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Find Out if Your Subscribers Use Apple Mail Privacy Protection

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As consumers, we all want stronger security and more privacy around our personal data and online activity. As email marketers, however, we also want to be able to do our jobs effectively and efficiently.

So last year, when Apple announced new Mail Privacy Protection features that prevent marketers from accurately tracking email open rates (and more), a collective groan arose from the email geek universe.

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No. Apple Mail Privacy Protection did not mean the death of email. We’re all still here and have jobs… for now

Yes. It does mean email marketers need to adjust the way they measure campaign performance, and it’s prompting teams to re-examine their approach to things like A/B testing, send-time optimization, and certain types of real-time, dynamic content as well.

But what if you could know exactly who is using Apple Mail Privacy Protection?

A new analytics feature from Sinch Email on Acid helps you do that. But first, let’s take a closer look at what we’re dealing with and why you’d want to know who’s using this protection.

The big question

How many of my subscribers are actually using Mail Privacy Protection?

That’s the first thing many email marketers wondered when Apple’s changes went into effect in September 2021. It’s not exactly simple to figure out.

Mail Privacy Protection is an optional security feature in iOS and macOS. So, you can’t assume every subscriber using the Apple Mail app has it turned on. Plus, Apple Mail is an extremely popular email client. It’s likely the first or second most common mailbox provider on your list.

So, we all knew the feature would mess with the way email marketers are used to doing things. But how far-reaching is the impact? Let’s take a look at an explanation of the privacy feature that’s still causing headaches and heated discussions.

Apple Mail Privacy Protection problems

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We know, we know. This topic has been discussed in webinars and on email marketing blogs ad nauseam, but bear with us here as we set things up…

Apple Mail Privacy Protection (AMPP) keeps marketers from tracking when subscribers open an email. That’s because Apple preloads the message in a proxy server where it downloads all the content. This includes the tracking pixel used to measure email opens. So, the initial “open” doesn’t happen in the subscriber’s inbox at all.

This is how Apple explains it to its customers:

“The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email, and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.”

Here are some of the biggest issues email marketers are struggling with now.

Open rates

A proxy server will open any messages sent to an Apple Mail user who has the feature turned on, So, problem numero uno is inflated open rate metrics.

At first, this was tough to accept. Increasing open rates has always been a standard key performance indicator (KPI) in email marketing. But the open rate has also always been a bit unreliable for various reasons. Put simply, it’s not a true measure of an effective email.

Click-to-open rates (CTOR), on the other hand, have been a trusted metric for email. But CTORs are also impacted since the rate is determined based on opens. So, the most reliable email performance metric becomes the sheer number of clicks.

Subject line testing

One thing that the open rate metric has been useful for is split testing subject lines. With inflated email open rates, can you really be confident that subject line A is performing better than option B? The same problem exists for any other tests that rely on open rates.

Send time optimization

Send time optimization (STO) is artificial intelligence that allows marketers to deliver emails at a time that’s ideal for individual contacts. Let’s say Sally tends to check her email around noon on weekdays. With STO, you can optimize to send a campaign at the perfect time so it’s sitting at the top of her inbox.

Obviously, that’s much harder to do if it’s not really Sally opening the email.

List hygiene

Many marketers used the open rate metric to identify engaged and unengaged subscribers. The logic was, “If they’re still opening our emails, they must still want to hear from us.”

Traditionally, if inactive and disengaged subscribers hadn’t opened any messages from a brand over a certain period of time, they’d get removed during the email list cleaning process. But it’s tough to determine who’s an unengaged Apple Mail user if nearly all of them appear to open every email you send.

Dynamic email content

Open tracking pixels can also be used to determine a contact’s location. This means dynamic email content that relies on geolocation could be inaccurate for some Apple Mail users.

That includes cool email features such as personalized maps with store locators based on the subscriber’s location as well as countdown timers and other types of real-time personalization.

Unfortunately for both subscribers and senders, the price for increased privacy protection could mean a less relevant and less personalized inbox experience.

The Apple Mail app and other clients

At first, you might assume you could simply identify all the contacts in your database with email addresses ending in @icloud.com, @mac.com, or @me.com. Then, put those subscribers on a separate list. That way, you filter out potential Mail Privacy Protection users and can still do things the same way with the rest of your list.

Not a bad idea. But not exactly foolproof.

That’s because the Apple Mail app can be used to open emails from any email client. So for example, someone with a Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo address and an iPhone could be viewing their emails in Apple Mail while using Mail Privacy Protection.

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Still, you were on to something there! What if you knew which subscribers had Apple Mail Privacy turned on regardless of their email address? You can do that with Email Analytics from Sinch Email on Acid. And besides being good to know, you can use the information in strategic ways.

Why track Mail Privacy Protection usage?

If it’s not clear already, here are a few reasons why you’d want to figure out which subscribers are using Apple Mail Privacy Protection.

1. People always ask about open rates

Many experienced email marketers say they could smell the end of open rates coming a mile away. The problem is, there will still be people in your organization who ask about this metric – it may even be your boss or your biggest agency client.

You could take the time to make excuses and explain why open rates are unreliable and inaccurate and how AMPP inflates everything. Or, you could find a way to provide a fairly accurate average open rate.

If you know who’s using Mail Privacy Protection, you can segment or filter those contacts and use the open rate that excludes those subscribers. And there you go – no more inflated open rates (okay, less inflated).

2. Strategic list segmentation

Speaking of segmentation, if you know who’s using Apple Mail Privacy Protection, and you put them on their own list, it could solve some of your other problems.

With AMMP users are on a separate list, the rest of your contacts can still benefit from send-time optimization, location-based personalizations, and other dynamic content that relies on email opens.

Granted, in some cases, this may require a little more work if you have to develop two campaigns. But you can always pick and choose the campaigns where this approach makes sense.

3. Inbox display testing and optimization

Say what you want about open rates as a metric, convincing people to open and read emails isn’t easy. Understanding which combination of subject line, preheader text, and sender name works best is important.

If you’re able to create a segment of subscribers using Mail Privacy Protection, you can still split test subject lines and other elements to help you optimize inbox display for more opens.

How to identify subscribers using AMPP

If you’re already an Email on Acid customer with a Premium plan or higher, you have access to our platform’s analytics. And in those analytics, you will find our product team has added a new email client: Apple Mail Privacy Protection.

Essentially, the Email on Acid platform lets you separate subscribers using AMPP from other subscribers using the Apple Mail app without the privacy feature turned on.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Go to email client reporting

Inside the analytics reporting for a particular campaign, you’ll see tabs at the top for different sections of your full report. Click on the Email Clients tab.

Email Analytics dashboard tabs in Email on Acid

This is where you’ll find information on the mailbox providers, browsers, devices, and display engines subscribers used to view your emails.

2. Find the client popularity breakdown

Scroll down in the Email Clients report to find a list with the numbers and percentages of total opens and unique opens for the campaign you’re analyzing. 

Email Analytics results with Apple Mail Privacy Protection stats

Keep in mind, this image reflects test data. Actual results will vary depending on your list of contacts. So far, it seems the adoption of Mail Privacy Protection is high. Chad White, head of strategic research at Oracle Marketing Consulting, thinks we can expect AMPP adoption rates similar to the 96% of U.S. consumers who opted out of ad tracking.

3. Download a CSV of your report

So, now you know how many of your subscribers use Mail Privacy Protection, but what you really need is to find out who they are. To do that, all you need to do is download a CSV of your Email Analytics report. 

You’ll find a button to Download CSV right underneath the tabs of your analytics report. Once you have the CSV file, you’ll be able to see the unique email addresses for which AMPP automatically opened the email. 

CSV of email analytics for Apple Mail Privacy Protection

Now, you can filter these subscribers and create a separate list of contacts you know are using Apple Mail Privacy Protection.

4. Use the information wisely

It may not be necessary to create different campaigns for AMPP users every time you send an email. However, there are bound to be scenarios where this information will be helpful.

You may need to run a test to optimize a campaign based on open rates and you don’t want the metric to be inflated. Or, you may want to implement a dynamic feature that Mail Privacy Protection won’t allow.

In that case, you’re separating the AMPP users so that you can continue providing them with an ideal inbox experience – even if it isn’t as personalized and cool as everything else.

Don’t forget – you’ll want to go through this process on a regular basis to update your lists.

Navigate other email challenges

Email marketers are pretty comfortable with overcoming obstacles like this. From Outlook rendering issues to lack of support for video, email geeks always find a way to make things work. So, AMPP is just one more hurdle to jump.

It’s Email on Acid’s mission to help you simplify the complexities of email marketing. The benefits of our email readiness platform extend way beyond tracking Apple Mail Privacy Protection users.

Use our automated Campaign Precheck workflow to run final checks on everything from inbox display and accessibility, to link validation and deliverability. Our reliable email previews show you how your campaign will render on dozens of clients and devices, and you can preview as much as needed thanks to unlimited testing with every plan.

No matter what gets thrown at email marketers, we’ll come up with ways to help you put your best email forward.

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Your team needs an email readiness platform that scales as you grow and take on more work. Sinch Email on Acid lets you manage projects and permissions while collaborating throughout the pre-deployment process. Find out why so many recognizable brands trust Sinch Email on Acid for delivering email perfection. Discover our Enterprise Solutions.

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