On June 7th last year, at their annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC 2021), Apple further solidified its unwavering stance on privacy with the announcement of a new iOS 15 feature- Mail Privacy Protection (MPP). As an email marketer, if at that moment you had a tough time stopping your hair strands from greying thick and fast, we don’t entirely blame you. After all, this new privacy feature had brought with it the death of the open rate, a metric that marketers relied heavily upon to measure the performance of their email campaigns.
A few months hence, now that there’s significantly greater clarity on this subject, all of us are in a better position to understand the impact of MPP on the future of email marketing.
“Does it affect email deliverability?”
“If not open rate, then what?”
“How can I adapt to MPP?”
If these are some of the questions that are running amok in your head, don’t worry. We’ve answered them all in this blog. Read on to find out!
Understanding Mail Privacy Protection- What Is It and How Does It Work?
As per Apple’s press release, MPP is aimed at protecting the privacy of users by preventing email senders from learning information about their mail activity. It does so by masking the recipient’s IP address. As a result of this, senders are kept from determining their subscribers’ locations as well as gleaning details about their other online activities. Additionally, they are also unable to check whether a particular user has opened their email or not. And if at all they have, MPP doesn’t allow them to see when.
Upon opening the Apple Mail app, users are greeted with a pop-up wherein they’re prompted to turn Mail Privacy Protection on. There are two options: “Protect Mail activity” and “Don’t protect Mail activity,” neither of which is pre-selected. Whatever choice the user makes gets automatically synced to all their devices having the same Apple ID. However, you only get to exercise this choice if Apple Mail is your default email client. If you are using another email client on your Apple device, Mail Privacy Protection will be turned on by default in the settings.
But, how does MPP function exactly? Let’s take a look:
- When a user turns on Mail Privacy Protection, they don’t receive their emails directly anymore. Instead, they get routed by Apple through a proxy server where it pre-loads the tracking pixels as well as the message content. This mechanism is spurred into action even when the user doesn’t open their email.
- Next, as the Apple Mail app is launched, the email gets downloaded to the user’s device from the email host.
- Subsequently, Apple downloads every single image present in the email and creates copies of them, storing them in a new location on the Apple Privacy Cache.
- However, this downloading doesn’t happen in the dark. Apple explicitly requests these images from the ESP (email service provider). This permission is a prerequisite for the caching process to commence.
- Besides the images, Apple also requests the ESP for the open tracking pixel. Consequently, this leads the ESP to believe the subscriber has opened the email.
- When a recipient actually opens the email, the content appears from the Apple Cache rather than the ESP server or the sender’s web host. And so, the sender is unable to tell who opened their emails and when.
Does Mail Privacy Protection Affect Deliverability?
The announcement of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection has, in effect, ushered in the demise of the open rate. Initially, it was deemed to throw a substantial spanner in the works of many email marketers. This is because traditionally marketers have relied on open rates to track email deliverability– ascertaining whether their emails are reaching their audience’s inboxes or not. As a result, a high open rate was indicative of high deliverability. However, with MPP in the equation now, that statement has been rendered downright obsolete.
So, have email marketers been forever condemned to stay in the dark regarding deliverability? Well, no. Despite earning the adulation of many within the email community, the open rate has always been a fickle metric from the beginning. Yes, it does document your subscribers’ interactions with your emails but at the same time, these numbers can easily be tampered with by autoresponders, mailbox providers, and anti-spam filters. So, although open rates have been shown the door by iOS 15, email deliverability remains completely unaffected. Come to think of it, deliverability relies more on the kind of customer experience you’re delivering than anything else. So, if you want to improve it, you need to work on stepping up your content game, meticulously maintaining your list hygiene, ensuring compliance with anti-spam laws, and the like. And as for what metrics you should focus on tracking in a post-MPP world, the following section should answer your questions.
Looking Beyond Open Rates- Marketing Metrics That Demand Your Attention
With Apple commanding nearly 58% of the email client market share, it is fair to state that MPP has hindered email marketers from tracking the open rates of almost half their subscribers.
But, this is far from being the death of email marketing. All MPP has done is force marketers to realign the goals they had earlier pinned on open rates. iOS 15 has only altered the traditional manner of deliverability tracking and not deliverability on the whole. At the end of the day, your deliverability and sender reputation will always be dictated by the engagement you’re able to elicit from your subscribers. And when it comes to assessing your campaign’s performance, there are a host of other metrics you can rely on assuredly. We discuss them in detail over here.
Click-through rate or CTR measures the number of readers who clicked on your email’s links compared to the total number who received it. Tracking your CTRs can help you understand the frequency with which your recipients are interacting with the links in your email after opening it. A high CTR is indicative of your offerings generating a healthy interest among your readers. Additionally, CTR is also an incredibly handy metric for tracking traffic on your website and social media pages.
Your CTR is a reliable indicator of how effective your email copy and CTA (call-to-action) phrase is for your target audience. If they lack oomph, they’ll never be able to convince them to take action against your link. What can really help you capitalize on your CTR readings, is split testing. For instance, many brands prefer disclosing the product’s price in their email itself while others don’t. This is not an arbitrary decision; this is an informed conclusion that they have arrived at after testing both approaches with their target audience. As we have said multiple times previously- there’s no better way of figuring out what works best than testing.
A conversion takes place when a reader not just clicks on your product’s CTA but also eventually goes forward with completing the purchase as well. Conversion rates help you understand the kind of engagement your emails are generating. High conversion rates suggest that the contacts on your email list find your brand of communication quite relevant and alluring. Goes without saying, the higher your conversion rates, the richer your coffer.
Check out some helpful tips for improving your landing page conversion rate
Revenue Per Email
Another important metric that will let you amp up your revenue is revenue per email. It is a measure of how much you earn on average for every email you send out. The math here is easy (and pretty self-explanatory)- you simply divide the revenue generated by your campaign by the sum total of all the contacts to whom it was sent. Improving this metric can open up multiple avenues for you- expanding your offerings, expanding into new markets, recruiting additional talent, to name a few.
When your email bounces, it means it never landed in your subscriber’s inbox. It is arguably the last thing any email marketer wants (only to be preceded by spam complaints, perhaps). High bounce rates should be a motivation for you to look into your email list and weed out contacts that are either inactive or defunct. Sending emails to such addresses is what causes them to bounce in the first place. Additionally, it might also serve as a wake-up call for you to verify your compliance with policies such as GDPR and the CAN-SPAM act.
A steady rise in unsubscribe rate is a strong indicator of your subscribers losing interest in your communications. Most unsubscribes happen when readers are either unimpressed by the quality of your content or overwhelmed by the frequency of your emails. While the former warrants several rounds of brainstorming, the latter has a relatively easier fix- giving your readers the choice of updating their preferences. Right from the beginning itself (in your welcome series), allow your subscribers to specify how often they want to hear from you.
How Can Your Campaign Adapt To MPP?
- Make clever use of surveys. Not only are they an effective tool to collect customer feedback but also to gather first-party data. That said, don’t include too many input fields; that might put off the readers. Name and email address are all you need.
- With MPP in place, it is impossible to tell whether a subscriber has opened your email or not. But, you can always note when they send a reply. Replies are a highly definitive and trackable engagement metric, and hence, moving on, marketers should focus on crafting emails that are successful at encouraging replies.
- Focus more on what readers are doing after clicking on your email, which is to say carefully analyze their activity on your website. Are they making a purchase? Which page did they stay on for the longest? These kinds of insights can go a long way towards sealing the success of your campaigns.
Wrapping It Up
Even though Mail Privacy Protection hasn’t directly impacted email deliverability, it has completely revolutionized the way marketers go about their business. Now that open rates are out of the discussion, businesses will dive headlong into the world of deliverability to deliver uncompromising customer experiences, all the while respecting the privacy of their subscribers.