If your business is heavily invested in email marketing, then you’ll want to read this to understand a big change happening now, thanks to Apple.  Scheduled for introduction with their Fall 2021 software updates, a massive ground shift is about to shake up the email marketing world.

Making it harder for marketers and advertisers to measure email open rates, Apple intends to curtail advertisers’ ability to see whether recipients actually open their messages.

Thinking Outside the Inbox

From year-end 2021 onwards, businesses reaching out to their subscriber bases through emails must rethink the ways that they use, measure, and monetize this communications channel. In parallel to reshaping their approaches to email marketing, far-sighted brands are already opting for other ways – like text messaging – of reaching out to their publics.

Announced back in June, a trio of new opt-in features for both desktop and mobile operating systems will have major marketing impacts in the Apple universe:

  • Users can eliminate tracking pixels that tell email marketers whether an email has been opened;
  • iCloud subscribers can use the Private Relay feature to hide IP addresses;
  • Through the Hide My Email feature, consumers can control who contacts them by using (and easily deleting) random, unique email addresses that forward messages to their personal inboxes.

In Email Marketing Terms, How Big Is Apple?

Although Windows (76%) and Android (73%) are by far the main players on the OS market, a recent (January – March 2021) survey showed that Apple on iPhone accounted for almost 39% of email opens, hitting well above the iOS market share of 26%. Lagging behind in second place was Gmail (27%), with desktop Apple Mail bringing up the rear at 11%.

This indicates that messages conveyed through Apple apps account for a whopping 50% of email opens – which means that marketers and their corporate clients must seek out more creative ways of reaching out to large chunks of their subscriber bases in the very near future.

 Why Is Email Marketing So Important?

The benefits of email marketing have been well-known since Hotmail was launched in the mid-1990s. However, this channel has come a long way since its early scattershot spam approaches.

Still, among the most cost-effective marketing tools, email offers unparalleled flexibility, scalability, and shareability. With almost instant testing, measuring, and benchmarking, it’s a non-intrusive channel whose reusable templates underpin budget-friendly segmentation and personalization, leading to higher click-through and conversion rates.

It’s also a time-saver for busy marketers, as automated email apps can be programmed to contact customers in response to a wide variety of actions, that range from signing up on a website to abandoning an online shopping cart. As the cherry on the top, email is also environmentally friendly, with a tiny carbon footprint.

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What Can Businesses Do Now?

By the end of the year, it will be harder for marketers to get feedback from a significant chunk of their routine marketing emails. Used to the convenience of tucking a couple of invisible tracking pixels into their messages, marketers must now rise to the challenge of Apple’s new options: users will be asked to choose whether they wish to opt-in and protect their email activities by concealing IP addresses, loading remote content privately.

At the same time, marketing plans must also ensure compliance with personal data protection legislation, particularly the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and, at the international level, Europe’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), Brazil’s Lei Geral de Proteção de Dados (LGPD), and South Africa’s Protection of Personal Information (POPI). As enforcement includes heavy fines and even contractual liability, these requirements should not be taken lightly.

Marketing Consequences of the Apple Update

Triggering an industry-wide open rate rethink, marketers must now find ways of discovering if (and when) recipients actually open their messages. Users of Apple mail products will soon be able to opt for Mail Privacy Protection. Their messages will appear as read immediately after they are sent, instantly invalidating a long-established indicator of engagement or (at the very least) interest: open email rates.

Companies monetizing audiences based directly on email content are probably the most severely affected by these changes, as their fees are often set on message open rates. Although never a foolproof metric (many users click on emails just to show them as read, but without actually reading them), the open email rate will become even less trustworthy, when around 50% of email messages are opened on Apple devices.

Without one of the key rates to steer their decisions, email marketers will find it hard to measure customer engagement. This also raises challenges for businesses relying heavily on newsletters, with engagement measured by responses that range from simply clicking on a thumbs-up button to completing a survey.

How To Boost Email Open Rates

Successful email marketing has always needed specialized expertise and state-of-the-art resources, and never more than today. The design for each blast must feature an attention-grabbing subject line, with uncluttered visuals and informative copy, sent out at just the right moment, preferably through an automated system. Here are four easy DOs and DON’Ts for higher open rates:

DO

  • Design each message for multiple devices in full and text-only versions, finding that sweet spot between design and functionality for every template;
  • Update permission-based marketing lists regularly (at least once a year), to make sure that all messages reach their intended targets;
  • Personalize all emails and keep all content relevant, preferably with coupons, gifts, and time-limited special offers;

DON’T

  • Cram in too many images, as messages may be slow to download, irritating recipients and leading to instant blocks and unsubscribes;
  • Scatter spam keywords (FREE!), characters ($$$!), and CTAs (GET YOUR GIFT HERE!) throughout your message, as they are easily recognized by spam blockers;
  • Blast emails at uninterested and overburdened customers, as this can downgrade the deliverability of important communications in the future.

Takeaways

For consumers, Apple’s forthcoming update will certainly usher in a different – and possibly more appealing – look for the marketing emails that flood their inboxes. But marketers will be deprived of the granular details provided by feedback from email blasts. For them, the challenge is now to find other ways of encouraging recipients to show that they are reading messages.

And with new channels appearing all the time – from Parler to Clubhouse and TikTok – there’s no shortage of options. All that’s needed is creative thinking, and the determination to break away from digital marketing traditions.

Let’s boost your open rates