also transformative for the industry:

Enhanced User Privacy and Trust 

First and foremost, Apple’s initiative significantly enhances the privacy of users. By preventing senders from acquiring information through invisible pixels and masking IP addresses, users gain more control over their data. This fortified privacy can lead to increased trust among Apple Mail users, which is beneficial for brands that value consumer trust and want to build long-term relationships with their audience.

Shift in Email Marketing Metrics 

With the implementation of Mail Privacy Protection, traditional metrics like open rates and location-based targeting are no longer reliable. Marketers will need to pivot and adopt new KPIs and strategies to effectively measure engagement and campaign success. This change prompts a much-needed evaluation and possibly an overhaul of current email marketing practices, leading to more innovative and accurate approaches to gauging performance and user interaction.

Focus on Content Quality and Relevance 

Since open rates are no longer a dependable metric, the focus shifts towards creating high-quality, relevant content that resonates with the audience. The inability to rely on open rates as a primary success metric means marketers must pay more attention to other engagement indicators like click-through rates and conversion rates. The quality of the content becomes paramount, as it plays a crucial role in driving these metrics, leading to a better user experience and potentially higher customer retention.

Redefinition of Personalization Strategies 

Personalization in email marketing is undergoing a significant transformation due to the Apple Mail Privacy Protection. With IP addresses being masked, geo-targeting becomes less precise. Marketers will need to explore alternative personalization techniques, perhaps leveraging behavioral data and preference centers, to continue delivering tailored content effectively. This shift may also encourage the development and adoption of new technologies and methodologies designed to facilitate personalization in a privacy-centric landscape.

Compliance and Adaptation to Evolving Privacy Norms 

Apple’s move reflects the broader, global trend towards enhanced digital privacy. By adapting to these changes proactively, brands not only comply with these emerging norms but are also better positioned to navigate future privacy-related updates and policies. Being ahead in this domain helps in projecting a responsible and customer-centric brand image, which is vital in today’s competitive market where consumers are increasingly conscious of their digital rights and privacy.

When did Mail Privacy Protection Go into Effect?

Mail Privacy Protection was introduced with Apple’s launch of iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey. This update was officially rolled out to the public in September 2021, signaling a significant shift in the email marketing landscape. With this rollout, users of Apple Mail on iPhones, iPads, and Macs were provided with the opportunity to enable Mail Privacy Protection on their devices, further securing their email privacy from marketers and third parties seeking to collect data through pixels and other tracking tools. Since its introduction, marketers and businesses have been working diligently to adapt their email marketing strategies to navigate through and comply with these privacy-centric changes successfully.

What Hasn’t Changed About Email Marketing

Despite the privacy advancements brought about by Apple, the core principles and objectives of email marketing remain steadfast. Here’s what stays constant:

The Purpose 

Email marketing continues to serve its primary purpose: to communicate with audiences directly in their inboxes, fostering relationships, building brand loyalty, and driving conversions. Whether it’s disseminating information, promoting products, or engaging customers, the essence and goals of email marketing are intact.

Permission-Based Marketing 

The foundational practice of acquiring consent from recipients before sending marketing emails remains unchanged. Opt-in email lists are as crucial as ever, ensuring that businesses communicate with engaged and interested audiences, thereby enhancing campaign effectiveness and maintaining compliance with regulations.

Content is King 

Quality content remains the cornerstone of successful email campaigns. Crafting compelling, relevant, and valuable content is indispensable, as it attracts and retains audience attention, encouraging engagement and conversions while reflecting your brand’s voice and values.

Call to Action 

CTAs are still pivotal in guiding recipients towards desired actions, whether it’s making a purchase, subscribing to a newsletter, or learning more about a product. Clear, compelling, and strategic CTAs within emails contribute to campaign success by driving user engagement and conversions.

Testing and Analysis 

Continuous improvement through testing and analyzing campaign results persists as a best practice. A/B testing, analyzing engagement metrics, and adjusting strategies based on insights are vital for optimizing campaign performance and achieving marketing objectives.

With these unaltered aspects, marketers can find solace in the familiarity amid the changes, strategizing effectively to create email campaigns that resonate with audiences while respecting their privacy preferences.

The Future with Mail Privacy Protection

The introduction of Apple Mail Privacy Protection is undeniably reshaping the landscape of email marketing. While it introduces new challenges for marketers, it also offers an opportunity to innovate and improve the ways we engage with audiences through email. In the long term, these changes are poised to foster more transparent, respectful, and effective email marketing practices that align with the expectations and rights of the modern consumer.