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How Apple Is Handicapping Email Marketing Starting This Year

by Charles Pobee-Mensah, Director of Digital Marketing

Would you prefer the marketing emails you get to be more personalized and relevant? What about privacy? Would you prefer to have your email inbox protected from marketers who want to track your email activity, or would you prefer it not to be protected?

Phrased like this, most of us would say that we both prefer to have more relevant emails and also to be protected from tracking. But in practice, these are two sides of the same coin. And later this year, Apple will be requiring its users to choose from the proposition of the second question without the context of the first.

Enter Email Privacy Protection

Email Privacy Protection is the name of Apple’s new email feature that will be rolling out between September and November of this year. According to Apple, it does the following:

  • Hides your IP address
  • Hides your location
  • Hides if you open emails

This will apply to any emails sent to or opened with Apple’s Mail app. This is the default app on the iPhone and iPad. Even if a person has a Gmail account, they may still be checking those emails through the Apple Mail app. This amounts to a substantial amount of email users.

The Downside of Privacy

While hiding these pieces of information is certainly more private, they will likely also make the marketing email you receive worse. Email marketers often use these pieces of information to serve more relevant emails. 

If an email has low open rates, they get to work figuring out why. Was the subject line irrelevant or misleading? Was the email sent at a bad time? Tracking email opens helps marketers to figure out what went wrong to make their emails better.

IP addresses can be used to ensure the people you are targeting are actually located in your target market. They can also sometimes be used in conjunction with other ad campaigns outside email to ensure consistent messaging or track engagement and interest.

The Future of Email Marketing

Notably, Apple’s new Email Privacy Protection will not block click tracking. That means that a lot of information that marketers get from open information could still be tracked through click tracking information.

It’s also still uncertain how heavily this will affect the industry. The email-related service Litmus stated that their own market share data shows that Apple Mail users made up 46% of all email opens in 2020. They did indicate that their sample skewed toward Apple Mail users. The bright side is that the other 50+% of users could be seen as a sort of “market sample” to represent the type of feedback marketers can use to apply towards the whole.

The other thing we don’t know yet is what percentage of Apple users will choose to “protect” their email. Back when Apple started doing this same type of thing with apps from their app store, it was initially estimated that 41% of people actually allowed the tracking on apps. This stat, however, did not hold. In dramatic fashion, this number eventually dwindled down to just 4%.

The truth is, we don’t know what this will be for email. But if it’s anything like apps, it’s not looking good.

The Big Guys Adjust

Large email marketing platforms are now researching this issue and then deciding how to adjust. Companies like MailChimp rely heavily on their ability to provide the absolute best email marketing tools for their customers.

Talking to MailChimp support about the issue, this is what we heard:

We expect Apple’s new Mail Privacy Protection feature to impact open rate, geolocation, and email client reporting for any contacts who use Apple Mail and eventually enable the Privacy Protection feature.

Our engineers are actively testing the latest beta from Apple and assessing what changes might need to be made in our product so that you can continue to have the best delivery, best content, and most engagement with your MailChimp marketing efforts.

We expect these changes won’t be available until later this year. We’ll share any updates or changes our customers will need to make ahead of time.

In addition to this, multiple other email-related services have put out statements of their own according to Litmus.

Despite these hardships, email marketing is actually becoming more relevant than ever. In fact, Facebook recently announced a new email newsletter product called Bulletin that will allow them to send email newsletters that people can sign up for on both a free and paid basis. That’s not the type of investment that you make in a dying medium. Email is not going anywhere.

If you want to work with an agency that can keep up with the changing world of email marketing, email suits@fruchtman.com.

 

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