7 Ways to Prepare Your Email Marketing Strategy for the New Apple Mail Privacy Protection Policy
Privacy protection is a growing concern in just about every industry, but especially in marketing. From the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) to the elimination of third-party cookies and implementation of new email regulations, it is integral that marketers understand how these new rules affect marketing campaign data.
According to Apple, the new policy “stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. 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.”
When will this take effect and how will it be implemented?
Once the new opt-in policy takes effect between September and November 2021, Apple Mail app users will be prompted with a message asking them to choose to either Protect Mail Activity or Don’t Protect Mail Activity. Based on Apple’s low opt-in rates to allow advertising app tracking which, as of May, are at 15% globally and 6% in the U.S., a good assumption is that most people are going to choose to be protected.
It is important to note that this policy only affects users of Apple’s Mail app. If a user has their Gmail or Outlook accounts synced into the Apple Mail app, they will be affected. Users of the Gmail app or Outlook app on their Apple device will not be affected by the new policy to the best of our knowledge.
According to Litmus, after a user selects Protect Mail Activity, "Apple will first route emails through a proxy server to pre-load message content—including tracking pixels—before serving to readers. Even if readers don’t actually open those emails."
For marketers, IP tracking and location tracking will mainly impact open personalization’s. For instance, if email content depends on location-specific data (ex. Weather, Local Stores), that may no longer be accurate. Additionally, any email analytics based on location data will no longer be reliable.
Email read receipts are also going to have an impact, but the full effect is still unclear. Many marketers use open rates to determine a variety of subscriber engagements and marketing actions. With the new policy, open rates will also be unreliable because a user could open the Apple Mail app, but not open an email, and that could count as an open. Then they could open that email on a desktop and that is counted as an open, resulting in a subscriber being counted twice.
What should marketers do?
While this may seem like a lot is changing, there are plenty of actions you and your team can take now to help prepare for the new policy implementation. And if more email service providers start to implement similar policies, you will already be in a good place to tackle any future changes.
Create a reliable open audience. Create an audience of all non-Apple Mail users by using device identification analytics. Use this audience to test and determine current open rates to have a reliable comparison for the future.
Get a baseline. Gather statistics on how your emails perform so you have an understanding what works now before the policy takes place.
What portion of your user base uses specific email clients (Apple Mail, Gmail, etc.)?
What emails have the best open rates?
What emails work best for each list?
Create lists based on location data that you have now.
What is the best time to send emails?
Test. If you don’t know what subject lines works best for your audience, now is the time to do A/B testing.
Review your email system. Before you can offset the changes to open rates with new strategies, you must first know where those dependencies are in your current system. Here is a list of dependencies to check:
Triggers in workflows
A/B test winners
Build lists and segments
Suppress unengaged subscribers
Optimize send times
Real-time inventory updates
Emails opened in last x days
Re-engagement and re-confirmation campaigns. Ensure subscribers are receiving emails and content they want, at the frequency they prefer, by promoting preference center updates, and using re-engagement and re-confirmation campaigns. Also, these will be integral moving forward so as a best practice, run these campaigns at least twice a year or quarterly. You can even make preferences more accessible by including them in other content such as a newsletter. The more people can personalize how they want to be communicated with, the better their engagement.
List hygiene and list creation. Based on the above recommendations, list hygiene, creating lists, and segmentation will continue to be important as you will no longer be able to reply on open rates as sign of deliverability problems.
Remove unengaged subscribers
Remove hard bounces
Create an Apple Mail users list
Create lists based on current location data
Clean up sender reputation (make sure you aren’t blacklisted)
Expand engagement metrics. To offset the limitations of the Apple policy, utilizing additional data points and strategies will be key.
Replace email open rates with click rates
Pay closer attention to unsubscribes or spam complaints
Take a more holistic subscriber view – where can you pull in other data or systems to help understand full subscriber engagement?
Mobile push notification engagement
Portal or account logins
Continued Evolution of Email Marketing
As with GDPR and CCPA, email marketers continue to evolve and innovate to provide personalized experiences to subscribers. While Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection policy will have some effect, it is not the downfall of email as we know it. Remember, email open rates are not the only stat marketers have in their toolbox. Using the strategies outlined above, you and your team can evolve and continue to win the inbox.
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