How Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection is affecting your email marketing strategy – and what to do about it

Oct 26, 2021


by | Oct 26, 2021 | Technology


This month, Apple Mail has updated its mobile app with a new Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) feature. The new feature allows users to control and monitor the apps use of their data, making it harder to track email open rates – ultimately losing key statistics for marketers.

In September 2021, the Apple iPhone email client accounted for 33% of email opens.

This can massively impact marketers using email service providers who rely on these statistics to automate their email strategy. But, it’s not too late to take charge of your email database.

Here’s a guide to what you can do to manage the changes for your email service provider (ESP).


What is Apple’s new Privacy Protection feature?

A prompt will appear to Apple Mail app users when they update and open the app. Users will be met with a message to select “Protect Mail activity” or “Don’t protect Mail activity” in order to enable the new feature.

From 20th September 2021, enabled MPP will hide the user’s IP address, so senders can’t link it to the recipient’s other online activity or determine their location. It also prevents senders from seeing if and when the recipient has opened your email.

Simply put, Apple will open the email and download the content when an email hits a recipient’s inbox. This prevents accurate open tracking because all emails going to Apple devices with MPP enabled will appear to be opened in reporting metrics.

Apple also downloads the email content through a series of proxy servers. This feature will hide the location of the user. As a result, ESPs can’t report on the recipient’s device and behaviour accurately.


How does it affect me and my email marketing strategy?

Online privacy has become an important topic in recent years.

In 2018, the EU’s new data framework for data protection laws known as GDPR gave people the right to remove their personal data. In the same year, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) enforced its own privacy protections to look after personal data. These laws allow people to anonymise their data to marketers.

More recently, Google has spoken about phasing out the third-party cookie by 2023 which will make it even harder for marketers to determine how prospects are interacting with their content online.

Although this is all a step in the right direction from a privacy perspective, this will affect marketing automation and email marketing strategies in various ways.

Specifically for open rates, most ESPs allow you to set automations based on email opens. For example, if a recipient opens an email about a particular product/service, marketers can use that metric as an indication that they are interested in said product/service.

However, with the MPP update, Apple Mail email open rates will be inaccurate – making it harder to identify when these users actually opened an email. Other examples include:

  • Audience segmentation lists or targeting based on the last open date (i.e. identifying inactive prospects)
  • Automated flows and engagement programs that rely on someone opening an email
  • Using open rates to determine A/B testing subject lines
  • Send time optimization (if your email tool hasn’t reworked their algorithm to exclude opens)
  • Other email content reliant on open rates and IP addresses such as countdown timers or local weather
  • Some interactive emails that reference external CSS
  • Reports based on email open rates


It’s not too late to adapt to Apple Mail’s Privacy Protection

As the new privacy protection feature was launched in September 2021, the changes to your email database would have already taken place. However, it’s not too late to take action and ensure your database is not vastly affected.

The first question you need to ask is: “What proportion of your database uses Apple Mail as their email client?”

To find this out, we suggest reviewing some of your most recent emails that were sent before mid-September 2021. In most ESPs, your sent email report should include a breakdown of email clients used by your recipients. From this breakdown, you’ll be able to see the percentage of people who have opened your email using Apple Mail.

Email Client Breakdown

If you add up the percentages, you can find out the approximate number of Apple Mail users in your database. The higher your Apple Mail audience, the less reliable your email open rate metrics will be.

Pardot email reports now show you the percentage of your recipients who appear to have opted-in for Apple’s Email Privacy.

From here, you can figure out whether you need to amend any automation rules, such as completion actions or scoring rules which rely on open rates.


The role of open rates in your email strategy going forward

So, are open rates a ‘dead metric’? Not necessarily.

Although some marketers consider open rates as vanity metrics, it can depend on the scenario in which they are used and how they help you as a marketer make decisions.

We recommend reviewing the way you use email opens and evaluating the value it brings to your marketing campaign or strategy.

Would using link clicks, such as signing up for a webinar, downloading a PDF or other email triggers act as a more accurate indicator of engagement instead?

One suggestion from Pardot is to explore more direct ways of interaction in your email marketing, such as a thumbs up/thumbs down feature in emails. For example, if you were sending out a themed newsletter and wanted feedback on whether the information was relevant to your audience, you could add the thumbs up/down feature for engagement on whether they found this interesting.

With the ever-changing digital space, it’s important for marketers to stay curious, keep learning and never be afraid to try new things to help your email marketing strategy.


Need to rethink your email marketing strategy?

Further reading

The Modern curve of return: develop your demand strategy

The Digital: keep ahead of the B2B digital marketing trends

The impact of the strategic skills gap in marketing technology