APPLE’S PRIVACY MOVES – SKY IS FALLING OR TIME FOR INNOVATION?

We asked industry thought leaders to provide their initial reaction and take on Apple’s newest privacy change to limit email tracking and mask IP addresses on the Apple Mail app, and its potential implications on email marketing. Here’s what they’re saying:

“The dependency on opens as a KPI has been a contentious measurement for many years in email marketing. First, we had preview windows with drive-by opens, then we had all images blocked, then some images enabled again… wash, rinse, repeat. Opens are also an easily manipulated metric for a lot of brands. A simple segmentation of active users and then boom – your open rates are doubled. Some would say it is the ultimate vanity metric, others it is the only one that matters. In truth it is somewhere in-between – useful as directional data for a brand’s marketing efforts, useful when paired with clicks (click-to-open rates) and good for identifying potential delivery concerns.

Is Apple’s solution the right one? Is it solving a privacy concern that consumers have? Or will this result in marketers needing to collect even more information on consumers to deliver the right content, at the right time, and to the recipient. Only time will tell, but I am confident that the industry will adapt, grow, and survive like it has for years.”
Matthew Vernhout, VP Deliverability, Netcore Cloud, Chair of ANA EEC 

“While this announcement has certainly ruffled the feathers of email marketers, it’s not time to panic. The sky is not falling. Instead, email marketers should use this time to move beyond reliance on open metrics as a crutch for subscriber and customer engagement. I’ve witnessed over a decade of obsession with subject line testing to the detriment of down-stream optimization efforts where the real focus should be. Tests of content, creative, offers and landing pages need increased focus now because all ultimately affect the bottom-line more than whether and how often subscribers open email.

As a community we’ve long been proactive in the face of change, and I suspect this will be no different. I urge brand-side email marketers everywhere to seize the day! Opportunistically use the next few months to do three things (especially if you’ve been procrastinating:)
1) invest in expanded cross-platform, omni-channel metrics-gathering
2) increase your focus on and investment in data analysis, and
3) up-level your testing and optimization strategy (check out this free upcoming EEC webinar)

One of the most exciting and fascinating aspects of email marketing has been its continual evolution. I’m confident we’ll evolve through this as well, and be stronger for it.”
Karen Talavera, Founder, Synchronicity Marketing, Vice-Chair of ANA EEC

“Yes, this is a shock, but this maturity event and the associated implications should bring marketers to greater focus on the content to indicate intent and actionable KPI’s, instead of just the open. Sure, we will lose some things from a certain population and behavior set that we’ve enjoyed, but it’s not the entirety of the channel or our strategies. If marketers can use the agile skills that they learned during the last 18 months, we will pivot and adapt just fine.”
Ryan Phelan, Co-Founder, RPE Origin

“Consumers have been consistent in wanting more privacy and more relevant emails—not fully appreciating that these two things are largely diametrically opposed to each other. With their upcoming release of Mail Privacy Protection, Apple has decided to err on the side of increasing privacy. By generating tons of false opens and obscuring device information and other data, Apple’s MPP has made it significantly more difficult for marketers to send relevant emails and to avoid sending too many emails to their users. To avoid the negative effects of Apple’s privacy changes this fall, marketers will need to make adjustments to their email analytics, deliverability practices, and email designs.”
Chad S. White, Head of Research, Oracle Marketing Consulting

“The biggest issue right now is that there is too much speculation, and not enough facts, AND, the first beta’s are not delivering consistent results when testing this.”
Richelo Killian, CEO, InboxJam

“Most companies have already begun testing of MPP using the iOS 15 Developer Beta, with widely varying results. Email marketers may be able to get some usable insight from this testing, but until Apple makes iOS 15 and MPP official builds we’re still testing on incomplete software. Any findings at this point should be taken with a grain of salt until more concrete technical details are available. In lieu of extensive testing on the beta, our time might be better served working on ways to improve our own engagement tracking. The EEC and other industry groups have started this process in earnest and I have confidence we’ll see some very interesting developments as a result.”
Brad Gurley, Director, Deliverability, MessageGears

“A push towards greater privacy is a good thing for the consumer and the marketer. Marketers will have to earn each customer relationship and deliver value. For years, our most successful customers have been personalizing content from zero- and first-party data from data stores like internal APIs, CDPs, and CRMs, solving the content bottleneck to realize the 1:1 personalization that customers have come to expect from the brands they trust.”
Vivek Sharma, CEO & Co-Founder, Movable Ink

“Many have proclaimed that Apple’s move to eradicate open tracking simply means the end of a vanity metric. That is a myopic view. Not only does an open metric tell us something about who is a real human engaging on the other end, the data passed through the pixel that measures opens drives a lot of innovation in our space. Without it, we’ll see some deprecation of subject line tests, send time optimization algorithms, open time personalization/live content, location specific targeting for GDPR purposes, and even list hygiene. To reduce this change to something small is really not looking at the broader picture of what this really means–we lose a lot of information of about 40% of our audience that uses the native mail app on Apple devices and will use iOS 15 when it becomes available. This is big. We need to treat it as such as an email community.”
April Mullen, Director of Brand and Content Marketing, Sparkpost

“Email Open Rate as a metric of engagement will go away as other ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) move to follow Apple. Open Rate is often used by marketers as a proxy for customer intent, but it’s not a great one. Apple’s privacy changes will accelerate a shift towards other metrics further down the funnel which are more valuable to the marketer. I have always used many data points, including clicks and website visits, to identify a customer’s propensity to convert. This also applies to subject line testing, it is more important for a subject line to impact a click than for it to be misleading and get an open for the wrong reasons.”
Allan Levy, CEO, Alchemy Worx

“As a strong proponent for consumer privacy and consent, I respect the attempt to enhance consumer privacy, Apple’s attempt completely misses the mark. Apple’s new feature fixed a problem that did not exist with a ham-fisted solution and then calling it a “Win” for privacy. The technology ONLY increases consumer exposure. Because the Apple mail client will open all inbound email immediately, it validates the email’s existence. That new exposure is a dream for spammers. The logical outcome will be more email in your inbox that you did not request. And that will reflect poorly on all of the amazing email marketers following email marketing’s best practices. The only loser in this announcement is the owner of the email address.”
Paul Shriner, Chief Evangelist, Co-Founder of Audience Point

“Senders should adjust their approach to optimizing email results by:
• Keep practicing good deliverability habits;
• Find new data points; and
• Stay educated!”
Guy Hanson, Vice-President, Customer Engagement (International),Validity Inc.

“I foresee companies that relied heavily on IP Addresses for content personalization or personalization tools will have to rethink their strategies. We could start to see requests for more information at signup or more aggressive profiling campaigns as we rely on our own first-party data. In addition to the new tracking points being provided by Apple and Google, I think we will start to see new innovations when it comes to storing information that was previously a cookie somewhere else in a tech stack that falls within new compliance limitations. As for opens, many people have been screaming that it is an unreliable vanity metric for years. Finally convincing our leadership will be another story. We still have the time they click through the email, and isn’t a visit or conversion more important?  I can’t wait to see how our industry adjusts. Remember when everyone was panicking about GDPR?”
Corrina Cohen, Marketing Cloud Platform Developer – Famous Footwear Consumer Experience

“Declaring open rates to be dead is premature and fatalistic. But that KPI is going to get a little noisier. When a statistic becomes noisier, you need to deal with it differently. Any smart statistician will know what to do. Fortunately, we saw the writing on the wall here a long time ago and have already made adjustments, just like we always do when any news like this comes out and shakes things up. We’ve all adapted before and will again.”
-Parry Malm, CEO, Phrasee

Weigh-in on this discussion by leaving a comment below. We also hope you’ll join us on July 27th at 12 pm EDT for our Twitter Spaces discussion on this very topic. This will be an interactive and lively discussion. Follow us @theEEC on Twitter to join the conversation from your mobile device. Our confirmed panel of thought leaders include:

Karen Talavera, Vice-Chair of EEC, Founder of Synchronicity Marketing, @SyncMarketing (moderator),
Matthew Vernhout, VP Deliverability, @netcore_cloud @EmailKarma
Ryan Phelan, Co-Founder, @RPEOriginAgency, @ryanpphelan
Chad S. White, Head of Research @Oracle Marketing Consulting, @chadswhite
Gavin Laugenie, Head of Strategy & Insight @dotdigital @gavygav
Vivek Sharma, CEO & Co-Founder, @movableink @vivsharma
April Mullen, Director of Brand and Content Marketing @Sparkpost @aprildmullen
Brad Gurley, Director of Deliverability @MessageGears, @DeliveryCounts
Parry Malm, CEO @Phrasee, @ParryMalm

Updated June 25, 2021