How to prepare for Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection

Over the last few years, consumers began to be more concerned and have greater understanding of the importance of privacy. In a recent survey conducted by Statista, over half of respondents indicated a greater level of concern about their online privacy than just a year ago. This doesn’t come with much surprise, as consumers no longer feel in control of their personal data.

Mail Privacy Protection

Earlier this summer, Apple held its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC21) and announced Mail Privacy Protection as a feature that will be delivered with its iOS 15 software update. This news subsequently raised eyebrows for marketers and, in particular, with email marketers. Why?

Well, according to Apple, “Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. [It prevents] 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.”

Simply put, Apple Mail no longer provides marketers with specific insights and data like open rate and open location. With Apple iPhone ranking as the top email client overall at 37.7%, this update raised alarm bells for marketers because they relied on user behavior. They may lose a big piece of their analysis and data collection, on which many markers rely.

How will this impact consumers?

76% of buyers expect more personalized attention from marketers to develop an intimate relationship with your brand. When consumers opt-in for emails, they’ve invited the brand into their inbox to create and foster a meaningful relationship via email. Additionally, they opted in because they want and expect personalized and engaging experiences. This will become more difficult for marketers and, subsequently, more frustrating for consumers.

Marketers’ ability to deliver those experiences relies on these metrics and, due to Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection, marketers will no longer be able to deliver those personalized and engaging email experiences for subscribers. Instead, consumer inboxes could be flooded with generic, irrelevant emails.

Increased privacy and more privacy-focused initiatives are something to celebrate. But with so much uncertainty around Mail Privacy Protection’s impact on email campaigns, it’s causing marketers to question everything. Marketers need to embrace these changes and plan for the future. Here are a few tips to help:

1. Understand your subscriber base and their email preferences

Right off the bat, marketers need to understand how much of their subscriber base currently uses Apple Mail. Track and evaluate every email sent between now and the release date of Mail Privacy Protection. Email software could provide the breakdown of Apple-based email, which is the insight marketers need.

Additionally, ensure the email software used anonymizes and protects the privacy of the email audience by blocking all personally identifiable information (PII) and removing IP addresses. These insights give email marketers an inside look into whether their subscribers have access to this new privacy feature, while also ensuring their subscribers’ protection.

2. Start A/B testing everything you can

Once you understand your subscriber base, start A/B testing everything possible, from creative to timing. A/B testing consists of creating two versions of the same email with one variable changed. Then, send the email to two different audience groups to gain insight into performance. While marketers need to reconsider how they measure long-term email engagement, the initial A/B testing provides the necessary baseline to plan for the immediate future.

3. Evaluate where in your processes you rely on open rates

One important note to consider ahead of Mail Privacy Protection is the open rate metric. If most of your subscriber base is Apple Mail users, the rate will over-inflate once the release is live. The over-inflation causes Apple Mail open rates to look near 100%.

As a marketer, you might consider nixing the open rate metric — don’t. Instead, analyze if or when you depend on the metric throughout your current email program. Accomplish this by evaluating everyday activities where you heavily rely on opens to determine the winner of an A/B test, monitor deliverability or inbox placement or report on email program performance to leadership.

Once you are aware of your reliance, you can begin to address and eliminate these dependencies, ensuring your preparation for the release of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection.

4. Create a new personalization and performance measurement plan

While consumers want control of their personal information, they’ve also come to expect personalization from brands. Fifty-two percent of consumers agree that as digital experiences with brands become more personalized, their satisfaction improves. When done correctly, personalization gives brands the ability to create meaningful connections with their audience segment.

To continue engaging with customers in a personalized, one-to-one manner, marketers need to look beyond open rates. Instead, track deeper engagement metrics, such as click-through rate, forwards, prints and conversion rates. The data uncovered from tracking these will help build customer profiles and inform machine learning or artificial intelligence (AI) tools used for personalization, ensuring your email audience segments continue receiving engaging and personal emails.

Additionally, coordinate a plan of action for measuring email performance. As a marketer, you must set clear objectives and have a thorough understanding of measuring these objectives. Having measurable goals helps with reporting and showcases the value of your email program.

5. Maintain transparency with your subscriber base

Consumers want to invest and interact with trustworthy brands and, ultimately, consumer trust is the driver of a brand’s success. So, above all else, be transparent.

By openly communicating privacy practices, you build trust with your customers:

  • Share how you use email tracking data. If you use email data to inform other parts of your marketing strategy, be upfront about that, too.
  • Explain your company’s privacy practices, like protecting PII and how you comply with various privacy regulations, such as the GDPR and the CCPA.
  • Reinforce the value your brand places on customer and prospect relationships, as well as respecting choices regarding privacy.

While no one can be certain of the impact Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection will ultimately have on the email industry, marketers have control over how they adapt to privacy changes. As brands prepare for what’s ahead, email marketers need to remain focused on transparency and continuously delivering personalized, engaging, one-to-one experiences for their subscribers.

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