In June, Apple announced a series of privacy features for Apple products and, by extension, users of Apple products. One of the most important pieces of news to come from these announcements was the ability for users to remove tracking pixels from their emails. Further, users will be able to hide their actual email, and use a randomly generated one that forwards to their actual email address.
For almost as long as email has been in existence, open rates have been the “check engine” light of metrics. Low open rates indicate something afoot with your deliverability and list management practices. High open rates alongside low click throughs indicate low audience interest. And so on. Without a reliable open rate, what will become of your lists, your outbound strategies, and your analytics?
Don’t panic quite yet. This is not the first time email metrics have gone through changes and various stages (raise your hand if you ever had to report on how many links your email had in it?) First, let’s dive into the nuts and bolts of these alterations.
What Will These Changes Look Like?
Since the announcement, we know more about how the tech will work: If Apple Mail users opt-in to this service, it will prevent senders from knowing when Apple Mail users have opened an email by disrupting the use of invisible tracking pixels, and masking users’ actual IP addresses.
This will have an immediate effect on open rate as a metric — the Mail Privacy Protection/MPP protocol will have the standard 1px tracking pixel pre-load, so that every Apple Mail user recipient who opts into MPP will be viewed as an open.
In addition to MPP, another change that will be part of this upcoming release is a feature called Hide My Email. This feature will allow the user to optionally supply a randomized iCloud email address that acts as a router to the user’s actual email address when interacting with an email input field. This will be limited to those users with an iCloud Plus account, and those who are using the Safari iOS app.
As a pair, these two features will upend a lot of classic digital marketing structures. Automated programs that trigger email actions off of email opens are going to need to be reviewed. Email lists will need to find a way to suppress or limit the number of randomized emails collected upon newsletter signups, as well as any gated content forms and fields within.
How to Work Around These New Changes
This all may seem scary, but these are not insurmountable problems to solve. While open rates play a role in keeping lists clean and organized, when was the last time you qualified a lead simply because they opened an email? There are additional metrics and strategies beyond the open rate to build your campaign KPIs from and help you maintain and curate a healthy email strategy and list:
Commonly abbreviated as CTR, this is the metric email marketers focus on the most. It’s a direct line back to what your leads are engaging with on your site.
Conversion rate refers to leads who click, visit your site, and then complete a form or other desired action. This is an incredibly useful marker that can be established to measure any number of site-specific actions: newsletter signups, webinar registrations, ebook downloads, and more.
Engaged minutes per email
By tracking time spent on site after clicking through from an email, use this metric to attribute overall value back to email leads and your list.
Between the two types of bounces—hard and soft— bounce rates are less about attribution back to a marketing goal and more about helping you maintain a clean email segment. Hard bounces are invalid or non-existent email addresses—email accounts that were scrubbed after someone left a job, a company changed its email domain, orthe email account used to exist, but no longer does. Soft bounces are usually caused by an issue with an existing email inbox that may be full or may have some other server issue preventing delivery. Using these to eliminate and curate emails can help prevent over-sending to inboxes with low engagement rates.
List growth rate and opt-out rate
There’s a natural cycle to any email list, in that leads will come and go by way of opting in through new subscriptions, and conversely opting out if they’ve had enough. Using the rate at which your overall email list is expanding, contracting, or staying flat over time can be used as an effective metric to track your email campaign’sperformance over time.
Create Apple Mail and non-Apple Mail audiences
Just like we know a lead’s email address, first name, last name, and other information, we can use reporting and analytics tools to identify what device they’re using to view emails. While Apple Mail on iPhones accounts for close to 40 percent of all email opens on mobile devices, the other 60 percent of opens using other mail clients would still have valid open rates to use alongside other metrics and benchmarks.
But what about those anonymized iCloud emails?
The solution you ultimately implement here will be highly dependent on how much of your business comes from leads or users who have free email accounts (@gmail.com, @yahoo.com, @icloud.com, etc).
If most of your qualified leads come from company email addresses (such as @newfangled.com), you could require a non-free email address to be provided in order for the form to complete and submit. There are several plugins available to facilitate this, such as Gravity Forms’ Email Blacklist, that would integrate with your existing form fields.
What to Expect Moving Forward
As more Apple device owners update their instruments this fall, expect to see total open rates gradually skewing higher and higher. As you see this in your reporting, you should make adjustments to the way your lists are segmented. To be clear, you can still send emails to these Apple users. But, those who opt-in to MPP will be best measured by their actions beyond the open rate. They will be best measured by their clicks and conversions.
In order to truly see your lead activity and qualify those that fit your ideal customer persona, making some of these adjustments can provide a clear path towards a successful email marketing campaign, even in the wake of these latest industry changes.