Apple Privacy Changes - what you need to know

If you’ve been keeping up to date with digital marketing trends and news, you may have seen multiple articles about Apple’s Privacy changes that have recently been implemented. You may have skimmed over the articles or just ignored them, but we’d like to help you understand what it means for you as it relates to email marketing.

Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection

What is it?

Let’s start with the basics, what’s the big deal about Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP)? In the past few months there’s been quite a stir caused by Apple’s iOS 15 update and the fact that it includes Mail Privacy Protection. Essentially the new update is affecting how we as an email marketing platform can track open rates as this new feature “stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user.” If you’re a bit confused by all of this, let’s elaborate.

Email open tracking is done through invisible pixels. An invisible pixel is a 1x1 pixel image that is incorporated into email campaigns that allows email sending platforms to track when subscribers open emails.

Apple’s decision to stop this kind of tracking going forward means that you won’t be able to see if any of your subscribers in your email list that use Apple Mail open their email (unless they expressly set their settings to track opens).

This can have quite a big impact on your open rate metrics.

It’s important for us to specify that the Mail Privacy Protection feature is not mandatory. Users will have a choice on whether they want to enable it and will see a message like the below. Some good news is also that it’s not the default setting for Apple Mail.

Mobile example of MPP!

When did it come into effect?

And if it’s not the default am I in the clear?

The update was announced in June 2021 and Apple’s Privacy updates for iOS 15 and their popular Mail app were implemented as of the 20th of September 2021.

This recent update is in full swing and if you’ve read up to here you may think “hey, this isn’t a big deal if they haven’t forced the change as the default” but you’d be wrong. Most people, when given the option, will opt out of any data tracking that they are presented with. This is because there is a lot more scrutiny in the digital space around privacy and data protection.

It’s also important to note that Apple Mail is actually one of the most popular email clients in the market. See below how much of the email client market share it holds (Source: Litmus)

Litmus email client share!

How does it work?

Apple stated the following about the update in their press release:

“In the Mail app, 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.”

So two distinct implications for subscribers and for email marketers in a nutshell.

Impact on subscribers

For a subscriber it means they are not providing information about their mail activity or where they are located.

Impact on email marketers

For an email marketer however, it might mean that you’ll be losing out on valuable information that can help you craft more relevant messages. It kind of seems like this update could have an adverse effect on a subscriber's experience.

What about automated emails that rely on getting information based on opening an email to send out more emails?

4 things you need to know about how this change is going to impact you and your email campaigns:

1.Your open rates might look like their increasing

Seeing as Apple isn’t going to be allowing for pixel tracking going forward unless expressly allowed to do so by a user, your open rates might actually look like they are increasing because Apple will automatically preload data as if the person has opened your email.

2. Any email activity previously set up to “fire” based on opens aren’t going to be as reliable as they were

Are you currently running any automations where the automation relies on having the information on whether a campaign was opened or not?

Email marketers are known to use triggers such as “email opened” or “email unopened” to connect with their audience more effectively.

Information about most engaged or least engaged subscribers might be skewed with the changes as open rates will be unreliable - this could affect how you segment, if this is a way you’ve segmented your lists previously.

If you’re in the habit of resending unopened campaigns again (under different subject lines) to people who haven’t opened them; Apple Mail users on your list that have this feature enabled will not receive your messages.

A/B testing of subject lines rely on open information to successfully run a test, this means that your results could be skewed with Apple Mail by default showing all emails sent as opened.

PLEASE NOTE: These changes affect ALL email sending platforms and are not unique to Mail Blaze at all.

3.Your click-to-open rate might be decreasing

Your click-to-open rate is the number of unique clicks your email campaign receives divided by the number of opens. This metric has always been one that most email marketers look at to measure how effective their content is at driving action and reaching their conversion goals (whatever they may be).

Apple’s Mail Privacy Policy could influence this metric, which means your click-to-open rate might decrease. Why? Well if you have more opens (because Apple Mail subscribers are automatically marked as open when a campaign is sent) and the click through information is based on a smaller group of subscribers who have really opened your emails - this metric will most likely show a decrease.

4.Personalisation remains but might be restricted

If you use personal subscriber data to personalise your campaigns, you can expect that there will be less data available around your Apple Mail subscribers. Specifically we expect the following information will be expected:

  • The time an email was opened
  • The devices used to open an email
  • Location from which an email was opened

What can I do?

Well, one of the first things to do is reconsider how you look at your metrics and what you deem as important.

We recommend looking at the following 5 metrics to measure your success:

CONVERSION RATE This is a valuable metric that shows you which percentage of your email list takes a specific action. An example of this would be buying a product or could be downloading a pdf.
LIST GROWTH RATE List growth rate shows you how fast you are adding new subscribers to your list.
OVERALL ROI This is the amount of revenue your business makes for the money that you invest in email marketing.
CLICK RATE Click rate is a reference to the percentage of email recipients who click a link in your campaigns.
FORWARD TO A FRIEND (EMAIL SHARING) Forward to a friend information can show you how your email campaigns are expanding the reach of your messaging and also whether subscribers are liking your content enough to share it.

Look at how many of your subscribers actually use Apple-based email clients to identify how big the impact of the MPP is on your larger audience.

Above all it’s really important not to freak out! Look at improving your clicks rather than opens and keep doing your best to send exceptional email campaigns that excite and delight your subscribers.


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