The Latest on Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection Feature
What’s Going On?
On September 20, 2021, Apple announced a new privacy feature that gives users more control over which of their email activities can be tracked. Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) removes the ability of email providers to accurately track open rates and other open-based metrics, along with users’ IP addresses, which reveal location data and other insights.
The new privacy feature is now available in the Apple Mail app on iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and watchOS 8. To understand the scope of this change, nearly half of ALL email users use Apple Mail on iPhone, iPad, or Mac (Litmus). It’s important to note that this new feature does not affect any other mail app — like Gmail or Outlook — on Apple devices.
Apples new Mail Privacy Protection will prevent marketers from knowing:
- If or when and email was opened
- Where the email recipient is located geographically
- Type of device and email client the recipient is using
Why Is This Important?
Gone are the days when marketers had unfettered access to internet users’ data. This is just one more move in a long line of privacy measures — by both tech companies and governments alike — that gives end users more control over who can use their information, and for what purposes. Generally, when users are given the option to protect their data, they do — so we can expect that a majority of Apple Mail users will opt in to MPP. That might mean a significant chunk of your existing database can no longer be tracked in the same way.
How Does It Work?
Many email providers — like MailChimp, Lasso, and Hubspot — track opens by placing a single-pixel image into the email campaign, which downloads each time someone clicks on an email. With MPP, Apple Mail will preload ALL email content — including the tracking pixel — before it ever reaches the user’s inbox. All emails will now be marked as opened, even if they were not.
Not only will MPP impact open rate, it will affect all open-related metrics, including:
- Database segments that are based on open rate
- Automated workflows based on open rates (such as in Hubspot or Salesforce)
- A/B testing that uses open rate to determine the results
- Resends to non-opens
So What Do We Do?
Email is far from dead, and is still considered to be one of the highest ROI marketing strategies. But marketers will need to make some adjustments. Since you won’t be able to track open rates for potentially half of your database, you’ll need to shift focus to the email metrics that you CAN still rely on, like:
- Click Rates
- Click Through Rates (CTR)
- Bounce Rates
- Email Traffic to Site
Keep track of these numbers and continue to adjust and refine your email campaigns to improve them. Here are a few other steps you can take now:
- Use reporting to understand how many contacts use Apple Mail, so that you know which percentage of your database in potentially impacted
- Create a list of contacts who regularly open emails who are NOT Apple Mail clients.
- Audit any workflows or processes that rely on email opens.
- Change how you measure email success.
- If you’ve been A/B testing, identify and group the winners
Don’t Panic… Proceed!
While it’s always nice to know who opened your email, open rate has never been the marker of email marketing success. Clicks and CTRs have always been the ultimate way to measure effective campaigns, and even with Apple’s new privacy feature rollout, that won’t change.
No matter what’s going on in the ever-evolving marketing landscape, smart marketers will look for new and innovative ways to continue reaching their audience. When change like this happens (and it always will), it’s the best time to go back to the basics and understand who your audience is, what they’re looking for, if what you are offering them is valuable, and how you can continue to surprise and delight them.