Home  —  Blog  —  
Apple Mail Privacy Protection: What's Next?

Apple Mail Privacy Protection: What's Next?

The material is based on the Only Influencers webinar and on information gathered from open sources.

During the annual WWDC conference on June 7, 2021, Apple talked about Apple Mail Privacy Protection, the new feature for their email client that will be implemented in iOS15. The OS itself will be released in September 2021, according to rumors.

The main feature of this innovation is that after pairing any email inbox (iCloud, Gmail, Yahoo, etc.) supported by Apple's email client, the company will prevent the ESPs from getting the users' IP addresses. The Open Rate tracking system - a pixel with a unique address for each user will stop working, which means there'll be no more tracking of IP addresses, geolocations, or Open Rate. a pixel with a unique address for each user, which was used to fetch the IP addresses to find out the geolocation of the user and, just as important, to track the Open Rate of the emails, will stop working.

This new system will use prefetching, i.e. it will download a picture beforehand, even if an email was not opened. The pic will be cached on the device and transferred to Apple's server. Instead of sending the senders information about the subscribers, Apple will send predetermined info. From there, information will go to a 3rd party server and return to the sender. So instead of getting the data on the user's location and whether the email was opened or not, the sender will see Apple's server geolocation and that the email has been opened (even if it hasn't been).

According to one of the speakers from the Only Influencers webinar, Apple did a tricky thing and managed to hide a feature that will allow them to make even a 3rd party email client default and use this security system in it. It is only a rumor by far, but still.

What Will Apple Mail Privacy Influence?

First and foremost, it will influence Open Rate. At first, it will grow, as at some moment the opens on the new iOS will reach 100%. Then it will either freeze on one mark or will grow really slowly as the system doesn't care whether the email was opened by an addressee or not; it will make it look like it was opened even if a person hasn't seen the email.

Resending emails to those who haven't opened them and reactivation of inactive subscribers based on opens will fall into oblivion. The innovation will also affect Click to Open Rate, nearly annihilating its significance.

Marketers will have to use such rates as Conversion, KPI, Revenue Per Email as navigation. One more issue will be how to implement the Conversion tracking into ESPs.

This new feature will also affect Price Models Based on Opens, as again, Open Rate will no longer be a navigation metric.

In the table below you can see the way the devices are spread in the US market:

Email Client Market Share (calculated from 916 million opens tracked by Litmus Email Analytics in April 2021)
№1 Apple iPhone 38%
№2 Gmail 28%
№3 Apple Mail 11%
№4 Outlook 8%
№5 Yahoo! Mail 5%
№6 Google Android 2%
№7 Apple iPad 1%
№8 Outlook.com 1%
№9 Samsung Mail 1%
№10 Windows Live Mail 0%

Apple devices make up half of the market. However, according to the Only Influencers webinar speakers, if Open Rate is that important for you, Android devices still remain, the situation won't change on them.

We've gathered the statistics from several of our major clients (we should make a note that our clients are from Russia and some of them are from CIS) and saw that in total the Apple devices occupy about 37% of the audience. Of course, this rate can vary depending on the sector, and probably the average score will be a bit higher or lower. However, these rates can be serve as a starting point.

statistics on mobile device brands of email users
Blue - all of the transfers from the email channel, red - only from the Apple devices

We had a hypothesis that iPhones are not that widespread in Russia and to some extent we were right. And even though it's not 50% like in the US, the innovation should not be underestimated. You can check your audience breakdown in Google Analytics by using the same criteria.

What Will Happen to Real-Time Content

Outdated real-time content (services like Movable Ink, RealTime Email): what is known and what's not.

Function Old New
Countdown timers Real-time Deprecate
Place-names Real-time Deprecate
Tracking pixel Deprecate
Location reporting IP Deprecate
Time-based text Real-time Deprecate
Scheduled content updates Real-time TBD (to be determined)
Vanishing content (scheduled) Real-time TBD
Updatable banners Real-time TBD
Expiring coupon codes Real-time TBD

Real-time content keepers

Function Old New
Live split-testing IP 1st party
Geo-targeting IP 1st party
Geo-demographics IP 1st party
Maps IP 1st party
QRCode 1st party 1st party
Barcode 1st party 1st party
Automatic content optimization Real-time Delivery-time
Live Twitter feed Real-time Delivery-time
Package tracking Real-time Delivery-time
Stock market reports Real-time Delivery-time
Webshots (website screenshots) Real-time Delivery-time
Web-scraped content Real-time Delivery-time
Language targeting Real-time HTTP
Proximity (‘nearest X’) IP 1st party or regional
Live weather Real-time Delivery-time, 1st party
Logo-from-email No impact / 1st party
Personalization No impact
Animation No impact
Deep-link redirects No impact
Scratch-off No impact
Merge-field composing No impact
YouTube-to-GIF No impact
API-personalization Delivery-time
Social media profile pics No impact / 1st party

Various ESPs' Opinion on This Innovation

Omnisend has created the Opens Are Dead landing page where they gather all the latest info about the upcoming update and what it has in store for us. Information is constantly updated and complemented.

Rytis Lauris, Omnisend's CEO, says that Open Rate has always been a proxy rate for them and they will accentuate educating the clients. Omnisend will focus on the Recency rate, the clients who have already been converted, and on the way it all raises profit.

Apple's decision to cut-off open tracking comes as a sad surprise for many marketers. Especially ones that were using images generated upon open based on time/location and other real-time factors. However, this still comes as a choice. At the moment I'd recommend marketers to inform their Apple subscribers about the upcoming change and what it will really mean for them in order to help them with an educated decision. At ExpertSender we are actively trying to lobby via international organizations that we're a part of to rephrase the questions that Apple will show to their users. "Protect Mail Activity" and "Don't protect Mail activity" practically mean one choice from the user's point of view and do not mention anything about the lost benefits that come from such a choice. This choice is also worded differently and scarier, than "Allow App to track your activity" used for apps. Therefore in our opinion it's harsher.

The good news is that this update will most likely only affect the newest version of Apple iOS plus marketers can still use the power of their own data and use personalization at the time of sending rather than opening to keep delivering relevant content, which is extremely easy with the use of the powerful Data Tables at ExpertSender.
Krzysztof Jarecki ExpertSender CEO

As many of Exponea's (owned by Bloomreach) email features like automatic A/B testing, optimal send time, and list hygiene filters use open rate as a metric together with the click rates, conversion, and/or custom metrics, the impact to these features is low and will probably be a user-initiated change or UI update. Some other features, such as email open tracking, dashboards, and analytics, might require closer inspection.
Besides, Exponea also is creating Plug&Play solutions that can be used out of the box:

  • a segmentation showing the distribution of Apple Email users: it can help to create a clearer picture of the impact the clients may experience if iOS 15 prevents open tracking;
  • an automation that takes a snapshot of email engagement before iOS 15 goes live, and assigns the engagement information of customers to their profile as a customer attribute: it will help the clients know about each customer's historical engagement info and speculate that this would continue, even if the open tracking will be closed on iOS. Another nice part is that it can create a rather firm engagement metric for the short-term and have the clients covered for the upcoming 2021 holidays and the beginning of 2022;
  • further Exponea will also be working on an AI solution that creates a proxy metric to estimate email opens for each customer.

Klaviyo will allow the clients who are not eager to directly interact with the new iOS 15 features to segment the contacts. The segments will track resulting visits to your website, on-site activity, and their rate and weight of clicks. They will also encourage inactive users in the break-up email series. It will give brands a broad understanding of the consumers' behavior and a worry-free automated experience.

Privy wants to change the game by making the addressee not just open an email, but reply to it. According to their words, it will be a new metric that will allow them to estimate the health of the base as if the customer cannot even bother to click a link, do a survey or share some info on social networks, they probably won't make any purchases.

In our opinion, this idea seems to be pretty good, but it's difficult to suggest a solid way of making a person interact with an email, especially if people don't have even the slightest desire to open one.

MessageBird is planning to give up on the batch and blast tactics (it is when a group of users is sent the same email with no targeting at all). They want to provide the clients with automated solutions, which will depend on the users' actions.

Sendlane is aiming at improving the postmaster's tools, which allow the users to get the metrics directly from Google instead of more expensive monitoring and automated solutions. And if brands decide to see more activity, they will have to put more effort into being noticed.

Drip believes that sunset flows will be a new game-changer. It is based on the remaining core deliverability data and the only thing required is some analysis corrections.

What's Next?

There's no need to panic.

Yes, Apple indeed is killing a 20-year-old algorithm. But first of all, Apple is not the only player and second, there is always a work-around.

If you really need Open Rate this much, you can use other analysis tools. The bad part is that countdown timers and price models based on opens will no longer work.

There are various ways of discovering a person's location; IP address is not the only choice. For example, one of the speakers on the webinar mentioned using ZIP codes.

If before there was an opportunity to identify the IP address of all the active subscribers, now you can only ask for the ZIP code on the subscription step; however, it can reduce the conversion rates. Companies will have to implement it in two-step forms, for example, and still, the reach of the same base will be smaller.

Many ESPs have some interesting ideas worth noticing. And don't hope that people won't use this system as it is optional. All of it is done in the name of privacy and security so people probably won't say 'no'.

Also mind that now, at the time of writing this material, this feature is presented in iOS 15 beta and the bulk of its impact will be on the Holiday season, as the release date is somewhere in September. So, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Christmas will come with this innovation implemented already.

We need to wait and see what impact these changes will have on our work in practice, not in theory. But it doesn't mean you don't have to prepare for it.

George Burmistrov
Content Manager
Want to March Our Email Soldiers Into Battle?
If you’re ready to enjoy our services and get gorgeous email design, deep analytics, and comprehensive strategies, it’s time to make the first step. Schedule a free consultation; we’ll get the ball rolling!
By clicking the button you agree to process your personal data and agree with the privacy policy
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.