If you’re an email marketer or have responsibility for CRM within your organisation you’re probably trying to get your head around the recent announcement from Apple regarding Apple Mail’s Privacy Protection.
What does this mean, how does this work and most importantly do I need to be worried!?
To help you out we posed some of these pressing questions to three internal experts at RedEye, Danni Hunt our Head of Multi-Channel, James Ede our Head of Customer Success and Rachael Kotadia our Head of Marketing.
Insights from these experts should help you not only get up to speed but enable you to plan what to do next, as well as provide some comfort that it’s not the end of email marketing!
Danni Hunt, Head of Multi-Channel at RedEye answers questions on what the announcement means and how it works
1. In nutshell, what was the announcement from Apple?
At the latest Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), they announced a few changes but the one most causing most discussion is their new ‘Mail Privacy Protection’ for their mail app on iOS 15. This enables the customer to decide to ‘disable’ a level of tracking from emails they receive, which in turn restricts the tracking a brand can receive – mostly in regard to open rates.
Emails have invisible pixels embedded that download when an email is opened, by blocking these pixels it prohibits the brand from knowing if the customer has opened the email and it hides their IP so they can’t be linked to a location or other online activity.
2. This announcement seems slightly unexpected, was that the case?
It was unexpected as no-one knew that was being announced the other week, however for a while now the industry has been under pressure to give customers more control over their data.
Apple already announced through iOS 14.5 that users would have to opt in to be tracked through apps like Facebook (and there are some initial stats to suggest that only 6% of iOS users have opted into app tracking), so it was inevitable that it would spread across other digital marketing channels at some point.
This also has been the general direction of travel for Apple going back to 2017 when they introduced their Intelligent Tracking Protocol for web cookies, something we’ve been monitoring and testing ever since.
And RedEye have been actively looking at ways to get engagement insight using ways which aren’t considered so obtrusive.
3. What does this mean for the marketer?
Inevitably it means that open rate will become a far less valuable metric to track and use as some customers could restrict that information being shared with you.
Those brands that rely on opens for engagement segmentation or success reporting will need to change their strategy to be more click or conversion orientated.
This could also have a knock-on effect into location-based messaging or time-based content such as countdown timers if the customer blocks the tracking, potentially reducing the ability for brands to send personalised or engaging content within their emails to those customers.
Finally, it will also impact the building of testing plans as brands will need to consider other core metrics when measuring the success of subject lines or pre-headers with opens no longer an option.
4. What about deliverability as that is traditionally heavily reliant on opens?
At RedEye we champion good deliverability practice and yes open rates is a metric that ISPs use to assess if you are a good sender or not, but it is only one metric.
If you undertake regular list hygiene to remove unwanted or invalid emails from your send lists this improves the volume of emails that are successfully delivered.
Or while it’s still a slightly useful metric, pull a list of all those who have never opened a single email from your brand and add these to a suppression lists now, again improving your overall deliverability from now.
Finally, if you start to move towards more click rate engagement metrics for your segmentation, then those who usually click through on your emails are high openers so deliverability will improve if you have a focus on these customers going forward.
James Ede our Head of Customer Success at RedEye answers questions in relation to the customer impact, as well as what this means for metrics and segmentation
5. So what will the customer see?
When a customer first opens the Apple Mail app after the update, they will get a message announcing Apples Mail Privacy Protection and informing them that it works by hiding their IP address so content loads privately which makes it harder for senders to track your mail activity.
It then asks them to either select ‘Protect Mail Activity’ or ‘Don’t protect Mail Activity’.
It’s important to note this is only in regard to emails opened through the Apple Mail app so to assess the impact on your brand you firstly should review your data to see how many of your customers open your emails through the Apple app.
6. Will consumers see a benefit from this?
The end customer has been crying out for personalised experiences from brands for years now, so there is a worry this could hinder ‘some’ of that.
If the open rate tracking is taken away then they may start to get more generic messages (if brands derive what a customer likes from which email they open), or messages more frequently then they would have previously (if the brand uses open rate as a metric to manage the frequency of communications).
But this is where we have already been educating our clients for years to use a variety of metrics from your customers transactions, behaviours and engagement to personalise the time, frequency, channel and messaging.
7. How important is open rate as a metric?
Well people need to open your email to see what’s inside, but then what happens inside is more important! If everyone opens your email but no-one takes action from it then is it a good campaign?
If you aren’t already then you need to start tracking other complimentary email engagement metrics – arguably all more important than open rate anyway.
Click through rate or click to delivered rate will become really important in the future to gauge the engagement of your database as you need to continue to provide personalised and engaging emails to encourage your customers to click through to your website.
Unsubscribe rate is vital to understand the health of your database as the more customers willing to receive your emails are signs you have a happier and more valuable customer base.
Finally, click to conversion rate is crucial to determine if your campaigns are working to drive purchases and that all important revenue for the growth of your brand.
8. What changes do brands need to make if they use open rate as a core metric for segmentation?
Brands need to look beyond open rate and what other data points are available in their single customer view such as recency of sign up, last transaction date, as well as overall website behaviour.
A common segment our clients use is RFM so looking at how recently they purchased, how frequently they purchase and how much they spend. The higher the RFM the more engaged they are and would require a different style of communications to those lower. You can also link RFM with engagement and overlay data such as clicks, logins or onsite behaviour as another successful type of segmentation.
If you aren’t already tracking this segment, it would be a great idea to start now.
But even more we are encouraging clients to track lifecycle segments, such as VIPs, 1st to 2nd purchasers, those likely to lapse etc…
Keeping an eye on the growth of these segments and their behaviour levels doesn’t rely on open rate and are far more valuable to your email strategy and company growth.
Rachael Kotadia our Head of Marketing at RedEye answers questions covering automations, improving your emails and the opportunity this creates
9. What about automations that are triggered by open rate?
Some brands may have automated campaigns set up to re-engage customers which may be triggered by open rate however brands should decide what does un-engagement actually mean to their brand, and most of the time its another term for lapsing – when a customer hasn’t purchased in a while.
Therefore, move your re-engagement campaigns to focus on encouraging engagement from those who have altered their purchase pattern, vs focus on those that haven’t opened your emails.
Brands can also take this a step further and used machine learning and AI to ‘predict’ when a customer becomes un-engaged and trigger the communications at the most optimal time that a customer is about to become disengaged to encourage a repeat purchase, vs a set time period for all.
10. How can marketers improve the chances of email engagement?
The focus now more than ever will be on engaging emails, so our recommendation is test, test and test!
Regular testing should be a core part of any email strategy but now you need to test all elements of your creatives to see which get the better click throughs.
You can still test subject line if both creatives are still the same, just your success metric will be clicks not opens – which is the main goal of your email campaigns anyway.
But other areas to improve clicks can be testing the copy, imagery or even layout of your emails.
Also have you considered interactive elements to make your emails more exciting and encourage that click through? Gifs, carousels, videos to name a few are ways to make your email stand out once opened.
11. Does this become an opportunity for marketers?
As the Mail Privacy Protection is turned off my default this is an opportunity for marketers to work hard to instil trust with their customers so that when the time comes, they allow the tracking to take place.
If you’re open and honest about how you use their data, use it to show to them the personalised experiences and the benefit they as the customer can get, this will benefit your brand in the long run.
Customers are more likely to buy from businesses they trust, and trust builds loyalty, which brings long term revenue for your business.
However, this is a job for all of us marketers because if the customer decides to switch off tracking it will impact us all – so now more than ever as an industry we must put the customers at the heart of decisions and use the data to drive personalised experiences that will build this trust – together.