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2 weeks ago

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Why are my email opens suddenly so high? Low-down on Apple’s latest privacy update

You may have recently heard about Apple’s new feature: Mail Privacy Protection (MPP). This is a new update for people using Apple Mail on their Apple devices on iOS15.

The update is designed to help people take control of their privacy which may have some implications on your email marketing.

What is changing with iOS15?

MPP will affect emails that you send from an Email Service Provider (ESP) such as Mailchimp, dotdigital, or WordFly. When you send a marketing email, your ESP adds an invisible tracking pixel into the content. When the reader downloads images in your email, they also download the tracking pixel.

The tracking pixel is what enables you to see how many people have opened an email, when they’ve opened it, and more.

When people enable MPP, Apple will pre-fetch all images in emails you send, including the tracking pixel. This means it will look like almost everyone using Apple Mail has opened your emails, regardless of whether they have or not.

How does it affect my email marketing?

The main effect will be that your email open rates will be less accurate than they used to be. It’s likely that your average open rate will increase with the update. The percentage increase will depend on how many people in your mailing list are using Apple Mail and how many people opt-in to MPP. This means that if you use open rates as a key metric to measure engagement with your emails, this will no longer be accurate.

Email opens are also used for several other features in your ESP. Now is a good time to do an audit of your email programme to check the following:

  • Automations – if you have any automations set up in your ESP, check what the triggers are to ensure they aren’t using open rate. For example, you might have a re-engagement automation set up that goes to people who haven’t opened an email in the past 6 months. This will not work for Apple Mail users with MPP enabled.
  • A/B testing – if you’re carrying out A/B testing on subject lines, using open rate to determine the winner will no longer be accurate.
  • Send time optimisation – this will no longer be accurate for Apple Mail users. The email will show as opened as soon as Apple has pre-fetched the images, regardless of when the email is actually opened.
  • Geolocation – if you use geolocation for dynamic content in your emails, this will no longer work.
  • Preference centre – this is where your subscribers can let you know what they want to hear about directly. If you have a preference centre, make sure it’s up to date. If you don’t have one, consider setting one up. Preference centres allow you to personalise your emails without reliance on open data.

What else do I need to do?

This update will mainly affect people using some more advanced email marketing functions. This includes things like automations, send-time optimisation, and A/B testing. But it’s worthwhile for everyone to be aware of the situation. Many of the popular ESPs have put together FAQs documents. These explain how the situation affects your marketing, and what action you need to take in your particular system.

Here are some resources to help for some of the more popular ESPs in the arts and cultural sector:

If your ESP is not listed in these documents or you can’t find the information you need, get in touch and our Tech Champions will be happy to help.

How else can I track engagement?

Remember that email open rates are just one way to measure engagement with your organisation. Here are some other things to look out for:

  • Email click-throughs (these are not affected by the update)
  • Ticket purchases
  • Online shop purchases
  • Social media interaction
  • In-person visits

Further reading

What Mail Privacy Protection Means for Email Marketers – Litmus  (external link)

The Mail Privacy Protection Survival Guide for Marketers – Litmus (external link)


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