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  • Writer's pictureTom Kothman

Apple hands Email a Pickle

Mail Privacy Protection: Understanding Apple’s MPP protocol and likely impact on email marketing strategy.

Since Apple’s Sept. launch of its Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) for their Mail app on iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey devices, the email marketing industry has been a) trying to understand how it works and b) monitoring how it is impacting existing email marketing fundamentals and universally used performance indicators. Every ESP and email marketer is now and will be grappling with the consequences of MPP throughout 2022. One could spend days reading the online discussions to gain a basic understanding of MPP and formulate responses accordingly. This article is offered as a timesaver by providing a basic understanding of MPP from Litmus and response recommendations from three ESPs.

Litmus provides an email performance enhancing service augmenting a client’s utilization of their ESP’s feature set. Their white paper, The Mail Privacy Protection Survival Guide [], provides a clear and concise overview of MPP and how it works.

“Apple will first route emails through a proxy server to pre-load message content—including tracking pixels—before serving to readers. Even if readers don’t actually open those emails. However, our [Litmus] latest testing shows their device must be on WiFi with Mail running in the background.

Because of the way Mail Privacy Protection works, you won’t be able to tell which Apple Mail recipients opened your emails (if at all), the time of open, their geolocation, and which device they use (yep, no more mobile vs. desktop insight). At least you can still track clicks.”

ActiveCampaign is a rapidly expanding ESP with a wide-ranging client base of 150,000 B2C, B2C, and Ecommerce worldwide. They offer an extensive set of solutions for 12 specific industries with an emphasis on customer experience.

The following is from a recent ActiveCampaign Help Center article that provides actionable insight for best practices moving forward in responding to MPP’s impact on their comprehensive tool kit and is an example of an ESP’s response to MPP on behalf of their client base.

“The Apple Mail app will report 100% open rates on emails for contacts who have MPP enabled. This is because MPP opens every single email a contact receives regardless of their behavior.

Since every email is automatically opened, you can no longer confidently rely on email opens as a key performance indicator (KPI).”

The following excerpt describes MPP’s impact on open rates in particular, suggesting that link clicks are a more useful KPI.

“Industry-wide and across any platform that tracks open rate, all marketers will receive a 100% open rate report on any emails for contacts using their Apple Mail app with MPP enabled. These are considered "false" opens.

Our (ActiveCampaign) platform knows the difference between MPP false opens and real customer behavior. To help ensure data integrity, we are filtering out these false opens. As a result, you should only see opens that are still considered valid in your account. This includes opens from other devices, older iOS systems, those who do not have MPP enabled, etc.

In other words, we are not tracking any email opens from the Apple Mail app with MPP enabled. This includes Campaigns, Automation emails, One-to-one emails, and emails sent using the Google Chrome Extension.

However, if a contact using the Apple Mail app with MPP enabled clicks a link in your email, we'll track that link click, and record an open. The reason being, if a contact clicked a link in the email, then they also opened it.”

The article provides further guidance on automations, campaign resends, engagement management, predictive sending and reporting.

As one of the largest ESP’s, Constant Contact’s blog addresses MPP as well. The post provides guidance on certain functions’ deterioration because of MPP. The post concludes with six specific suggestions for retaining the effectiveness of email marketing in the age of increased client privacy.

Here’s how some popular email marketing features will be impacted:

Contact insights and engagement

Open rates could be artificially high for about half of your subscribers, and you’ll likely see an unusually large number of contacts with high engagement.

Email list segmentation

Since open rates are unreliable, they are no longer an effective way to determine who your most engaged subscribers are for list segmentation.

Luckily, other forms of email segmentation that don’t rely on open data — like click segmentation or manually created segments — aren’t impacted by Apple’s privacy changes and are still useful.

Resend to non-openers

Since your subscribers who use Apple Mail will now show as having opened every email, those people will no longer receive the automatic resend.

Automated email series

Some automated email series are set up to trigger based on if and when a subscriber opens a previous email. This is no longer an effective way to set up your email series since Apple Mail reports an artificial open for some of your subscribers and triggers the next email, whether someone read your previous email or not.

A/B subject line testing

Unreliable open rates make the results of A/B testing for subject lines generally unreliable.

Recently acquired by Intuit, Mailchimp has a huge user base (12,000,000), in part due to their free platform. Consequently, a larger than average portion of their user base operates at a less technologically sophisticated level when it comes to email marketing. Following a similar list of impacts to a client’s program, they provide advice that, with a few exceptions unique to Mailchimp, can be universally applicable such as “If you’re running A/B tests based on open rates consider using click rates instead.”

"How can I prepare for this update?

Understand the size of the impact. The greater the percentage of your audience that uses Apple Mail, the more likely you’ll see inflated open rates as a result of the new Mail Privacy Protection feature.

Change how you measure success in your email campaigns. If you’re not already doing so, we recommend you focus on clicks as part of your email strategy

Monitor your reach. Both contact ratings and email marketing engagement rely on opens, which may yield misleading results.

Collect location info directly from your contacts. Consider using a survey or form to ask contacts where they are located.

Review your segments. If you’ve defined segments based on opens, contact rating, email client, location, or email marketing engagement, consider whether other operators or parameters are more appropriate.

Update your active Customer Journeys or Classic Automations. If your trigger is based on opens, consider revising it to include stronger engagement criteria like clicks or purchases.

Use different criteria when you resend a campaign. When you resend your campaign, consider sending to “did not click.”

Update your A/B tests. If you’re running A/B tests based on open rates consider using click rates instead.

Use a different method to identify a contact’s email client. Although data about your contacts’ email client may be misleading when based solely on opens, data based on clicks is more accurate."

Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection for their Mail app on iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey devices is rendering email marketing activities that utilize email open rates less effective and potentially inaccurate. ESP’s in response to MPP, have responded by adjusting some of their functionality and providing guidance to their customer base. Email marketers need to take MPP into account going forward and are advised to evaluate their ESP’s response and support. Otherwise known risks, such as false positive results in A/B testing, will inadvertently damage email’s stellar ROI and productivity.

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