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Building on our last post, What is Apple’s New Hide My Email Feature, we’re back today to talk about another iOS 15 privacy feature: Mail Privacy Protection (MPP). As Apple continues its efforts around providing consumers control over data, MPP aims to restrict the data being shared from consumers’ emails.

Before we dive into MPP, let’s do a quick refresh on how email marketers measure performance today. For businesses to understand how their email campaigns are working, teams add a tracking pixel, which is a small transparent image that is inserted into the email message. This tracking pixel provides analytics about the end recipient such as when the recipient opened the email, how often they opened, what device it was opened on, and their location via an IP address. This helps businesses optimize their email messages and content to be more relevant and effective. Like most email content, this tracking pixel loads upon an email being opened, letting the email sender know that a recipient is engaging with their content.

According to Apple, “Mail Privacy Protection works by hiding your IP address and loading the remote content privately in the background, even when you don’t open the message. This makes it harder for senders to follow your mail activity”. Let’s break this down. First, to “hide your IP address”, Apple will replace your actual IP address and assign you a randomly generated one based on your region. Second, “loading the remote content privately in the background” refers to Apple loading all the email contents before you engage with the message instead of loading the pixel at the time of open. To businesses, this will look like all emails have been opened, rendering the popular engagement metric, the open rate, useless. Which bring us to the last statement, “makes it harder for senders to follow your mail activity,” referring to businesses’ inability to utilize traditional engagement metrics and recipient information to understand customer journeys.

Is Email Marketing Dead?

No need to panic – this change does not mean that your email marketing program is over. However, these changes will have a noticeable impact on some of your marketing measurement and optimization strategies since Apple Mail (across desktop and mobile) accounts for around 50% of the market. And based on consumer adoption of other Apple privacy protections, there is a high likelihood that users will adopt MPP. Therefore, marketers should evaluate their current program and identify vulnerabilities. Some areas to explore include:

How to Prepare

While this shift will certainly throw a wrench in your email marketing machine, one core strategy will help you mitigate the damage.

Maintain your email audiences with well-defined and separate cohorts of consumers who use the Apple Mail client and those who do not. By keeping your Apple Mail email consumers as a dedicated audience within your email efforts, you’ll be able to do two critical things:

1. Maintain your existing tactics and measurement approaches. Since Mail Privacy Protection and its implications on email open signals only apply to users of Apple Mail, you should not simply throw away your proven email strategies that could be affected. Instead, cordon off the Apple Mail users and continue with the rest of your email contact database as normal.

2. Extrapolate email open-centric strategies and measurement from your non-Apple Mail audiences to your Apple Mail audiences. By applying this audience strategy to your mailable consumer database, you’ll be able to look at open performance and other tactics, like send time optimizations, for non-Apple Mail audiences and then model and test these out on your Apple Mail audiences. While you may not have direct line of sight to actual Apple Mail users’ email open activity, this allows you to leverage your existing data and analytics from non-Apple Mail users and apply statistically significant insights and tactics to your Apple Mail user audiences.

In addition to strategically managing your audiences to control for these changes, your organization should start seeking out an effective identity resolution solution. Your ability to correctly identify your consumers across channels is more critical now than ever. You’ll need to use these positive identifications to better connect, model, and measure how Apple Mail client users’ memberships in any given email campaign may have influenced their behaviors in other channels. With Mail Privacy Protection rolling out, the only other way to connect these dots will be through identity resolution. 

While the jury is still out on the full impact of Mail Privacy Protection, these changes are not trivial, and we hope you and your team can take advantage of these strategies to keep your brands on top.