Every marketing channel lives a different life. SEO is pretty stable but has to stay focused because of algorithm updates. Poor PPC can’t catch a break from all the Google Ads updates and privacy measures. And email marketing, well, at 43 years young and with an ROI of $36 for every $1 spent, it’s been living its best life.
But the smooth sailing has gotten rough since privacy patrol rolled into town (aka Apple iOS 15 and macOS Monterey) in September. With these latest privacy-first updates, there are a number of common email marketing tactics that have become ineffective and could even hurt your performance.
The thing is, it’s not clear what those tactics are, because you can still do them—it’s just that you will have inaccurate data to both carry out and measure the success of the strategy, which could lead to sending the wrong messages to your audience and ROI tanking. So read on to understand:
Apple’s iOS 15 update, released on September 20, 2021, provides two more privacy features for users—this time with email. There are two features marketers are concerned with:
We’ll get into these two features shortly, but first, let’s get a big-picture look at some percentages in terms of who and what the update impacts.
The level of concern with iOS 15 was initially low, since roughly only 33% of all emails in the U.S. are opened on an iPhone. But on October 25, macOS Monterey was released, which offers the same above features for Apple computers and laptops. So if we look at the data from Q1 2021 by Litmus, there is reason for concern.
Apple mail dominates, capturing 58% of emails on desktop and 90% on mobile:
However, the percentage of webmail opens is almost double that of desktop and only seven percentage points behind mobile.
And the most popular webmail client? Gmail. Apple’s webmail (iCloud Mail) isn’t even on the map.
Even still, with 62.4% of all emails being opened on Apple-dominated mobile and desktop vs 36% being opened in Gmail-dominated webmail, there is reason for concern, but not panic. Read on to find out why.
Hide My Email allows users to share a made-up email address in forms and registrations, which will route messages to their inbox without showing the email sender the actual name of the address. This option appears when you choose “Sign in with Apple” or if you’re an iCloud+ user on Safari.
First and foremost, users can make as many proxy/fake email addresses as they want. If a user changes or deletes a proxy address, they can inadvertently cut themselves off from whatever service they subscribed to using that proxy, leaving the sender with a hard bounce and no unsubscribe information.
Also, email addresses are often used as the unique identifiers in automation platforms and CRMs that help businesses tailor their marketing and customer service accordingly. So if you send a promotional email about your app to a list of leads and someone on that list signs up for the app using a proxy address, your email automation program will not know to remove that person from the nurture flow. The person will continue receiving marketing emails for something they already signed up for, causing you to appear like you don’t know your customers and them to most likely unsubscribe.
Or let’s say they call in for customer service. If they give their real email address to help the representative locate their account, it will be nowhere to be found.
There are big implications here for more than just email marketing, but luckily, according to Admonsters, only paid iCloud+ account holders using Safari can use Hide My Email in a web form, and fortunately, less than 20% of people worldwide use Safari.
Another reason not to panic is that these settings are opt-in, and if the user has gone so far as to click on your sign-up button, it’s likely they trust you enough to use their real email address.
However, you will want to use an alternative unique identifier in your marketing ecosystem to future-proof your strategy.
To understand MPP, you must first understand that the reason email automation platforms are able to give you open-related data is that they include a pixel in every email you send. The pixel gets downloaded when the email is downloaded (opened) and then communicates back to the platform if and when a person opened the email, how many times they opened it, and their IP address.
Mail Privacy Protection is designed to prevent the pixel from being downloaded on your device, so emailers can’t see your activity or identify your location.
Just like with iOS 14’s App Tracking Transparency, Apple is once again wedging itself between the user and the third-party tools marketers need to accurately measure—and personalize—their strategy. (If you’re still struggling with Facebook ads, try out these post-iOS update Facebook ad strategies.)
The MPP adoption rate was 20% as of October 1 (10 days after iOS 15 rolled out). A month later, Constant Contact shared in this Litmus post that average email open rates in the month before AND after iOS 15 were steady at 17.6%. However, by November 17, MPP adoption had grown to 30%. Another source shares that as of now, 60% of Apple users have installed iOS 15, and 97% of those users have adopted MPP. So there is potential here that the impact of iOS 15 on email marketing performance will grow over time.
So what exactly is that impact? Let’s explore…
You might think that you’ll see lower open rates because the pixel is being blocked from getting downloaded, but this is not the case. Emails will still contain a pixel, the email will just now go to a proxy server first (instead of right to your device) where the content gets downloaded—which means also the pixel. That content then goes into the Apple Privacy Cache so that should you decide to open the email, you’ll be viewing the cached content and not actually downloading the original email with the pixel.
So what this means is, the email—and therefore the pixel—gets downloaded by the proxy server regardless of whether the recipient opens it (hence the red underline above), causing inflated open rates.
With inaccurate and incomplete data on opens, IP addresses, and devices, several email marketing strategies become unreliable or ineffective. This includes but is not limited to:
As the impact of Mail Privacy Protection is likely to grow over time, consider employing some of these strategies:
Email marketing is about 43 years old—quite the OG! So no, it is not going away anytime soon, but just as advertisers have had to adapt with iOS 14 privacy updates, so, too, will email marketers have to roll with the iOS 15 flow. Mail Privacy Protection is a much bigger concern than Hide My Email, but with the strategies listed above, you can ensure continued success into 2022 and beyond.
Kristen is the Senior Managing Editor at WordStream, where she helps businesses to make sense of their online marketing and advertising. She specializes in SEO and copywriting and finds life to be exponentially more delightful on a bicycle.
See other posts by Kristen McCormick
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