Apple Privacy Changes – the Impact to Marketers
What is Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection?
Apple is asserting itself once again in the privacy discussion with the release of its iOS 15 software, which includes new features to help users gain better control of their data and manage what apps have access to it. These tools are geared towards helping users preserve their privacy, but it also makes it harder for publishers and email marketers to measure the effectiveness of their offerings and media programs.
Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection or MPP feature will be included in the iOS 15 release. The Mail Privacy Protection feature will affect email accounts that are accessed through the native email app on an Apple phone or tablet. The feature aims to prevent email senders (and third parties) from using tracking pixels to collect information about the email recipient. In other words, publishers who offer email tactics as part of their media solutions may lose the ability to know who opened an email, and when that email open occurred. IP address and other important information will also be masked, so suppliers will be unable to determine a user’s location or link their activity to other data.
Another significant privacy feature that will be released in iOS 15 is Apple’s Hide My Email, which allows users to create and share unique and random email addresses that forward to their personal inbox. This will keep a user’s personal email address private and shielded from websites who may use that email address as an ID to connect a user’s offline data to their online activity.
This is not the first time Apple has taken a leadership position with privacy, earlier this year they released an App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature that automatically opted out Apple device users from ad tracking via the ID for Advertisers (IDFA).
The timing for the iOS release is TBD but based on timing of previous iOS updates it may come as early as September 2021.
With the upcoming iOS 15 release, Apple users will have the ability to turn off open tracking, hide their IP addresses and hide their email addresses. This will have a major impact on email programs. If a user decides to hide these features, publishers (and advertisers) may no longer be able to capture opens and tracking pixels will no longer be allowed.
Measuring email opens will be impacted since Apple’s mail app will pre-fetch or pre-load all assets of the email when it is received, so emails sent to iOS 15 users may appear as 100% opened. Email marketers need to be prepared to lose the ability to measure email opens at the physician level for these users, as well as subsequent email opens.
Fortunately, the tracking of clicks within emails will not be affected by Apple’s software update, so we will continue to be able to measure user level activity on creatives.
What Should I Do to Prepare?
Knowing that email open rates will likely become inflated, and no longer an effective metric to price programs or measure its success, email marketers should start to rethink their strategy for existing and future programs. We recommend conducting a full audit of your contracts to determine how the loss of email measurement will impact things. In some cases, contracts may need to be adjusted if it includes an email component that is tied to a deliverable, such as engagements or guarantees.
If a contract needs to be adjusted, you should think through how best to price and measure the email component of the program. One size does not fit all, so sellers and buyers should be prepared to explore a few options to ensure all parties are satisfied with any contract changes.
Take proactive measures today to ensure the success of your campaigns by asking yourself the following questions:
- How can I begin testing the beta version of iOS 15 to ensure I have the necessary protocols in place to adjust to Apple’s iOS 15 privacy changes?
- How will this affect my 2022 contracts and RFPs?
- How will pricing for email campaigns change?
- Should pricing be based on sends or clicks?
- Should pricing be based on email opens that are still measurable (i.e. non-Apple users)?
- How will measurement for email campaigns change?
- Should the primary measurement metric be clicks or engagements?
- Can you use historical data to infer open rates across iOS 15 users?
- Can data from non-iOS 15 users be used to project open rates across the total campaign?
- Is there a way to continue measuring iOS 15 users using other qualifying data (e.g. timestamps, website visits, engagements, etc.)?
- Should non-email tactics be recommended in situations where measurement is critical, and if so, how will that affect pricing?
- Should contracts with an email component tied to opens be adjusted before or after the iOS 15 release?
The actual impact of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection is still unknown, but it could affect as much as half of all US emails. This will not be the last change in privacy policies that affect the targeting and measurement of audiences, so continue to invest in strategies that build first-party data, and identify partners who are setup to support targeting and measurement in a cookieless world. The sooner we begin testing alternative solutions and workarounds the better prepared we will be for the future of digital marketing.