In September 2021, Apple released new privacy and consumer preference controls with iOS 15, MacOS Monterey, and watch OS 8 that will impact the email marketing industry. The following two components were added to the Apple Mail App:

  • Hide My Email: Users can create alternative email addresses that forward to their personal inbox anytime they wish to keep their personal email address private.

  • Mail Privacy Protection: Users can opt in to turn off sender tracking pixels and block their IP address, which are used to tell ESPs when and where emails were opened.

While these new features may be concerning, rest assured that Bluecore has outlined adjustments that you can make to your email marketing program. This article will help you understand the impact of these new features and what you can do to navigate them.

What does this mean?

Hide My Email is existing functionality with Apple Mail. Since this feature is difficult to use, Bluecore doesn’t expect heavy adoption. However, its usage impacts Bluecore’s ability to build more robust customer profiles. Bluecore will monitor this feature for any potential impact upon launch.

Our main focus area for this release and the remainder of this article is on Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) as Apple Mail represents up to 40% of opens today. This large number of attributed opens impacts the email industry’s ability to rely on open rates going forward. However, impact should not be significant to Bluecore customers as:

  • Bluecore optimizes against clicks vs. opens already, and

  • We will support our customers with best practices for adjusting their strategies to rely on clicks vs. opens.

How does Mail Privacy Protection affect my Bluecore campaigns?

There are two types of updates that need to be made to ensure that your programs are not impacted by this new feature:

  1. Marketer Updates: Aspects of your Bluecore email marketing program, like audiences, campaigns, or reporting approaches, that utilize open data and may need to be reviewed and adjusted.

  2. Bluecore Updates: Bluecore uses dozens of data points across customer, product, catalog data, and more to optimize our features and services for the most personalized, highest performing campaigns. Open data is one of these many data points, so it is often used as supplemental data to the A.I. behind features like STO, Product Recommendations and Predictive Models. We will closely monitor these features and services, and if needed, reduce or eliminate their reliance on open data to ensure your Bluecore Program performance is not impacted.

Learn more about each below.

What is an open?

To better understand the impact of Mail Privacy Protection (MPP), it’s important to understand how the email marketing industry records when an email is opened. Once an email has been sent and reaches the inbox, a tracking pixel is fired (that is placed at the top of the email), notifying the Email Service Provider (ESP) that the email was opened by the customer. Bluecore also records additional engagement metrics such as clicks and last purchase.

With the iOS 15 update, it’s difficult to predict MPP’s impact on overall engagement numbers. It is likely that any email sent to a mailbox that is configured with Apple Mail will be opened by Mail Privacy. This means that even Gmail or Yahoo inboxes could generate false opens if they are connected to the Apple Mail app. Even if the recipient usually uses the Gmail app or a Chrome browser to view their emails, simply having the mailbox configured with the Mail app could result in non-human (bot) opens.

MARKETER UPDATES

AUDIENCES

One tactic Bluecore recommends is building an engaged subscriber segment that isn’t exclusively based on open data. Instead of filtering by opens, we recommend combining conditions with clicks, purchase data etc

A new field named Apple Privacy Open is available for every opened email event (beginning October 13, 2021) which allows you to identify customer engagement based on:

  • If Apple Privacy Open = True

    • The email was opened on the Apple Mail App on a device using iOS 15 MPP enabled and it doesn’t necessarily reflect a true email open. The message could have been opened by the inbox or by a recipient, and there’s no way to differentiate between the two.

  • If Apple Privacy Open = False

    • The email was opened and viewed by a recipient on a device without MPP enabled.

We identified these Apple Privacy opens so you can exclude them from your engagement criteria and see which recipients are truly engaging with your messages.

How to identify all MPP Opens (aka machine opens)

Identify MPP opens by looking at customers who:

  1. Did open email in the last ‘x’ days where Apple Privacy Open = True

How to Identify MPP Opens Who Clicked on Emails (aka machine opens)

A small portion of MPP opens could also consist of emails opened by an actual recipient (which we can’t differentiate), in such cases additionally filtering by clicks is recommended.

Identify MPP openers who clicked on emails by looking at customers who:

  1. Did open email in the last ‘x’ days where Apple Privacy Open = True

  2. Did click on an email in the last ‘x’ days

How to Identify Non-MPP Opens (human opens)

Identify non-MPP opens by looking at customers who:

  1. Did open email in the last ‘x’ days

  2. Where Apple Privacy Open = False

The above filter can be applied to create audiences for identifying:

  1. Openers (with your preferred time frame)

How to Identify Non-MPP Opens (human opens) Who Are Non-Purchasers

Identify openers who are non-purchasers:

  1. Did open email in the last ‘x’ days where Apple Privacy Open = False

  2. Did not purchase any product at least once in the last ‘x’ days

The Apple Privacy Open field on the opened email event is available beginning October 13, 2021. Email opens between September 20, 2021 (the iOS 15 release date) and October 13, 2021 will still include an open rate inflation which cannot be identified.

Bluecore will still continue to report open rates as-is. Additional segmentation options around Apple Privacy Opens are provided across audiences and reporting which will allow you to identify the impacts of Apple iOS 15 (see iOS 15 adoption here) and adjust your segmentation strategy accordingly.

ANALYTICS

You will also be able to detect MPP opens and non-MPP opens within analytics in the upcoming weeks. We are currently working on adding this filter into Enhanced Analytics.

MULTI-TOUCH JOURNEYS

Some Bluecore customers have existing automations (or flows) that are built based off of email opens. They use open data to determine which customers receive later touches within our Experience Designer. For example, send the second touch to any customer who didn’t open the first touch. We recommend adjusting the campaign to include a condition for Apple Privacy Open = False, plus other engagement criteria like clicks or purchases.

DELIVERABILITY

  • Remediations: When a customer has deliverability issues, Bluecore momentarily scales back to the most recent engagers (using opens). We'll continue to do the same, ensuring that we prioritize non-MPP opens (Apple Privacy Opens = False) and clicks, before adding the rest of the list.

  • Inbox Placement: Open data has been used as a directional metric to measure success of inbox placement. It’s important to note that this isn’t the only metric being used to gauge success. Bluecore also relies on additional indicators such as: our inbox monitoring tool, ISP reputation tools, blacklisting, bounces, and clicks. Those are still available and provide great insight into performance.


FAQ

Q: What is the current adoption rate of iOS 15?

  • A: Follow the latest adoption here to see how fast consumers are updating to iOS 15. 40% of opens are attributed to Apple, with current adoption at 80% adoption, and around 32% of your total opens are inflated.

Q: What are non-human (bot) opens and how can they impact my deliverability?

  • A: Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) makes it impossible to tell if a real recipient opened your email, as nearly every email that is sent to a recipient with MPP will appear to be opened. This indicates much higher open rates than before and Bluecore is making changes to exclude the non-human (bot) opens from human opens across audiences, analytics, and Customer 360.

Q: Does Bluecore have data on what devices (iPhone, Android) is being used and what email app is being used (Gmail, Apple Mail, Yahoo) by campaign?

  • A: You can export open and click data based on device/user agent through an analytics export. Set up an export by following the steps in this article.

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