The Apple Mail Privacy Protection will be released this week with iOS 15. It has initiated turmoil in the Digital Marketing world, as it will make email open tracking a lot more unreliable than it already was in past years. Emails and images will be downloaded to Apple servers the moment they land in the recipients’ inbox – causing open pixels to track email opens, although the email was not even opened or read by the user. Open rate and other KPIs like click-to-open rate or number of active users are based on email open tracking, which have previously been used in email marketing as the most important measurements to rate the campaign success. Email Marketers seem to be worried about the changes coming with the release and the implications of Mail Privacy for Email Marketing.
Most articles in Marketing blogs and magazines recommend analyzing user and device data ahead of time to be well-prepared when the release of iOS 15 hits. However, often those articles do not provide details on how to specifically approach such an analysis. Therefore, we decided to describe a potential hands-on approach from getting the data to generating useful, actionable insights:
Granular device-level information can be accessed and exported using Mapp Engage Raw Data Exports. They provide highly detailed information about every recipient and can be analyzed in an external tool. Raw Data Exports are freely definable exports of raw data – therefore make sure to add all relevant dimensions and attributes required for your analysis (email client, version, operating system, OS version, platform).
According to its nature, Raw Data Exports can result in quite large volumes of data depending on the selected timeframe, email audience and numbers of emails sent. Since Microsoft Excel reaches its limits quickly, we recommend importing the data into the database of your choice to prepare and pre-aggregate the data before analyzing and visualizing it with a BI tool (Tableau, Power BI).
Although there are benchmarks available for iOS and specifically Apple Mail users, you may want to analyze your historical user data to get a better understanding of device usage. Those numbers can vary between sectors, but also between email recipient lists. We recommend analyzing Total and Unique Opens tracked per Operating System and Email Client, and calculating the % of total to get the percentage of all opens that are potentially affected by the implications of the iOS Privacy update. In this example, ~ 33% of all Email Opens are being generated by ‘iOS Mail’.
The analysis below is comparing the number of email recipients with users regularly using Mail for iOS across the year. In this example, 34% of all users are using Mail for iOS.
It is key to get an understanding of the percentage of users in your audience that is regularly reading their emails on Mail for iOS, since you can no longer rely on email open tracking for this specific user group. The higher the percentage of the audience using Mail for iOS, the more distorted KPIs like number of active users or Number of Openers will become after the release of Apple’s Mail Privacy feature.
Since email opens for Mail for iOS on iOS 15 will be activated immediately after the email landed in the inbox, the open rate for this Email Client would theoretically be 100%. Depending on how many users in your data set are using this email client, your open rates will artificially increase and thereby distort the ‘true’ open rate and other email KPIs related to the number of opens, like click-to-open rate or number of active users.
Most companies are using a logic based on recipients’ last open activity (besides bounce feedback) to keep their email subscriber lists clean, removing users that have not engaged with an email for a longer time. As we have just learned, opens will be triggered for all emails sent to the inbox for Apple Mail users. After the official release of Apple’s Mail Privacy, this logic will no longer be reliable and needs to be replaced with other methods. You may use email click events and/or send confirmation emails on a regular basis to ask for feedback if users are still interested in receiving email communication from your brand. This may reduce the size of your recipient list. However, you can assure good deliverability as long as you are only sending to engaged users.
Apple may be the first to restrict the tracking of email user engagement, but will certainly not be the last. Therefore, we recommend establishing an automated routine to check and analyze all the previously described metrics. To minimize manual overhead, aim to implement automated data flows and dashboards, so you can get the latest insights on a regular basis.
The higher the percentage of email opens from affected mail clients are for your specific audience, the more distorted the related open/click-to-open rates will become after the release of the Mail Privacy update. Once you analyzed the exact percentage of unique opens created by iOS 15 – Email for iOS, you can correct the overall open rate.
Rethink methods for ongoing email list hygiene that are based on email opens – find an alternative at least for recipients using Apple email clients.
Start analyzing and cleaning up your email recipient lists today, while opens are still tracked in a known way. Use the time left to start over with up-to-date mailing lists.
Do not rely only on open rate to measure the success of your email campaigns – put more focus on other KPIs (clicks, conversions, website behavior).
Stay calm – this change is not the end of the world, just another shift in the light of Data Privacy. Email Service Providers are working to provide built-in standard solutions to tackle these challenges in email platforms.
Mapp’s Strategic Data Consulting team consists of experts working with Marketing data to generate actionable insights and can assist you with report creation and consulting to get you ready for Apple’s release of IOS 15. Get in touch!