What does Apple’s next privacy update mean for marketers?

To increase users’ control over their privacy, Apple has announced upcoming changes to the Mail application. Given their vast market share, these changes will affect the reliability of certain data metrics for email marketing. Read this article to learn more about what the update includes, which metrics this will affect, and how we at Agillic, and marketers everywhere, can strategically prepare to accommodate these changes. 

What is being updated?

Apple has announced that there will be changes to the Mail app in a forthcoming update. The updates will affect iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and watchOS 8. The update will launch in Autumn 2021, although the exact date has not been specified, but it will most likely be released alongside the iPhone 13. 

Aiming to provide their users with increased control over their privacy, Apple will introduce a mode called Protect Mail activity within the Mail app. When enabled, the mode will privately load remote email content automatically upon delivery, and the tracking pixel in an email will have usage limitations (can’t see time of open, can’t see location of open. These measures will apply to email addresses from all domains so long as they are being managed within the Mail app, and the Protect Mail activity feature is activated.

This means:

  • Content will be loaded without revealing an IP address and without detailed headers. The location and device type will not be revealed
  • Since content is loaded automatically upon delivery, the viewing time will no longer register correctly
  • Emails will register as opened regardless of whether the user opens it or not
  • The mode automatically loads visuals, so more recipients will see emails with images and visuals

Ultimately, we will see an unreliable increase in open rates all around, and will have to adapt accordingly. 

A different approach to measuring email success

Although we can no longer rely on open rates to provide the insights they did before, we will just need to change tactics. Generally speaking, open rates never told us the whole truth. They have always provided imprecise statistics, as different email clients categorise email engagement in varying ways.

What open rate data has lacked in precision, it’s made up for in volume. Open rates have been good at predicting trends and tendencies, making it an excellent metric for subject line testing. However, in the world of marketing, an open doesn’t account for much in terms of sales generation. It is your content and CTAs which sell!

Of course, it is important to know whether a recipient is active and engaging with your communication, but it has never been the goal for them to simply open an email; you want recipients to engage with your content. This can be determined by the click rate – which you should rely on going forward for insights into your content. 

What will Agillic do?

At the time of publication, we have no plans to change our default settings on the Agillic platform. Agillic still provides the tools to generate reports on other valuable metrics. Split testing should, overall, be unaffected – as long as you are aware of the implications of split testing on small target groups. 

Once the dust settles and we determine how to better define an inactive email address, we will look into changing the default. Our system settings are always based on data, and as such we will wait to see how our customers define an inactive email in the future so that we can implement the optimal changes to support their endeavours.

What can marketers do to prepare?

If you have many iOS recipients, you may need to rethink which metrics are important to measure. The change to open rates means that you will have to adjust and find other metrics to measure success.

If you have concerns regarding subject line testing or Send Time Optimisation, we recommend that you test on your recurring flows before the update is launched. Now is the time to collect data based on open rates.

It is also a good idea to clean up your lists by removing any inactive recipients now, while you can still rely on your open rate data. If you are an Agillic client, you can use our Inactive Emails feature to help, as explained here

You should also reconsider what metrics you use to define a client as “inactive”, so you are prepared to measure with them after the update is launched in autumn. 

Once the update is live, make sure to test, measure, evaluate and act upon engagement metrics such as clicks and/or website visits. This will enable you to measure true engagement beyond just open rate, which fundamentally reflects little more than the quality of your subject line, and the most superficial level of recipient engagement. 

Ultimately, although this update provides a minor set-back, it also provides an opportunity to re-evaluate what you are measuring and how you can most accurately obtain the data insights you need. If you take the opportunity now to gather open-rate insights and re-evaluate your email metrics, you won’t miss open rate data.

For more information or any questions, please reach out to our product specialists team or contact@agillic.com

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July 14, 2021
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