Apple Privacy disrupts Legit Marketers & Could Lead to More Spam

At this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple announced major privacy updates that will significantly impact email marketers. A new feature called Mail Privacy Protection will be available by Q3 of 2021 on iOS15, iPadOS15, watchOS 8 and macOS Monterey devices. It will prevent embedded html pixels from rendering data from email receivers. 

For years email marketers have relied on embedded html tracking pixels to identify contacts that opened their mail. At Startinboxing we have a long history of advising marketers to factor in user engagement into their deployment decisions and to target less mail to contacts that don’t open. Mailbox providers like Gmail essentially reward this type of behavior as it reduces unwanted mail. Apple’s new found commitment to privacy has disrupted the industry and could make it more challenging to get the right content to the best, most engaged audience.

What we know so far

Apple mail users will receive a message that gives them the option to protect their mail activity. Users that opt in can view emails without their open action tracked. There is also a ‘Hide my email’ feature that allows for a randomized address to be created that will forward mail to the Apple mail inbox and can easily be disconnected.

With a huge market share of email opens in 2020 (46% according to Litmus) and integrations of other mail apps into Apple Mail, the true impact of engagement data is unknown. The privacy feature is still in beta, so we will have to wait until we can test it thoroughly. More technical questions such as will opens be suppressed or inflated have yet to be addressed definitively, so stay tuned.

The new privacy initiative is not entirely a surprise. European nations have long emphasised the right to privacy and have worked tirelessly to enforce data protection and data transparency. In addition to this changing global landscape, as well as Facebook’s 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal, privacy protection is a suitable one upper opportunity for Apple. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerbeg and Apple CEO Tim Cook have feuded publicly on a variety of topics ranging from data privacy to subscription fees charged to content curators within the Apple ecosystem. Unfortunately, the spat between billionaires may cost legitimate marketers important data points and open the floodgates to unsolicited mail. As engagement data for email opens may soon be far less reliable, there is a good chance that less sophisticated senders could ignore opens entirely and blast away. Whether Apple will enhance mail filtering or actually create a usable postmaster page for good senders remains to be determined. Blocking html embedded pixels may deprive senders of monitoring email opens, but it is unclear how if at all this update prevents unwanted mail.

What can senders do?

First, don’t panic. Legitimate senders will always be in a good position. Remember, these privacy changes only impact the things senders can see. They do not impact the senders’ reputation, so continue collecting email addresses on a permission basis. Be sure that all points of signup provide a clear option to receive email marketing content and work to ensure your content has value and meets the stated interest of the customer and prospects.

We encourage marketers to adhere to permission based email marketing & best practices. While available, consider segmenting your contacts based on recent engagement (within the last six months or so) as this will give you a baseline of contacts to market to Apple or iCloud domains. Click tracking and conversions are also a very important measure that marketers can continue to rely on.

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