Data privacy is at the heart of the digital marketing industry and Apple has always seen it as one of its key competitive edges. The iPhone maker announced at its latest developer conference that a new Mail Privacy Protection feature will be launched with its iOS 15 release. The announcement shocked email marketers with three short sentences: “Hides your IP address. Hides your location. Hides if you open emails.”
While this new feature is controversial, it is not a surprising move from Apple. Customers have growing concerns about data privacy and Apple is helping to protect personal data. In the previous iOS 14.5 release, Apple introduced the functionality to limit mobile app tracking, so that app activity can only be shared with the app developer after the user has opted in. Mail Privacy Protection is now the next big thing.
What user data will be protected?
Although Apple has not released full details of exactly how Mail Privacy Protection works, there are already growing speculations. Apple has explicitly stated that the feature will hide email opens. Currently, without Mail Privacy Protection, when you open an email, it is likely that the sender can obtain your personal data such as IP address, type of device, location etc. If you think about it, it is a lot of personal data for just an ‘email open’. And Apple is sending a clear message to email marketers that just because someone has opened your email, you have not earned the right to obtain their personal data. Email marketers must drive further engagement with customers rather than just ‘email open’.
Although, the impact is limited only to emails opened in Apple Mail App and will not affect emails opened in other email service providers such as Outlook or Gmail. Bear in mind the growing trend of data privacy, it is difficult to determine whether these email service providers will follow Apple’s lead and introduce email privacy protection features of their own.
Focus on engagement rather than open rate as your KPI
Open rate has always been a key KPI for many email marketers. We often use Open Rate to measure effectiveness of Subject Lines, best time to send emails to achieve best email open rate, etc. Automations are also often built using Email Opens, some email marketers would set the automation that if the recipient did not open the email, an email with the same content, but a different subject line will be sent after a certain period. This will now need some adjustment. Email content optimization, A/B testing, these will not go away. But rather than using ‘email opens’ as the key KPI, email marketers will need to focus more on driving deeper engagements such as email clicks and form submissions.