The Uncertainty of Apple’s New Privacy Protections on Email Marketing

Apple is set to feature new privacy protections with their new software launches. This leaves many to wonder how this will impact the email marketing world and the necessary steps to adapt to these changes.

What are Apple’s New Privacy Protections?

On June 7, 2021, Apple announced new privacy protections that help users control and monitor apps’ use of their data. These new privacy protections are featured in iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and watchOS 8.  Apple claims that these new protections represent its dedication to privacy and its encouragement to change with features such as App Tracking Transparency and Privacy Nutrition Labels on the App Store.

In order to protect data from third parties, using the Mail App will have Mail Privacy Protection to stop senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. This feature will help users prevent senders from having knowledge of when they open an email as well as hide their IP address so it cannot be tied to other online activity or utilized to figure out their location.

Apple also has a new feature called App Privacy Report. It provides a summary of all the times installed apps have collected your data during the past seven days. It will show what apps have had access to their location, photos, camera, microphone, and contacts.

Depending on how many users opt-in to this feature, it could change the landscape of measuring email marketing performance results.

Apple Mail and Email Marketing Tracking

The use of invisible pixels allows an email provider to trace that the email was opened, what type of device was used, as well as sometimes the location of the subscriber when they opened the email. Previously, the data from an email only loaded when the receiver opened and downloaded the email’s graphics, which occurred automatically in most cases.

How Does Apple Mail Privacy Protection Impact Email Marketing? 

Instead, with Apple Privacy Protection, Apple Mail will automatically preload graphics and the content of emails, including the trace pixel, regardless if the receiver really did open the email or not. Therefore, this makes the data from this pixel undependable to utilize as a performance metric.

The new feature has yet to roll out. It will become available in September. As of right now, the industry has to speculate how this will affect the email economy.

There are estimates that 50% of subscribers will likely use Mail Privacy Protection when this feature becomes available in September. However, we still do not know how many users will use the privacy features, as the user will be in control of that. Younger generations tend to be more trusting with their data with 50 percent of millennials expressing their willingness to share their search history in return for more personalized online experiences.

What’s Next for Email Marketers?

Open rates may potentially skyrocket with this new feature. In actuality, these are not actual opens. With opens no longer being a viable metric, where does that leave email marketers? It will force the email economy to adapt.

In addition to open rates being unreliable, other tools that email marketers utilize may also be impacted. Resend to non-openers will not be as useful, since the email will already show for Apple users that these people will no longer receive the automatic resend.

This change may have an advantageous effect for email marketers to dive deeper and utilize metrics such as clicks and conversions. They may also look at negative metrics such as unsubscribes and spam complaints. In turn, marketers may take a more customer-centric approach by looking at analytics that goes beyond emails such as offline purchases, website visits, account logins, app engagement, and SMS engagement.

Additionally, marketers can create their own reliable opens audience. This can be done by using device identification analytics to make a group of non-Apple subscribers. This audience can be used to test for opens.

Apple’s direction toward privacy is stirring up the world of email marketing. This may require brands to pivot and find viable metrics to ensure their data collection is beneficial with their email marketing campaigns.