Email marketing is one of the most cost effective and powerful tools you can use to promote your business. But email marketing, like anything else, has its pitfalls. One of which is email privacy concerns. As a marketer, your primary goal is to attract consumers.
Privacy, although important, can sometimes be an obstacle. In this article, I’ll explain what you need to know about protecting the privacy of the user and in turn protecting your email marketing strategy for iOS 15.
What is Apple’s iOS 15 Mail Privacy Protection?
Apple announced a new, optional privacy feature in iOS 15 that will let users hide their IP addresses when sending emails. This is all part of Apple’s new Mail Privacy Protection feature, which aims to prevent third parties from being able to track your email activity.
The feature works by hiding your IP address from the email receiver. Your IP address will now be hidden from the recipient server and instead replaced with a relay email address that masks your original IP address.
In addition, Apple will also generate a random, unique ID for each sent message to protect against third-party trackers and protect your privacy.
Apple explains its reasoning behind this new Mail Privacy Protection feature in a blog post:
We believe privacy is a fundamental human right and designing for privacy is essential to everything we make. Mail Privacy Protection builds on existing protections in Mail to safeguard your privacy with two new features: Hide My Email and Mail Privacy Protection. These features make it even harder for third parties to access private information about you by making it more difficult for trackers to create a unique fingerprint of your device.
How does Mail Privacy Protection affect email marketing?
Mail Privacy Protection affects email marketing by not allowing the exchange of data between advertisers and email services. Once Mail Privacy Protection is activated, e-mail addresses can no longer be used as a personalized identifier for individual users. This means that you can no longer use data to track user behavior.
With Mail Privacy Protection activated, the only information you can access is:
- The number of clicks per email address
- The time the email was opened
- The email’s subject line
- Whether or not the email was opened (open/not open)
The downside for marketers is that Mail Privacy Protection can affect email metrics. Here are some of the ways it can impact your email marketing campaigns:
Open rate isn’t tracked by literally opening an email — it’s tracked by a tiny image that is loaded from our servers when someone opens one of your emails. If Mail Privacy Protection is enabled on the recipient’s account, their browser won’t download the image file required to register an open, so your open rates will be lower than they otherwise would be.
The clickthrough rate (CTR) of a campaign, or the percentage of all opens that result in clicks within the campaign, depends on both opens and clicks. It may not matter if people aren’t opening your emails if they’re clicking through anyway, but if you do have a low CTR then it could be because Mail Privacy Protection is affecting your open rate.
What can marketers do to prepare for Mail Privacy Protection?
Given that Mail Privacy Protection is a completely new policy, it’s likely to impact your email metrics. Following are a few ways you can prepare your team for its rollout.
Include “Email” in the subject line of your emails: Since Gmail users won’t be able to see the actual sender’s email address, including “email” in the subject line of your emails can help recipients identify you more easily. This will help increase open rates for legitimate senders and significantly reduce spam complaints.
Use personalized sender name: To help your email messages stand out from the crowd, include a personal touch by using the recipient’s first name as the sender name. This can also increase open rates and reduce spam complaints.
Strengthen engagement: It’s important to strengthen customer engagement with relevant content that customers value and are interested in receiving. The more engaged your customers are, the more likely they’ll be to recognize your brand even after their email address has been obfuscated in their inboxes.
Email marketers should already be regularly A/B testing their campaigns, but now it’s more important than ever to be able to identify trends in open rates to prepare for Mail Privacy Protection.
If you don’t test, you won’t know how your open rate performs with images off versus on. And if you wait until after the update, your email analytics will not give you an accurate picture of how your emails perform with images on or off.
This update will also highlight the importance of testing new subject lines and calls-to-action to ensure the best click-through rate possible. If a significant portion of your subscribers is seeing your images in the preview pane, they might be more inclined to click through.
Mail Privacy Protection will roll out over time to different users, and as it does, it will only show the first three characters of every email address in a list. It also won’t recognize emails that haven’t been verified by the user with Apple. With this in mind, you should clean up your email database so you can get a better idea of what your mailing lists will look like once Mail Privacy Protection is fully rolled out.
In the past, open rates were a good indicator of whether or not someone read an email. With Mail Privacy Protection, however, open rates won’t be as reliable. In fact, because images are served to users on an individual basis, open rates could be inflated because they no longer require images to load. To avoid this issue, start focusing on click rate instead; it’s much harder to inflate clicks than opens because they’re harder to track without images being loaded in an email.
In the end, it’s clear that email marketing techniques are going to have to adapt in light of iOS 15 Mail’s privacy concerns. The good news is that this does not necessarily mean that your email marketing strategy needs to be completely overhauled.
Your goal should be to find new, creative ways to avoid using PII. That way, you can continue to build relationships with your subscribers by providing them with content they actually want and value.