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What could Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection mean for email marketing?

Apple is no stranger to putting the cat among the pigeons with its privacy-protecting features. The company has provoked ire from Facebook for moving to limit its ad tracking on iPhones, and now Apple is looking to also restrict how much email marketers know about their target audiences.  

At the 2021 outing for Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June, Apple announced Mail Privacy Protection, where people who send emails are prevented from finding out whether they are opened via Apple’s Mail app. Could this situation bode ill for email marketers?

How will Mail Privacy Protection work?

Apple hasn’t given too much away in its press release announcing the feature, saying little more than that it “helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email, and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.”

How would email marketers learn this kind of information about their targets in the first place? By using what Apple calls “invisible pixels”, a practice Mail Privacy Protection is said to clamp down on. The feature will arrive in the autumn with the releases of iOS 15, iPadOS 15 and macOS Monterey.

These will be the next major versions of the operating systems for, respectively, iPhones, iPads and Macs – and, as these releases are rolled out, more and more Apple Mail users will get the chance to conceal their IP address from third parties and ensure all remote content is loaded privately.

Should email marketers be worried?

One piece of good news for them is that these privacy changes will only apply to Apple’s Mail app. So, if you regularly run email marketing campaigns, you can maintain a good insight into their effectiveness provided many of the emails are opened on, say, the Gmail or Outlook app.

However, research suggests that roughly half of all emails are opened on Apple apps. Furthermore, MPP will affect any emails read through Apple’s Mail app – even when those emails fall into inboxes of email accounts originally provided by companies other than Apple.  

Could you soon end up with a lot less data at your fingertips?

This will largely depend on how you react to Apple’s challenge. Once an Apple Mail user has activated MPP, any emails you send to them will now be reported back as opened even if they actually haven’t been – making it harder for you to reliably discern your campaigns’ open rates.

You could also soon find yourself struggling to include a lot of personalised content in your promotional emails, as this strategy might have long relied on you hosting the content on a remote server which would automatically download the content to the email when it is opened.

So, the impending arrival of Mail Privacy Protection could be your cue to start shifting your attention from open rates to click-through rates. You could measure these by linking to specific landing pages in your email content – landing pages our web designers would be happy to help you make.   

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