How Apple’s Email Privacy Update Will Change What’s In Your Inbox

Apple is changing the ability of advertisers and publishers to see if consumers open emails, and it could mean big changes in the way email marketing looks in the future.

Apple announced several new features in June for desktop and mobile operating systems that will have a major impact on email.

The company will give its users the option to remove tracking pixels, or small images that email marketers use to tell if they actually opened an email. There is also a feature called “Private Broadcast” for subscribers to Apple’s iCloud storage service, iCloud +, that hides IP addresses. Finally, a feature called “Hide my email” will allow users to share “unique and random” email addresses that they can forward to their personal inbox, which they can delete to control who contacts them.

Of course, not all email users use Apple email products. But they represent a large proportion: An analysis of 3 billion emails opened between January and March by email marketing company Litmus found that Apple on the iPhone had the highest proportion of open emails, at 38.9%. Google’s Gmail followed with 27.2% and Apple Mail (on desktops) with 11.5%. IPad email opens also accounted for just over one percent.

That means that a significant portion of the marketing emails sent every day can be more difficult for senders to obtain data.

The changes, expected to come with software updates in the fall, are forcing marketers and publishers who use email to reach their subscriber base to rethink some of the ways they have measured, monetized or used email.

As a result, consumers may eventually notice a difference in the marketing emails they receive, and they may see brands communicate with them in other ways outside of the inbox, such as by sending text messages.

The way a burrito chain or credit app emails consumers has often gone something like this: Marketers can use tracking pixels within emails to give them an idea of ​​when someone actually opens. that message. Under the new changes, users will be asked to select whether they want to choose to “protect” their email activity by hiding IP addresses and uploading remote content privately.

Email open rates have not been a perfect metric. In the email industry, the “opening” of an email has been seen as a sign of interest or commitment. But if you’re someone who indiscriminately clicks to open emails only to mark them as read, that doesn’t mean much.

In the future, emails to consumers who use Apple email products and opt for “Email Privacy Protection” will appear as if they were read as soon as it was sent, which means that the information will not be very useful. for marketers.

For a company like Domino’s, email is of great importance – the company uses email to communicate with tens of millions of customers, to update customers on where their order is, update them on deals and deals, and more.

Domino’s VP of Digital Marketing Christopher Thomas-Moore said timing, for example, in terms of when people open emails at dinner time, has been helpful in sending the right message when people actually he wants it.

“We potentially lose that data,” he said. “So maybe we are a little less relevant now when we send you information. Because we are not in those moments that are most important to you ”.

Thomas-Moore said there may be an evolution for the company in figuring out how to perform those kinds of functions without all the data it may have had before. He said there are still questions across the industry about what the actual impacts will be, and he hopes it will take some time to find out.

Erik Fialho, Chief Operating Officer at LeftLane Sports, said the change makes it harder to do things like A / B testing subject lines to determine which one is more successful in getting people to open. LeftLane is a parent company of outdoor-focused e-commerce and adventure travel sub-brands.

Fialho said his company already looks at other metrics outside of email opens, such as how many consumers click on the email or how many are buying.

Some marketers use the open data in email to do a kind of “retargeting” that depends on whether someone opened an email and didn’t end up trying to make a purchase.

What email marketers are interested in is how email service providers will change ‘deliverability’ or how they decide which emails arrive in your inbox or which are doomed to spam filter . Sending emails to customers who continually don’t read them can affect deliverability.

“Ultimately, you need your email to go to someone’s inbox and not their spam in order for them to react,” said Fialho. And if the email service providers don’t realize that all of a sudden a lot of these email marketers are not going to have one of their key rates to see, whether or not they should send an email to a customer and whether the customer is engaged or not, it can be a challenge. ”

It will also pose challenges for newsletter-based businesses. Myles Kleeger, president of customer engagement platform Braze, said that companies that monetize audiences based directly on the content of emails are likely the most affected by Apple’s changes, as they often charge based on fees. opening.

“A lot of them charge based on some of those granular details that you might not be able to get anymore,” he said.

But those companies will likely look for other ways to get readers to click and show that they were reading, be it a survey or some approve button to show that they are engaging in some way.

Future Plc, which has more than 180 media brands including Marie Claire and Golf Monthly, already uses metrics that are based on more of its own data, said Allison Markert, vice president of B2B advertising and sales operations. That’s especially important as increasingly privacy-focused initiatives are taking place in the industry.

One result of all of this is that marketers will likely push harder to ask consumers for their permission to email them and continue to email them, relying on explicit permission rather than implying that they are based on open rate data. .

Flooding consumers with spam messages could not only cause consumers to unsubscribe, but if consumers are disconnected enough, they could turn to Apple’s “hide my email” feature when signing up, said Nirish Parsad, technologist Tinuiti’s marketing team.

Marketers are also grappling with a number of other privacy changes in the industry, including previous changes by Apple that gave users more transparency and control over which apps want to track them for advertising.

“My first reaction [to the email announcements] It was ‘Here we go again,’ “said Thomas-Moore of Domino’s.” There are some floating assumptions as to what the impacts will be. But we are still so early in discovery and understanding that I hope we find ourselves moving toward the center point as we continue to move forward. “

All of this could also mean a switch to other means of communication with the client.

“Ultimately, over time it will be more difficult to use email in general,” said Fialho. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that email is going to disappear. It is still a very profitable marketing channel. It is still a very useful tool. But that is one of the reasons why we started looking for other communication methods ”.

LeftLane Sports has given texting a big boost this year, he said.

Fialho said that the results in the text have been positive in terms of clicks and conversions. But he points out that they have to be text messages that the consumer really wants. He gave the example of a consumer who has taken an interest in New Balance running shoes that have been sold out and texts them when they are back in stock with a coupon they can use.

“You definitely want to make sure you don’t overload that customer with mindless text messages, so they need to be really personalized and important,” he said.

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