Saturday, April 13, 2024

What Apple’s Mail Privacy changes mean for retailers

Apple’s recent announcement to introduce Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) initially sent shock waves through the world of email marketing.

Guy Hanson

By Validity inc. VP Customer Engagement Guy Hanson. 

However, as the dust settles it’s become clear that while these changes will certainly impact email marketers, they don’t signal the end of the engagement tracking. Rather, these changes are the latest step in a long journey towards greater consumer privacy.

Announced in June, Apple’s update will prevent email senders from using unique tracking pixels to measure open rates and device usage. It will also mask IP addresses, preventing retailers from tracking recipients’ location. While these changes have caused panic among some marketers, implementation isn’t expected to launch until September – allowing ample time for preparation.

What do the changes mean? 
Apple’s introduction of MPP may seem revolutionary at first, however other major mailbox providers (MBPs) such as Gmail and Yahoo have been using similar systems for years. Where Apple’s plan diverges from others is when image caching will take place. Image caching means the email images (including tracking pixels) are downloaded from the original server and stored on the MBP’s server. With Gmail and Yahoo, caching takes place when the email is opened, allowing the sender to identify when this happens.

In comparison, initial testing shows Apple’s image caching happens earlier – when emails are delivered. This means all tracking pixels are downloaded immediately, effectively (and incorrectly) reporting a 100% email open rate for these emails, as well as preventing senders from obtaining an accurate location.

How should retailers adapt their email strategies?
Fortunately, many email marketers started adapting some time ago. According to the latest Marketer Email Tracker 2021, only a quarter of senders use open rates to measure program relevance, with clicks used twice as widely.

But for those yet to adapt in light of these new challenges, here are six steps you can take to get prepared:

Look at reputation metrics and Inbox Placement Rates (IPRs) – Sender reputation indicates how MBPs see your email program and most MBPs use subscriber engagement in their spam filtering algorithms. Therefore, reputation scores provide important clues about whether your emails are generating positive engagement (by getting opened and read) or negative (by generating high complaint rates). Similarly, there is a strong relationship between IPRs and open rates. This means monitoring IPRs provides a partial proxy for open rates. When IPRs drop, look at subject line strategy, content and offers as possible causes.

Keep practicing good deliverability habits –
 In addition to reputation, important factors for Apple include full email authentication, use of active opt-in permissioning, consistent use of IP addresses and sending domains, and prompt removal of opt-outs and unknown users. Retailers need to keep these practices up.

Routes to response – Metrics further down the conversion funnel such as clicks, website visits and conversions are still available to senders, and are more valuable. They provide much stronger indications of subscriber interest and are more useful as a result. Retailers should also pay more attention to spam complaints because ultimately, clicks and complaints are equally important in determining engagement.

Embrace zero party data – Greater privacy awareness means more focus on acquiring ‘zero-party data’. This is data customers intentionally share (as opposed to inferred from their behaviour). This includes preference centre data, purchase intentions, and personal details (including what device and email client they use). Retailers should prioritise collection of this data by promoting their preference centres and using progressive registration/profiling tactics.

Stay educated – There’s still plenty to learn about exactly how Apple will implement this new functionality. If selection of the ‘Don’t protect’ option means pixel tracking remains active for these subscribers, retailers have a big opportunity, but will need to educate consumers about their responsible use of tracking and to clearly explain the two-way exchange of value that tracking pixels enable.

Apple’s MPP announcement is another step towards further consumer privacy, an important element of ethical marketing. Now more than ever, marketers need to work to understand what motivates their subscribers in order to engage them, be more intentional about acquiring news subscribers, and focused on the metrics that matter.


About Guy Hanson

Guy Hanson is Vice President Customer Engagement (International) at Validity Inc. With a knowledge base spanning two decades, Guy is globally recognised as an email expert and thought leader. He is a passionate advocate for intelligent use of customer data to drive responsive email programs.

About Validity Inc 

For more than 20 years, tens of thousands of organisations across the world have relied on Validity solutions to target, contact, engage and keep customers, using trustworthy data as a key advantage. Validity’s flagship products deliver smarter campaigns, more qualified leads, more productive sales, and ultimately faster growth.


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