What is Apple Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) and How It May Impact Your Digital Marketing Strategy

Email tracking has slowly become one of the most popular ways for digital marketers to gather useful data. It’s helped us learn more about our customers, create more targeted and personalized emails, and gauge the success of our campaigns.

Recently, internet users have become protective over who has access to their private data. To help, Apple recently released an email privacy protection option on iOS devices that can hide your IP address from email senders.

While keeping peoples’ online activity private is completely understandable, it offers challenges for the way we currently design our digital marketing strategies. Understanding these new challenges can help us learn how to overcome these challenges in ways that help us meet our goals while respecting the privacy of our customers.


What is Apple Mail Privacy Protection?

With the rollout of iOS 15 last year, Apple implemented a new Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) option to help users increase their cybersecurity. MPP protects users’ personal information by masking their IP address when opening emails. It does this by routing emails through a proxy and pre-loading the email content before sending it to its recipient. Essentially, the proxy opens the email and downloads the remote content within, including tracking and open pixels, whether or not users open the email.

Who can use MPP?

Apple’s MPP isn’t a default option and gives users the opportunity to opt in. At launch, MPP only affected Apple’s native mail app on mobile devices with iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 installed. They expanded the roll out to include macOS Monterey users when that operating system launched later that year.

MPP is only available for Apple’s own email app and isn’t an option for other email clients, even when used on Apple devices. For instance, it offers no protection when opening an email within the popular Gmail app on an iPhone or in a web browser installed on a Mac.

How does MPP impact email marketing?

Digital marketing lives and dies with data. Because Apple’s MPP prevents senders from collecting data, it can have a big impact on your email content marketing. Specifically, Apple’s mail privacy protection:

Increases open rates

When the proxy downloads the email content before sending it to its intended recipient, email service providers count this as an email open. This makes it impossible for email marketers to collect accurate open rates.

The result is that emails sent to MPP users return a 100% open rate. It becomes impossible to figure out how many people actually opened your email. This renders macOS and iOS 15 open rates a useless KPI for your campaign emails.

Decreases CTOR

Click-to-open rates (CTOR) have become a useful KPI in recent years. This is because the CTOR helps you calculate how often people who opened your email clicked on a link within. It does this by comparing your number of unique opens with your number of clicks. Essentially, it helps you understand how successful your email is at trigger desired customer actions.

Unfortunately, the proxies returning false opens makes this calculation inaccurate. If you’ve noticed your CTO rates have gone down over the past year, this could be a reason why.

Limits email automation options

Most email marketing software offers options that help you create automatic triggers for collating information or sending specific emails in your campaign. Many of these triggers are based on email opens. For instance, if you automatically segment your email list based on engagement, MPP could cause less accurate lists. Or, if you use opens as a trigger in an automated email series, many inactive recipients could trigger the full series. This could make it difficult to gauge your campaign’s success accurately.

Decreases A/B testing effectiveness

A/B testing is an important part of creating effective email campaigns. It helps you learn more about your customers and how they react to your emails. The most effective tests rely on accurate open and click to open rates. An inability to test your emails effectively might lead to campaigns that are less compelling and successful.

Limits optimization and personalization

Some email optimization and personalization techniques depend on accurate email data. For instance, to increase open rates, you might want to send emails that target specific locations, user habits, and prime open times. Apple’s MPP can lead to a lack of reliable data on which to find these targets.

What can I do about MPP?

While mail privacy protection can limit your options, you still have plenty. Though you might have some inaccurate data, you can use other data you’ve collected to help you create successful email and digital marketing campaigns. Some options I’ve found most helpful include:

Find software that accounts for MPP

As a digital marketer, it’s important to understand what information your software collects and how it presents it to you. Many companies are figuring out how to account for the new MPP changes in ways that can help you.

As an example, some apps might not let Apple users trigger open-based automations. Some might remove Apple users from open rate reports. Other companies are sure to be working on new, creative solutions to ensure they continue being useful for you.

Prioritize other metrics

Opens and CTO rates might now be less accurate, but you still have other metrics you can use to gauge success and collect data. Focusing on click rates, conversion rates, and overall ROI can help guide your campaign to success. The metrics you use can depend on your goals and objectives. And the best part? Your email campaign software likely already tracks these metrics for you!

Optimize calls to action

Whether it’s to sell a product, increase website visits, or grow your following, your emails likely have specific goals. You’ve already created calls to action that work. To combat MPP, you might need to further optimize your CTAs. Consider writing shorter, more concise emails with a higher number of CTAs. Optimized CTAs can help you meet your campaign goals while providing click rates that help provide you with more accurate metrics.

You can also choose to disguise your CTA by sending polls, questions, and requests for reviews that can subtly trigger clicks or other desired actions.

Try new automation triggers

Email opens are a useful trigger for automated campaigns. But there are several other triggers you can choose to use. You can trigger emails on more active metrics, like clicks, or you can use more passive triggers, such as time intervals in a drip campaign. Consider playing with automation options within your email software to find which ones work best for you and your goals.

Create compelling content

Whether or not you’re affected by MPP, your content is incredibly important to your campaign. The more compelling the content, the more successful your campaign can be. Not only can compelling content improve customer relationships, but it can also help trigger desired actions. Compelling subject lines can convince recipients to open the email. Compelling emails can help increase clicks and purchases.

And don’t forget to “always leave them wanting more.” Think of your email content as the preview for your best content. If you can create desire, you can trigger a website visit!

The ROI on email marketing is $36 for every $1 spent.

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