Mail Privacy Protection Explained: Everything You Need to Know About Apple’s Next Update

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Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection update will change the email marketing landscape forever. But the good news? Any marketing team that gets ahead of iOS 15 and adapts now will be well-positioned to take advantage of any new opportunities that result.

What is Mail Privacy Protection?

A few months ago, Apple announced Mail Privacy Protection—which essentially gives any Apple Mail user the ability to opt into privacy protections that block email open-tracking pixels, location metadata, and other personally identifiable information from marketing email senders.
Considering that these recipients are responsible for anywhere from 10% to 40% of your total email engagement, this update is a big deal. Especially for marketing teams that use open rate or open-focused metrics to measure campaign success.

But—contrary to many headlines out there—the sky isn’t falling. In fact, this privacy-focused pivot creates more business potential than ever for the brands willing to adjust their email strategies now. So, which changes do you need to keep in mind?

How Mail Privacy Protection will change the way you work

In its official announcement, Apple states that “Mail Privacy Protection 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.”

For email marketers, that means three new and important changes to prepare for:

  • Emails opened inside the Apple Mail app will be sent to a Proxy. All content—including your images, impression data, and tracking pixels—will be pre-loaded regardless of whether a customer actually sees it or not.
  • Mail Privacy Protection will use its Proxy to obscure recipient data and personal info from senders. Things like IP address, opener location, device and browser used, and preferred language(s) will be impossible to capture unless you explicitly ask your customers for it.
  • Because of these changes, your open rate and open-focused metrics will be artificially inflated—making them inaccurate, unreliable, and impossible to compare with past years’ results.

Evolve your email marketing strategy

Mail Privacy Protection is going to artificially inflate your open rates, make tactics like geo-targeting more difficult to perform, and ultimately muddy the waters when it comes to measuring email campaign engagement. Fortunately, there are a few easy ways to overcome these challenges while simultaneously maximizing your results.

Move past opens. Measure your success using interactions instead.

Did your customer really see that email, or was Apple’s Proxy request responsible for the open? This is an answer that many email marketers will want to know once Mail Privacy Protection goes live. The question you need to be asking, however, is, “What happens next?”

Now more than ever, it’s important you focus on building an engaging email experience that’s impossible to ignore—so that anytime someone does see your message, they do more than simply open it. So, look past open rates to find out where you already have competitive advantages and iOS-optimized email elements before inserting these tools into every new campaign moving forward.

Mail Privacy Protection

If you’re a Liveclicker customer, things like embedded videos and LiveSlides with individual CTAs attached to individual images won’t be affected by these changes.

Focus your A/B testing on conversions

Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection update will make it impossible to accurately measure open-focused metrics like time of request, open duration, or opener location/timezone among your Apple Mail audience. So, re-think your email marketing benchmarks by prioritizing stats such as clicks, conversions, and revenue generated instead.

If you haven’t revisited your messaging in a while, look for opportunities to A/B test across engaged and unengaged audiences with more fun, interactive offers and email elements. By focusing on user engagement and interaction instead of opens and sales with your email interactions, you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Mail Privacy Protection

When COVID-19 put Chipotle’s annual Boorito promotion in jeopardy, the brand turned to more interactive email promotions—and quickly uncovered unprecedented results. By including mobile messaging and social media contests in its regular email campaign, Chipotle was able to generate more than one billion online impressions, more than 500,000 social media engagements, and a click-to-open rate that was three times higher than the average industry benchmark.

Use first-party data for highly targeted personalization

With Apple’s major changes right around the corner, now is the perfect time to know exactly where your customer data resides and whether or not you’re making the most of these insights.

Any email you send that suggests a local store to visit or bases product recommendations on current weather conditions, for example, will be impossible to build purely from sender data received. Hide My Email and a host of new, privacy-focused Apple Mail features will mask recipients’ IP addresses and location metadata, meaning that unless you’ve specifically asked for and collected these data points from every customer, your automated targeting will need to be adjusted to capture them elsewhere.

Going forward, tools like ESP tags, CSV files, and API calls will only grow more invaluable to marketers looking to connect data sources and bridge the gaps Mail Privacy Protection causes. By combining fun email elements like embedded polls and surveys with previous stores shopped at, purchase history, and more, savvy email marketers will still be able to make location- and weather-based messaging personal. It just might take a little more work than you’re used to.

Mail Privacy Protection

To learn more about Apple’s upcoming Mail Privacy Protection update and how it impacts email marketers everywhere in greater detail, view our Navigating an Evolving Privacy Environment webinar now!

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Brittany is a digital marketer with experience building an online presence for both B2B and B2C brands. As the S. Content Marketing Manager for Liveclicker, Brittany plans and produces effective communication across channels, creating valuable content that helps clients and prospects harness the power of moment-of-open personalization.

Brittany King
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