Apple's Mail Privacy Protection: What You Need to Know

As email-open rates become less measurable, focus shifts to other KPIs

Apple's Mail Privacy Protection: What You Need to Know

As email-open rates become less measurable, focus shifts to other KPIs

24 September, 2021

If you’ve ever run an email-marketing campaign, you know that a key measure of success has always been the “open rate” — calculated by dividing the number of unique email opens by the number of emails delivered. It’s measured, according to Wired magazine, by tracking “a line of code in the body of an email — usually in a 1×1 pixel image, so tiny it’s invisible….When a recipient opens the email, the tracking client recognizes that pixel has been downloaded, as well as where and on what device.” For years, email marketers strived to grow open rates and that’s why compelling subject lines, and A/B testing of those lines, have always been crucial to success.

At least, they were. With the fall 2021 rollout of Apple’s iOS 15, email privacy options are more robust than ever.

What’s Changing?

Anyone who uses Apple Mail (on an iPhone, iPad or Mac) will be offered a new opt-in privacy feature that, according to Apple, “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.”

The bottom line is that nearly all emails sent to Apple Mail users will show as “opened” by default to a tracker, which is not accurate.

And although this isn’t an automatic feature (users will have to opt-in), how many users are going to say “no thanks” to heightened privacy protection? It will absolutely affect open rates as a success measure.

What’s the impact?

According to Litmus, Apple Mail users account for more than 46% of combined email opens in 2020; and that jumped to 49.7% at the end of July 2021. And although other email providers haven’t yet announced similar privacy measures, they likely will in the future.

What action can you take?

Measuring KPIs and overall email-campaign success will rely more on other highly useful data, which has always been important, but never more than now:

  • Click-through rates: When a recipient does open your emails, motivating them to take action (conversion) is crucial. Be sure to incentivize readers to click through to offers, more information, etc.
  • Website traffic: Keeping track of who visits your site, where, when and why can inform who you need to target less, or more, via email. It also helps determine what days and hours prospective customers are engaging with your brand.
  • Unsubscribe rates: Even though you won’t know which Apple Mail users have actually opened your emails, you will know who has unsubscribed from them. This can help indicate the relevancy of emails to your audience.
  • Lower-funnel metrics: Consider other conversion metrics, such as who’s signed up for an event, downloaded your free content, made a purchase, etc. to infer campaign performance

What we’re doing for our clients

Star Metroland Media teams always stay on top of trends and best practices in email marketing. With this latest news, we are working even harder to ensure our clients’ success by shifting our tracking, measuring and reporting to account for the absence of open-rate data. Here are just a few key examples:

  • Contextual targeting: This approach is more important than ever, especially with privacy concerns growing year over year. We’re doubling down on ensuring your messages appear in the right place, at the right time in front of the right people. Because Torstar owns, or has access to, hundreds of media outlets, we have a unique advantage in this space
  • Click rate: Measuring the number of clicks from within an email (to a website, offer page, cart checkout, etc.) has always been a much better indicator of engagement. We’ll continue to fine tune client email campaigns to incent maximum clicks
  • Conversion rate: We track conversions via UTM codes, which are added to the end of a URL and contains detailed information about each link or button in an email. We use this information to measure conversions based on a client’s campaign goals, and adjust the campaign as necessary for improved success
  • ROI (return on investment): Think of this as a bottom-line measure. We capture conversion data from a client and calculate ROI by dividing the value of conversions by the cost of a client’s email campaign, adjusting as necessary to meet client goals
  • Unsubscribe rates: Again, even though we won’t know which Apple Mail users have opened a client’s emails, unsubscribes will still be accurate. This will help us identify and weed out unengaged recipients

This type of marketing evolution isn’t new; it’s been in constant flux since we started to rely on technology to communicate with prospective clients. And email marketing will continue to evolve, especially when it comes to privacy. Data protection is a huge public concern, and consumers are learning how to keep their information safe, as they should.

Working with an experience partner that is not only up to date when in comes to tech rules and challenges, but that can offer proven alternatives, is key.

Make sure your business stays on the cutting edge when it comes to email marketing. Contact us today at the form below.


Get Started

Complete the form below and a media consultant will reach out within 24 hours