Apple is planning to upgrade their Mail Privacy Protections with their new iOS15 software update scheduled for later part of 2021. This latest announcement has caused a stir with marketers around the world, who heavily rely on email open rates as a measure of their newsletter campaign success.
Essentially, this metric that has been actively used by marketers for benchmarking their campaigns, could become obsolete. Apple’s announcement is a ‘come-to-Jesus’ moment for email marketers around the world and those who are complacent will be left behind.
This is not the first time marketers have seen changes to their email open rates.
Google, with it’s Gmail product that is used by more than 1.5billion users worldwide, uses an algorithm to decide which email constitutes a marketing email, and then automatically files it into the “Promotions” folder.
At the time, this move rattled a lot of marketers, and many email marketing platforms such as Mailchimp had to adjust their reporting algorithms to satisfy their customer base.
Why is Apple’s announcement so important – surely they don’t own 100% of the email user base?
According to Litmus – iPhone and iPad users accounted for 40% of all email users mid 2021.
Most importantly, all email that is opened around the world, Apple controls about 90% of all email opens which includes users who open and view emails on their iPhones.
So yes, Apple’s announcement is forcing another major paradigm shift for email marketers.
The other recent major shift was made by the European Union that updated its privacy protections since the enforcement of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) which came into effect in May 2018. This privacy protection update has resulted in many tech giants to review how they collect, store and control their users’ data.
What does Apple’s update mean for your email open rates?
As announced on MacWorld, Apple will be introducing something called Mail Privacy Protection with its new iOS 15 software update that is due to be released later in the year. This means that email tracking and data gathering capabilities from email marketing platforms (think Mailchimp), becomes redundant.
Email Marketing Platforms or Marketing Automation Platforms (MAP) won’t be able to provide accurate reports based on users email tracking and data gathering settings, and they won’t also be able to mark their IP addresses, so data like geo-tracking becomes questionable.
Let’s talk about how your email marketing is going to change
If you run an ecommerce business, you would be relying on data provided by your marketing automation providers such as tracking, targeting, analyzing, optimising and reporting on several important email marketing benchmarks.
Our clients often ask us this:
How can I improve my email open rates?
What is the benchmark for email open rates for my industry?
My current platform isn’t performing because I’m always getting low open rates. I want to change to another platform because my emails get higher open rates.
Is 20% a good open rate for my emails?
And fair enough! When you’re investing in email marketing automation platforms, you want to know they are working for you.
So let’s explore all the things that will need to be reviewed by you:
Email Open Rates
This is by far the most tracked metric by all marketers on any marketing platform.
However, based on our experience it’s not the most accurate metric to ‘trust’.
The reason being is that oftentimes, your email marketing automation platform is trying to read data coming from ESP’s (think iCloud, Gmail, Hotmail) who send this data to your Mailchimp accounts. Because these ESP’s hold ‘first-party data’, they use their own criteria in assessing if an email is viewed or opened.
Sometimes a user can scroll through their emails while on the phone, but never click to actually open and read the email – this can be counted by some ESP’s as opened. This information is then sent to your Marketing Automation Provider and they will show it in your campaign reports as opened.
We’ve heard stories from people who received calls from subscribers about their newsletter offer, and upon checking their information inside their database, they can see that their user profile shows they’ve never opened an email.
As we work with multiple different platforms, we often see a huge discrepancy in what is being reported for email open rates. This is especially true if you ever change your email marketing platforms, you will always see a drop in your email open rates for the campaigns that you’re used to sending.
Before we say goodbye to “email open rates”, as a marketer, ask yourself this – would you rather focus on improving your email open rates, or focus on what happens after your email is sent – such as revenue numbers?
Best Email Open Time
When is the perfect time to send an email to your subscriber base? Well, now this metric becomes questionable with the planned Apple’s iOS15 software update later this year.
As this information is shared by ESP’s, I’d always think twice in “trusting” the actual data.
Our answer to this question is – it depends on who your customers are; how engaged they are and how much revenue you’re generating from each of your campaigns.
You can’t rely on ESP’s to drive your marketing campaigns – there are so many data points we can review in order to identify the best time to send an email.
Geo-tracking enabled by cookies to track users’ IP address
With the new iOS15 update, users will be given the ability to hide their IP address – hence I would cautiously rely on using IP address to send geo-targeted newsletters since it won’t be 100% accurate (it’s never been accurate for a long time!)
Here’s a personal example of mine.
Before the pandemic, I travelled a lot and would often be based in one country for one whole month before moving to another country. As we build automations for clients, we often have to test our work – so when I start a project in Romania and I fly to Turkey, my IP address will show Romania which showed on my profile for about 6 months! The geo-data is not dynamic and it won’t change instantly as I move locations.
Email subject lines that contain subscribers’ first name will no longer be available because this is pixel-derived data.
This is a big bummer for us, because we do notice big spikes in email open rates (‘scuse the humour). We hear this from a lot of marketers, mainly copywriters using personalisation to get attention of the reader who might be cluttered with many other emails in their inbox.
If you have advanced marketing automation platforms, you would’ve relied on personalisation to communicate with your subscribers.
For example, Hey Johnny, don’t forget this item before it runs out!
Don’t despair! Marketers will still have heaps of data to work with to improve their campaign performances. Instead of relying on ‘third party data’, this update is forcing us to go back to our old ways and start collecting information first hand (also referred to as first-party data).
What options do we have then?
The first option is not to stockpile on toilet paper and panic.
Every big tech provider will be impacted by this change, so all we can do is work with them to understand what they are planning on doing.
This could also be a great opportunity to understand what data you’re collecting now that actually matters for your business.
Let’s not forget, the ultimate goal of sending an email is not to see who opened it, but to get revenue.
Here’s a short snapshot of what you can do:
- Focus your efforts on collecting first-party data. It’s a fun time to be a marketer again – we’re looking for ways to be smart about how we collect information about our leads and customers. If you need help, we can workshop this together as part of our Bumper Blueprint process – click here to learn more. The complacent marketers who always rely on email blasts without segmentation will be left behind.
- Your CTR (Click-Through Rates) and Conversions will become your best friend. Get familiar with tools like Google Analytics to cross-reference your customer data that you collect on your website or your CRM or marketing automation platform.
- If you’re a large business, you may want to consider having your own Customer Data Platform (short for CDP). A CDP will allow you to collect any customer data, online and offline, which you can cleanse and enrich automatically, in real time, thus creating a single source of truth of your customer.
- Invest in a smart marketing automation system such as ActiveCampaign, OmniSend, Ontraport etc. that can show you a 360-degree view of your subscriber profiles. You will also be able to segment and categorize them based on how frequently they engage with you. Not only how they engage with you via email, but also on other channels and platforms. You need a fully integrated marketing system that shows the whole view of your customers.
At the time of writing this, Apple won’t be the only platform that is changing the paradigm of how we report on email marketing. As mentioned before, GDPR enforcement came in May 2018, which ultimately targets large tech giants such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, etc. It is forcing the whole tech industry to adapt by putting the individuals in control of their personal information. I’m all in favour of this!
Seth Godin (a world renowned marketer) coined the term Permission-based marketing well before social media was born!
And these privacy protection changes act as a guide for marketers to actually practice permission-based marketing. You can easily do this if you start to rely on first-party data which is collected by you.
First-party data refers to the data that you collect from your leads and customers. This data also includes first-party cookies, which allows you to personalise and automate your email marketing to your qualified database of leads and customers, and geo-target them based on their physical address, rather than by their IP address.
For example, if you are an ecommerce business, you would have a subscriber list that sits in your marketing automation platform, a customer list, an email opt-in form, your company’s websites and other pages.
So in order to win as an email marketer, you do need to invest in a smart Marketing Automation Platform that will allow you to collect, track, enrich and cleanse your database.
So you must be wondering – what are the best ways to collect first-party data?
If you have an online business or a website, you would’ve been collecting some of this information already. For example, people who download your checklist normally give you their first name and email address, which adds them to your email list.
You can start to become clever about how to use other channels such as SMS and re-targeting them on social media. But let’s not forget, we have to receive the subscriber’s permission before we can do this.
Focus on creating great content that people will want to read and share. You can also release new content exclusively via emails.
In today’s business world, the only thing we know for sure is that change is permanent.
What appears to be constant are tried and tested marketing and business strategies.
Email marketing is just one of many channels. It is not the whole part of your marketing strategy. If you’re looking to build a brand, you can’t do that by only sending emails!
Anyway, these days some customers prefer SMS’s or other channels to receive communications – so thanks to Apple’s decision to update their software, it reminds us that our focus should always be on our customers. If we email them content they are interested in, I bet you they will open and read all of your emails.
PS: While I was travelling throughout Europe in 2018, I had an opportunity to attend WeAreDevelopers World Congress in Vienna, sadly I didn’t get the chance, as my laptop lifestyle led me to Chicago at this time.
But if I were there, I would’ve heard this quote from Apple Co-Founder, Steve Wozniak who said this:
I always want to put the human before the technology. In a company like Apple that made computers easy to use, I always thought that the user was more important than the technology
Head Honcho | Marketing Automation Expert | Evil Twin Sister
Jovana is the Founder of Bumper Leads - a marketing automation agency that helps businesses simplify and automate their sales and marketing systems to help them save time and money.
She is a former body builder turned fast food junkie.
When she is not watching Cobra Kai on Netflix, she shares interesting marketing advice on our podcast called Marketing Automation Made Simple. This is where she helps overwhelmed business owners build smart marketing growth systems so they feel excited and in control of growing their businesses.
You can always follow her on social media to see what she's up to.