How to prepare for Apple Mail Privacy Protection

If you’re as passionate about email marketing as us, you’ll already know about Apple Mail Privacy Protection (MPP). If not, here’s a speedy summary.

Apple are continuing their privacy drive with a major change to Apple Mail in September. The much talked about iOS 15 release for iPhone, iPad and Mac comes with a change that will significantly impact open tracking.

After the update, Apple Mail users will be asked if they want to “Protect Mail Activity” – and frankly, who’d say no?! Beyond that point, as long as the Apple Mail app is running, it will divert incoming email to Apple’s servers where the images will be cached. That will trigger an open for every email message, regardless of whether the email was opened or not. In addition, Apple will mask geolocation and device data rendering it useless.

Back to the future

This isn’t the first time that open rates have been hit. You might remember Microsoft Outlook started blocking images by default way back in 2017. Instead of showing an open when an email is (cough) opened, users have to manually download images. That’s continued right through to the latest versions of Outlook and it’s why a ‘good’ open rate is 20-30% as opposed to 70-80%.

MPP will have the opposite effect, generating an open whether the email was actually opened or not.

What’s the big deal?

According to Litmus, at the end of July 2021, 49.7% of email opens came from Apple Mail. We wanted to see how that looked for our clients (advisory, institutional, and private banking) and found we get 37% of opens from Apple Mail. That’s pretty massive right?

But we’re talking here about all opens. We know that many investment professionals open an email more than once and most use multiple devices for checking their email. Digging deeper, we found only 16% of contacts across all our clients exclusively use Apple Mail. That’s still very significant but not quite as bad as the headline stats suggest.

Also, remember that Apple Mail needs to be either open or running in the background for it to send emails to Apple’s proxy servers. We suspect this will apply to most users.

With these considerations in mind, let’s work on the basis that all emails sent to Apple Mail users will trigger an open and how that’s going to impact email marketers.

Elevated open rates

Assuming you do nothing to suppress invalid opens on Apple Mail (more on that later), the first thing you’re going to see is an increase in open rates.

By analyzing millions of emails sent to professional investors, we know there are a core group that almost always open, a larger group open more sporadically and the final group rarely or never open. If all Apple Mail users are within your core group, you’ll see little change in open rates. If they all sit within the last unengaged group, you’d see a 35%+ increase. So very crudely, you’ll see a zero to 37% increase in opens (we could be more precise by analyzing your lists).

As we touched on earlier, the open rate metric is best used to look at trends, so once your open rate has initially jumped up you could still use it to track ongoing trends.

A/B Testing might not have a genuine winner

One of the great things about digital marketing is that everything can be tested. A/B Testing allows us to test variations of an email with the “winner” sent to the bulk of the list. There are usually two emails (that’s the “A” and “B” bit) and you might send each to 10% of your list. Your email platform identifies the email with the highest open rate and sends it to the remaining 80%.

Once again, this becomes problematic if the A or B part of your list has a lot of Apple Mail users.

Lead scoring won’t be as accurate

Most email platforms offer a lead scoring solution based on weighting and aggregating open and click activity for each client. In simple terms, the higher the score, the more engaged a client is and the more likely they’ll invest with you.

However, elevated opens on Apple Mail will artificially inflate the lead score too. You could downgrade the importance of an open but with only two metrics the data is very thin.

Marketing automation needs a review

Marketing automation allows us to automate the flow of emails and associated actions. Automation workflows often have conditional triggers – so if a client opens email A, they get sent email B.

It’s fair to say that marketing automation isn’t heavily used in the world of investment marketing, but if you have active workflows they will still need a rethink.

Send Time Optimization might be challenging

We often get asked about the best time to send an email campaign. While there’s no magic hour in the day or week that’s optimal for everyone, it is possible to elevate your engagement by optimizing the send time for each recipient. Enter Send Time Optimization (STO) which looks at past opens and clicks and uses a little machine learning to find the best time for each individual client.

The challenge with STO is getting enough activity to make a meaningful decision – without emailing everyone on your list every hour for a few weeks! Throw in a lot of fake opens and STO quickly becomes very wobbly.

Proactive measures going forward

We’ve painted a pretty grim picture here but there are some practical ways to ensure your email program doesn’t implode.

The answer to many of the problems above would be to suppress “fake” opens from Apple Mail. It will result in a drop in open rates but the data you’d get would be more dependable. On that front, it’s becoming more and more common for corporate email gateways to scan inbound emails looking for malicious content. These bots generate a ton of invalid opens and clicks that need filtering.

If you’re a StoneShot client however, you can put your feet up and relax. We’re already suppressing bot traffic and have a solution to identify and suppress invalid Apple Mail opens that will be live before iOS 15 hits the streets. If you’re not a client… well, you know what to do.

We also recommend looking beyond open and click metrics, expanding into the entire user journey. With a little more tech, like our Visitor Tracking, you can see the pages a client visits after they click through to your website, how they engage with your videos, which events they attend, the fund documents they download and much more.

We take this up a notch by attributing this activity to specific products or strategies and giving each a score. Accordingly, each client has a general score on all activity, plus a score per product/strategy. We frequently see clients with a relatively low overall score but a high engagement in a specific area.

These scores allow relationship managers to intelligently follow up with their clients and again we’ve created tech and automation to streamline this process.

We love talking about digital solutions, whether you’re a StoneShot client or not. We’d love to hear from you.