September 27, 2021

6 min read time

Written by:

Chris Higgins

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How Apple Privacy Updates may impact your email marketing efforts

Apple recently began rolling out their new iOS 15 privacy features, including Mail Privacy Protection. This update is being lauded as a big win for customer privacy, but may impact your marketing efforts, specifically email marketing. In this article, we’ll touch on some of the details of this update and share some resources (courtesy of our partner, HubSpot) to help you prepare for the change.

Back in June, Apple previewed new privacy protection functionality in it’s mobile and desktop operating systems (iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and watchOS 8). These updates are aimed at helping users better control & manage access to their data.

Apple are claiming these features represent the latest innovations in their “legacy of privacy leadership”, as the company continues to expand its commitment to privacy.

Privacy has been central to our work at Apple from the very beginning,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering. “Every year, we push ourselves to develop new technology to help users take more control of their data and make informed decisions about whom they share it with. This year’s updates include innovative features that give users deeper insights and more granular control than ever before.

Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering.

How does Mail Privacy Protection work?

As HubSpot partners we’ll reference them as an example, but most email marketing platform providers like HubSpot use tracking pixels in emails to collect information about customer mail activity – typically opens, clicks, bounces and other behaviours as well as geographic/demographic data.

In Apple’s own words: “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.

For a number of years, Intelligent Tracking Prevention has helped protect Safari users from unwanted tracking by using on-device machine learning to stop trackers while allowing websites to function normally. This year, Intelligent Tracking Prevention is getting even stronger by also hiding the user’s IP address from trackers. This means they can’t utilise the user’s IP address as a unique identifier to connect their activity across websites and build a profile about them.”

If Apple Mail users opt in to the new mail privacy update, it will effectively hide their IP address, location, and prevent senders from seeing when and if they’ve opened an email. For many CRM & email systems, where read reciepts and open rate statistics are used to then fuel onward sales actions or behaviours, this may have some serious impacts.

What does this mean for marketers?

This update may hinder digital marketers‘ ability to accurately target emails based on geography/location and may actually inflate email open rates because the new update requires emails to be pre-loaded by Apple. Other marketing efforts that rely on open tracking, like list segmentation and workflow/automation enrollment, will also be impacted – or at the very least, the accuracy of trigger behaviours will be.

For example, we work with a number of clients who use HubSpot to track activity on their website and use this behaviour to fuel email marketing automations. Let’s say a user browses a certain section of the website more, particularly focussing their use of the site around a certain product or service area. This is a pretty strong indication that the user is interested in finding out more about this product or service.

So, if they’re in the business’ (GDPR-compliant) database, then they should certainly be recieving emails that are of interest to them, about this product or service and, therefore, are more likely to take the next desired action as they’re nurtured through the sales & marketing funnels.

The challenge now comes when the onward email is sent to a segment of this database, and clients are now unable to track the engagement with this email as accurately to continue developing a potential sale.

What should I do about it?

The first thing to do is not panic. As with many of these privacy and security changes, there are a number of things marketers can do to mitigate the impacts, but the reality is, these changes happen (and keep happening apace), so collectively all businesses will be experiencing the same (or very similar) impacts.

Hubspot have provided this checklist to understand how HubSpot user’s tools might be impacted by this change, and be mindful of how a business using HubSpot CMS may rely on open rate and location-based targeting et al.

Two quick take aways from this: For processes such as list segmentation and automations, marketers could consider doing an audit and adjusting list / trigger criteria.

For metrics and analytics, marketers may wish to consider using more reliable engagement metrics beyond opens etc, focussing more on click rate or reply rate. HubSpot have also put together this intro video.

The development and product teams for most major CMS and email marketing platforms appear to be actively assessing how they might be able to address these changes within their email functionality, and I am sure there will be product update announcements in due course – but for now, it’s a case of working within the parameters of the possible, making small adjustments to usage and behaviours within the tools, to minimise the impact.

Can Wonderful help me with this?

At Wonderful, we thrive on these sorts of complex challenges, and relish the opportunity to explore new and inventive ways of achieving digital marketing results despite these new curveballs and hurdles being implemented.

To take your complex challenges and allow us to make them Wonderfully simple, why not get in touch here?