How marketers can adapt to Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection update

Marketers were given just three months to prepare for Apple’s groundbreaking new Mail Privacy Protection feature. Announced in June and launching in September, this iOS 15 feature has left email marketers scrambling to adapt their strategies in time.

In a nutshell, Mail Privacy Protection will anonymize Apple Mail users’ information, leaving marketers in the dark about their audience’s email open times, locations, and device information.

As the clock winds down now, Chad White, head of research for Oracle Marketing Consulting, shares key strategies brands can use to adapt to Mail Privacy Protection and ensure their long-term success.

Here’s what he has to say.

Start prioritizing clickthrough rates

Arguably the biggest change affecting marketers is the disappearance of clear email open data. This will make it tough to use email open data to optimize send times — an important strategy for email marketing.

As a result, marketers will have to start tracking clickthrough rates to gauge if and when audiences are engaging with their emails, which White says is “not a horrible thing.” That’s because clicks are actually a better marker of deep engagement compared to opens.

Marketers will also have to shift from prioritizing opens to driving clicks when launching reengagement campaigns.

“When you’re sending a reactivation campaign to an Apple Mail user who’s enabled Mail Privacy Protection, you’re going to have to ask them for a click,” White says. “It’s essentially going to turn into a double-opt-in confirmation for those folks. So you have to redesign those emails for a different goal.”

Gather information from non-Apple users

While the Apple Mail app is popular, White notes that it only accounts for roughly half of emails. That means half your audience will be unaffected by Mail Privacy Protection. And you can use that audience’s data to gather general insights, which you can then map onto the portion of your audience that will be affected by this change.

“I think everyone is going to have to create a non-Apple audience where you have what I’m calling ‘real opens,’ White says. “If for nothing else, you’re going to want to watch that by mailbox provider for deliverability purposes.”

This will be particularly important for media companies that monetize their emails with ads.

As White says, “[It’s] absolutely critical to know what the open rate is and to be able to create a universe that you can proxy across your whole audience to get a good sign of what’s going on because opens are ad impressions.”

Focus on the data you have now

Marketers likely have years of historical data that tells them how their customers use email. And iOS 15 hasn’t launched just yet, so there’s still some time to collect more information before that individual-level data goes away. Even once Mail Privacy Protection is enabled, there will be an adoption period of at least several months, during which marketers can gradually adjust to this shift.

“I think there’s some legwork you can do now,” White says. “You can use device identification now while it still works to create an entry-level audience. And then you can confirm members of that audience once this starts to go live.”

If you see any members of that non-Apple audience suddenly generating increased open rates, for example, they likely have their Gmail account synced to their Mail App.

“And you’ll know you’ll need to take them out of that audience,” White says. “So that’s something you can do right now.”

Interested in hearing more? Watch the full episode here.