What Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection means for email marketers

Email concept with woman working on a laptop in brightly lit room.

If you are an email marketer, more than likely you’ve heard the latest news from Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC 2021) about Mail Privacy Protection. If you are wondering what impact it will have on email open rates and your overall email strategy, the Adobe Deliverability team has a POV on the news, as well as considerations that we think you need to be aware of both near and long term. We will continue to share updates, ideas, and best practices in the coming weeks, to help you navigate privacy policies and take charge of your email program.

What did Apple announce?

On June 7th, Apple announced the new iOS 15, and as part of the release that Mail Privacy Protection would be enabled on the native Mail app on all Apple devices — iPhone, iPad, and Mac. The new policy means that tracking pixels within Apple Mail will be disabled, and email marketers may no longer be able to reliably determine when a subscriber opens an email.

The privacy protections, which needs the user’s consent, would apply to any email opened on Apple’s Mail app (Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook etc.). If the user uses the Gmail app or another mail app, the privacy controls will not be in effect.

The iOS 15 release is expected to be available in September 2021. While there is no immediate impact on emails going out right now, it’s worth looking at the potential impact this change could have and what strategies may help elevate your email marketing programs.

Relevant market dynamics

The Apple mobile device market share for Q1’2021 was 17 percent globally and 55 percent in the US. Moreover, according to Litmus, 43 percent of email opens happen on mobile devices. Given that iOS 15 would be compatible with most of the devices in Apple’s product catalog, marketers need to plan accordingly.

While there will be an impact to email programs, we should also note that we still do not know how many users will use the privacy feature, as the user has ultimate control of that. Privacy features are enabled by default, but a user can change that setting on their device. In addition, as per an EY study, younger generations are more trusting with their data. For example, 50 percent of millennials say they are willing to share their search history in exchange for more personalized online experiences, compared with 23 percent of baby boomers. We will be sure to provide updates to help you with your email programs as the dynamics related to privacy evolve.

Strategies to consider

If you are not doing so already, a good place to focus would be on device-based segmentation. Device data will help you understand the devices your customers use to read your emails, which could be a good starting point for determining the potential impact that the iOS 15 changes will have on your email program. In addition, segmenting by device type using Adobe Campaign, Marketo Engage or Adobe Journey Optimizer, will provide insights into how much your audience uses Apple Mail to read your emails.

A question you might ask is whether email open rate is even worth monitoring? Email open rate has always been somewhat flawed, with some providers blocking images by default, and others pre-loading images. Assessing open rate on its own has been a good barometer for assessing the effectiveness of an email campaign, and can be helpful when considered along with other email metrics, such as click to open rates, click-through rates and conversions.

With the new privacy protection in iOS 15, marketers may have to reduce dependency on open rates and consider other performance metrics like bounces, inbox placement, clicks, and transactions after the click. Also, consider why you are measuring different email metrics: open rates are a function of the subject line — clicks are a function of your offer or content — activity after the click is a function of your products/services/website.

Lastly, measuring open rates is not the only aspect of email marketing impacted by Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection. Email opens drive send time optimization strategies, real time personalization, re-engagement campaigns, and automated multi-wave campaigns. These changes mean that marketers must begin planning to determine what these strategies will look like for Apple users once iOS 15 is released and the privacy protection capabilities take hold this fall.

Key takeaways

The topic of privacy isn’t going away any time soon, and with regulations like GDPR and CCPA, plus the deprecation of third-party cookies, we need to ensure we keep on our toes. Don’t panic, Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection won’t roll out until September so there is time to strategize, be prepared and get ready. Adobe is here to ensure marketers are equipped to handle this change, support our customers, and provide strategies for email marketing success. Please read our FAQ on Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection, as well as download our Deliverability Best Practice Guide.