Update - Sep 27, 2021: Bluecore has detected non-human (bot) Apple opens and is making changes to exclude this open data from the actual human open data. This update ensures analytics (to show true human opens) and audiences (those who legitimately opened an email) will show accurate open data going forward. These changes will be effective soon. Please check back on this article in a few weeks for updates.
Coming September 2021, Apple will release new privacy and consumer preference controls with iOS 15, MacOS Monterey, and watch OS 8 that will impact the email marketing industry. At this time, Apple has not published any official technical documentation outlining an impact, but have announced the following two components that will be 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 will help you make any adjustments to your email marketing program when using engagement metrics in the future. This article will help you understand the impact of the these new features and what you may need to do to prepare.
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:
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.
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.
Aspects of your Bluecore email marketing program, like audiences, campaigns, or reporting approaches, that utilize open data may need to be reviewed and adjusted.
Email Volume Ramp Up. When ramping up email send volume, open data is typically used to warm up an IP address. For example, when warming up a new IP address, our Deliverability Services Team typically requests a file that includes 360-day openers, which is used to determine which customers to target when. With this rollout, instead of exclusively relying on open data, we are adjusting our strategy to incorporate other widely available metrics, such as 360-day clicks and purchases.
Audience Building. The opened attribute can be used in Bluecore’s Audience Builder to create an audience targeting recently engaged customers, like openers in the last 120 days. We recommend using the same time frame but targeting a mix of the following audience criteria:
Customers who opened an email in the last 120 days
Customers who clicked on an email in the last 120 days
Customers who purchased any products at least once in the last 120 days
Individual audience sets are recommended to be created and linked to a campaign in order to produce an OR logic around these 3 sets. Keep in mind that over 60% of opens (from non-apple devices) are still accurate and the recommended mix above should cover all target audiences.
Multi-Touch Journeys. Some Bluecore customers use open data to determine which customers receive later touches in experience designer journeys. For example, send the second touch to any customer who didn’t open the first touch. Instead, we recommend tweaking the campaign to target those who did not click on the previous touch.
Likelihood-to-Open Predictive Model. This model is the only Predictive Model that heavily relies on open data. Because of this, Bluecore recommends updating any audiences that use this model to use our Likelihood-to-Click predictive model instead. Bluecore will also monitor this feature after the rollout and determine if it should continue to be made available in the Bluecore Audience Builder.
Open Rate and Click to Open Rate (CTOR). These are two of many engagement metrics that email marketers have traditionally used to monitor and determine email program performance. Until we fully understand the impact of this rollout, we will not be able to recommend reliance on these two metrics and instead recommend using other engagement metrics that are actually better indicators of performance, like click rate. Bluecore will also monitor this feature after the rollout and determine if it should continue to be made available in our Analytics Dashboard. Bluecore is also working on excluding the non-human (bot) opens from the human opens across the open data to make it more consistent. These changes will be effective soon.
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 to supplement 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. Not to worry – no work is required from you.
Product Recommendations. Learn more about Bluecore’s suite of product recommendation algorithms.
Send-Time Optimization (STO). Bluecore’s version of STO was uniquely built to primarily use click data (vs. open data) to determine the best send time for each customer. Learn more.
Auto-Prioritizer™. Learn more about how this feature works.
The Likelihood-to-Click Predictive Model. Learn more about what data points are used to power this predictive model.
The Likelihood-to-Unsubscribe Predictive Model. Learn more about what data points are used to power this predictive model.
Inbox Placement. Open data has been used to indicate inbox placement. It’s important to note that this isn’t the only metric being used for inbox placement, and Bluecore will continue to rely on additional indicators via our inbox monitoring tool, ISP reputation tools, bounces, and clicks.
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.
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.