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What is Apple Mail Privacy Protection and What are its Implications for Email Marketing?

Written by Spencer Cowley, Copywriter at DeckLinks

apple mail privacy protection
Apple Mail is one of the top email clients, earning over 58% of desktop market share according to Litmus. Its easy integration as the Mail app on Apple iPhone is also a major factor for its dominance as an email client, with mobile continuing to be the most used environment.

When Apple unveiled its Mail Privacy Protection feature in September 2021, it was a big step in the ongoing push for user privacy online. As the tracking cookie is on its last leg and regulation continues to build around internet privacy and personalized advertising, email marketing is the next channel to face data challenges. In this article, we’ll discuss what Apple Mail Privacy Protection is, how it relates to email marketing privacy concerns, and how this new Apple email policy affects email marketing moving forward.
Table of Content
  1. What is Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection?
  2. How does Mail Privacy Protection work?
  3. Why did Apple start offering Mail Privacy Protection?
  4. What does Mail Privacy Protection mean for email marketing?

What is Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection?

Apple Mail Privacy Protection gives Apple Mail users the option to hide their IP addresses from email senders. This prevents senders from seeing if users open an email or linking their addresses to other online activity. It also keeps users’ locations hidden, though they could previously be visible when emails were opened. 

Mail Privacy Protection is available on Apple devices running the new iOS 15, iPadOS 15, MacOS Monterey or WatchOS 8 operating systems. 

How does Mail Privacy Protection work?

The Mail Privacy Protection feature helps protect mail activity through one key change to the way the mail client operates — instead of the content and images in an email being downloaded when a user opens an email, Apple Mail now pre-downloads all of this remote content by default, as soon as it is received.

This remote content is routed through multiple proxy servers to hide the IP address. Included in that content are invisible pixels to collect information about the recipient’s engagement with the email (e.g. if the user opened the email and what their IP address is).

Because these tracking pixels are preloaded along with the rest of the data every time a user receives an email, Apple Mail Privacy Protection effectively prevents senders from learning what a user’s IP address is and makes open rates and other data from these pixels unreliable as performance metrics. As a sender, it’s not clear if a user has read your email because the pixel has been triggered as soon as the email containing it has been received.

Why did Apple start offering Mail Privacy Protection?

In recent years, society has been making major strides toward the prioritization of privacy over personalization where possible. This has primarily manifested in the form of major legislation from governments, like GDPR in 2018, and changes in privacy policies by corporations. Major internet browsers like Google Chrome choosing to get rid of tracking cookies was a move that represented the seismic shift in corporations’ responses to privacy concerns. Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection is just the latest feature that puts user privacy above marketing data.

What does Mail Privacy Protection mean for email marketing?

This new method of mail privacy Apple has rolled out challenges marketers’ abilities to understand how successful their email marketing campaigns are. Due to a lack of clarity around Apple Mail tracking from the sender’s perspective, metrics like open rates now provide even less insight into email marketing performance. However, it’s important to remember that not all email users are Apple Mail users — a large chunk of users on your email lists may employ this new Mail Privacy Protection, but not all of your email tracking hopes are lost.

Lost options

This lack of data can, however, impact email campaigns significantly, such as eliminating the ability to send automated follow up emails or other automated email series to users who didn’t open an initial email. The decline of click-to-open rates and the increase in open rates will both be false flags due to the now unreliable nature of these KPIs. Open rate-based A/B testing will also become less reliable.

Email list segmentation

Because email list segmentation will be affected by less reliable open rates, marketers will need to shift their focus for understanding which audience members are more engaged to link clicks and other specific engagements within an email.

What now?

All of this may result in less efficiency within the email channel and entire conversion funnel, as it is less driven by direct data for retargeting and there’s less indication about potential purchasers resulting from this channel.

One piece of good news is that the personalization that has been possible with email, like automatically filling specific names from lists, is still possible. Marketers should focus on continuing to create click-worthy content in their emails, starting with the subject line and finishing with strong CTAs.

There are other ways to continue automating your email marketing strategy now that open rate-based triggers are invalid.

  • Consider sending follow up emails after a user has abandoned their cart if ecommerce is your game.
  • Give users a couple of days before sending a follow up and set specific time-based triggers that aren’t dependent on openings.
  • Send date-specific emails to customers personalized by the information they’ve provided to you (e.g. birthdays).
  • Keep an eye on unsubscribes and new subscriber numbers to see if your list is continuing to grow. If unsubscribes are increasing, the content in your emails isn’t working.
  • Include plenty of actionable content and utilize click conversion rates to see how many people are actually converting from your emails to your intended destination.

Consider third-party tracking solutions beyond email

Email is great for B2C companies promoting products and services to their subscriber lists, but B2B companies can be different. If you’re in sales, then you can try using a platform like DeckLinks that will help you easily share and track your sales decks. DeckLinks offers the most advanced analytics available to understand how buyers interact with your sales decks. This data helps you prioritize the most engaged prospects for relevant follow ups and improve your future decks. DeckLinks also does not use cookies or tracking pixels ensuring that you get the most accurate engagement data.

FAQ

Is Apple Mail more secure?
Apple Mail relies on S/MIME for end-to-end encryption and now features Mail Privacy Protection to help prevent senders from seeing users’ IP addresses, making it a relatively secure email client among its competitors.

Does Apple really protect privacy?
Apple includes several features in its devices and services meant to protect user privacy, such as the new Mail Privacy Protection feature. Apple CEO Tim Cook has even described privacy as a “human right”. However, privacy is not guaranteed for users of Apple’s products, as has been shown by spyware like Pegasus and other various exploits. There are still many ways in which Apple fails to champion user privacy, even though it publicly stands for it in its messaging.

How do I turn off or on email privacy protection?
Apple users who are running iOS 15, iPadOS 15, MacOS Monterey or WatchOS 8 (or later) can enable Mail Privacy Protection by opting in within the settings of their device. On iPhone, for example, go to Settings > Mail > Privacy Protection and turn on the Protect Mail Activity option. After upgrading to one of these newest operating systems and opening the Mail app for the first time, it should also automatically prompt users to turn this feature on.

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