Apple Mail Privacy Changes – What does this mean for Email?

What are the changes happening with Apple?

Currently, businesses are tracking when their customers open an email and it is relied upon to understand your marketing efforts. The tracking for this valuable information is facilitated by tracking pixels within the email graphics.

It has been announced by Apple that between September and November 2021, they will be removing the ability to track opens using a pixel. Apple mail client is 38% of the market globally so this will have an impact on your business.

Apple announced Mail Privacy Protection for their Mail app on iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey devices. According to Apple, “Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. [It prevents] senders from knowing when they open an email and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.

What does this mean?

  1. Apple Mail will hide the IP address of the device it is accessed on, meaning that senders of marketing emails, for example, cannot track where an email is sent and whether it is read/opened.
  2. Apple will roll out a mechanism to randomly preload image pixels on email recipients handsets, meaning your true opens will be obfuscated with randomised false opens
  3. This will make using pixels unreliable. You may still get data from the pixel events, but this will not be the information you had previously that would have included that a recipient has opened the email.
  4. Apple is not changing the way links within an email are tracked, so for example, an open event can still be inferred when a recipient clicks on a link in your email.

How will Apple do this?

Apple will present users with an opt-in page that will get the user to opt-in to “Protect Mail Activity”.  If selected it will hide the users IP address and privately load all content. “Protect Mail Activity” will not be turned on by default, users will have to actively opt-in. Apple are quoting that 96% of users will opt-in to the blocking service as these were the statistics they saw with the App store privacy features.

Read more to understand the technical updates in more detail Sparkpost have been testing the impact of these changes.

The questions everyone is asking?

  1. If a customer is using Gmail or another email service will this be affected?
    • Yes, if they open your emails through the Apple Mail App on iOS 15 and have opted in to Protect Mail Activity.
    • No, if they opened your email in the Gmail App for example or other service provider apps on an Apple Device but not in Apple Mail. The Protect Mail Activity is only effective on the Apple Mail App and not other provider apps even when used on an Apple Device.
  2. Will the business be able to see click data?
    • Yes, you will still be able to measure and see click data from your emails even if the Protect Privacy is activity. Apple is not blocking this data.

Next steps what can we do?

  • Understand the impact this has on your marketing efforts.
  • Determine how many of your customers use Apple Mail to read your emails. The impact might not be as large as you think.
  • Filter out your Apple open statistics this will give you a good understanding of your opens based on other email providers, and you can use this as a benchmark moving forward.
  • Focus on your click data for true engagement. Ensure that you are tracking your click data and looking at benchmarks to show the success of a campaign.
  • Keep focused on the quality of your data and sender reputation, this will help to understand you to understand if there is a deliverability issue over and above opens.
  • Ensure to create segments and audiences for both Apple Mail and other providers so you can see the difference in opens and understand how your customers are engaging.
  • Focus on personalization and 1:1 communication with your customers, if you are delivering relevant communications customers will engage by clicking through.
  • Communicate with your customers let them know how you use their data and why they need to hear from you, build confidence that you are doing the right thing.

Forrester Wave Leader
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