Apple called the email open rate’s bluff

With the recent changes to Apple’s privacy and security safeguards, those who relied on “Email Opens” as a key success metric are left holding a soggy bag of Thanksgiving leftovers. 

In mid-September, the company rolled out sweeping changes to users’ privacy. Historically, these changes take about four months to be adopted by about 80% of Apple users — an enviable adoption rate for a tech company. 

With your last phone update, you may have noticed it when your device prompted you to enact new privacy settings. Among these settings are ways to mask your activity, location and information from marketers. While still in beta, expect these changes to become more widespread. Some may already be seeing the effects in their reporting. 

For those who run email marketing campaigns, it means that the “open rate,” which was a poor metric to start with, is going to be bloated as Apple now pre-opens user emails who have the new security and privacy setting. This used to be a much smaller number of users who had certain security programs and protocols that performed that type of a “sweep” before landing the email in the inbox. 

How will this impact reporting on email marketing campaigns?

  • For B2B emails, this will show open rates rising an average of 30% higher, with no actual increase in engagement. 
  • For B2C lists, that number will be higher, as they are more likely to be reaching consumers with iPhones. Early estimates are that open rates will rise by 50%, again with no increase in clicks, purchases or inquiries.

Other changes you may notice if you are using an integrated CRM platform are: 

  • Hidden IP addresses — while you may have been able to get a clear picture of where your target audiences are (literally) coming from, that will become a little murkier and more regionally represented.
  • Hide my email: Apple creates and attaches unique emails (they look like gibberish) to user activities (think replies and click-throughs) that will look like several different contacts performing an isolated activity, even though it may be a single contact. 

This might feel frustrating to some, but open rates haven’t been a reliable metric since shortly after email marketing became mainstream. These changes push marketing teams to dig deeper for more engaging content and be smarter in the asks they make of their audiences. And it makes permission-based marketing more important than ever. 

This isn’t something that Apple broke for marketers. These changes are a direct result of bad behavior, such as selling user email addresses and spamming, failure to respect opt-outs, and practices that mine information inappropriately. And where Apple goes, so goes the rest of the tech world. 

This shift puts the emphasis where it should be: Good, quality content that is helpful to the end-user. Marketers who are integrated with sales, service and operation have an opportunity to personalize and drive better engagement by restructuring what happens when someone receives their email. 

A few ways to increase and measure engagement: 

Monitor the inbox: Ditch the “no-reply@” email. For that matter, don’t add to your footer or an auto-reply email that “This email is not monitored.” If you are concerned that you will receive too many inquiries or responses, enact automation that routes replies to the appropriate department based on content. But don’t let this opportunity to engage directly with your audience slip by. 

Refine click-through opportunities: Make your calls-to-action (CTAs) clear and offer opportunities to engage beyond the “shop now” or “read more” buttons or links. Give more options to ask questions, link directly to chat or click to call, and encourage replies. 

Have I mentioned using an integrated CRM for your email marketing platform? This is even more important than ever. A good CRM/marketing platform can help you make sense of insights from your campaigns and allow your sales team to nurture prospects through the sales funnel more efficiently. So, ditch the bargain email marketing platforms and start using better insights, integrating AI and automation to enable your team to drive better results. 

Jen Neumann is owner and CEO of de Novo Marketing in Cedar Rapids.