In the fall, Apple rolled out a suite of email privacy protections for users of its Apple Mail service. One of them alone is enough to wreak havoc on email metrics, but together they call for a rethinking of most email marketing strategy.
What did Apple do for email privacy?
Apple Mail now opens email on its servers before it reaches your recipients' inbox. This will inflate open rates and skew engagement scores, and it makes it hard to tell who's engaging with your content.
The "Private Relay" feature hides the addresses of internet users. “Hide My Email" creates unique, random email addresses that can forward to their personal inbox.
How much of my email marketing list does this affect?
Not everyone uses Apple Mail, even among iPhone users, but a sizable amount do. A 2021 study of email opens found Apple and iPhone represented a little over half of email clients in use.
Your email marketing lists will vary from these averages of course. One way to investigate is to use Google Analytics to see what operating systems are in use among your site visitors. To do so, open the Audience report (seen below), choose Technology, then Browser and OS, and highlight the Operating System dimension.
Keep in mind that this doesn't identify email clients, since many people use services like Gmail and Yahoo that are available across operating systems. But it can lend insight into the scope of the affect on your lists.
Three steps to continue to use email marketing confidently
1. Review your current reports and rules
- Any report you're using that mentions open rates is immediately suspect.
- Open rates also drive subject line A/B tests, so those tests also become unreliable.
- Review and rework automation rules based on whether a person has opened an email.
2. Shift from open to click-based metrics
- Transition your reports to stable metrics like clicks, click rate, and conversion rate to track true engagement.
- Change follow-up email rules to send reminders to people who haven't clicked instead of those who haven't opened.
- Use UTM codes on all email links to better track activity and conversions on your site.
3. Keep your eye on the ball
- Driving action via a CTA click through a conversion is the ultimate goal of most emails sent today. Refine your CTAs, limit them to one or two max per email, and make sure your site's conversion tracking is up to snuff.
- Great marketing isn't changing. Messaging that resonates, personalized approaches, and customer-centric strategies are more important than ever.
The coming year stands to be very interesting for digital marketers. Between pressure to better protect user privacy and efforts to stave off regulation, more is sure to come.
By taking the proactive steps above, you'll be in a much better position to take quick action as these changes arise.