Understanding Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection and How to Prepare

by | Sep 17, 2021 | Digital, Marketing

The digital marketing landscape is constantly changing and marketers need to be prepared for an upcoming shift that will disrupt email marketing.

In June at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple announced Mail Privacy Protection, a new feature in the Mail app that will prevent email marketers from using invisible pixels to collect information from recipients.

Let’s explore how Mail Privacy Protection works, how it will impact marketers, and how you can prepare for this new feature.

How Mail Privacy Protection Works
The new feature works by requesting and loading all images in an email, such as the invisible tracking pixel, from the sender’s email service provider’s (ESP) server. This causes the ESP to believe that the email was opened. Additionally, when a user does actually open an email the images will be loaded from Apple’s cache. This will impact other data typically collected, such as location and IP address.

Mail Privacy Protection will not be turned on by default when it is released as part of iOS 15, users will have to opt-in. They will be prompted to enable the new feature. However, based on opt-ins for Apple’s recent iOS App Tracking Protection, it is anticipated that most users (85%+) will opt-in.

For Apple Mail users who opt-in for Mail Privacy Protection, this feature will be used across Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, Mac, etc.) regardless of the email service used. Mail Privacy Protection will not impact other email clients and apps used by Apple users such as Outlook app and the Gmail app.

What Mail Privacy Protection Will Impact
With the release of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection many traditional email metrics and strategies will be impacted and, in some cases, will no longer be usable. Here are the most common changes:

  • Open rates will be an unreliable metric and will skew significantly higher due to Apple fetching images from ESPs regardless of if the email was ever opened.
  • A/B testing subject lines based on open rates to determine the winner, or to automatically send out the winner, will no longer work.
  • Audience segments or targeting based on the last open date will no longer be useful due to false opens. Additionally, this will make it difficult for marketers to purge unengaged contacts.
  • Automated journeys, campaigns, and conversion series that use open rates as triggers.
  • Countdown timers, often used in email campaigns to convey a sense of urgency, may begin to show outdated times due to the emails being cached at the time of delivery.
  • Send time optimization

When Will Mail Privacy Protection Be Released?
Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection will be a new feature incorporated into iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 which is scheduled to be released on September 20, 2021. Mail Privacy Protection will be available for Apple Mail for macOS (iMac, MacBook, Mac Pro) when macOS Monterey launches in late 2021 (date has not yet been released).

How to Prepare for Mail Privacy Protection
While the release of Mail Privacy Protection will certainly cause major changes in email marketing, there are many ways to be prepared and thrive.

  • Ensure your measure of success is focused on ROI and conversions.
  • The degree to which each organization will be impacted by Mail Privacy Protection will vary. Take time to evaluate what percentage of your email list uses Apple’s Mail app to understand how significant an impact this will have on your email marketing.
  • Update email automation journeys to trigger based on metrics such as clicks or conversions.
  • Update A/B testing to be based on clicks or engagement.
  • Utilize engagement metrics to help keep your email lists clean as opposed to the open rate metric, which has traditionally been the primary metric for list cleaning.

In conclusion, Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection is forcing changes across the email marketing world, and organizations need to be prepared to adapt quickly. However, these changes will further shift the measurement of success to more vital metrics such as ROI and conversions. There is one guarantee in digital marketing and that is change. This is not the first major change to email marketing, and it will not be the last. But with a strategic focus and clear understanding of success, your email fundraising and marketing will continue to drive significant results for your organization.

Let Infinity Concepts use our expertise to develop your email marketing strategy!
CLICK HERE or call us today at 724-733-1200.

Andy Walker