AtData’s Statement On Apple Privacy Changes

July 27, 2021
By AtData

NEWTON, MA, (July 27, 2021) - As you might have heard by now, Apple's new Email Privacy Protections include an option to turn off pixel tracking in the Apple Mail app on the Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, and desktop/laptop systems running MacOS Monterey. This move goes into effect September 2021 and impacts Apple Users who use the native Apple Mail app only.  It is intended to help users control their privacy, but it will have some wide-ranging effects on email analytics, design, and deliverability.

Apple’s Doing What?

Apple is planning to use a hidden IP and will open images/content privately in the background so email senders will not know if, when, or where an email was opened.  Apple will be caching 40-60% of the world’s data, which will open and store all images on Apple devices immediately, whether or not a person ‘opens or clicks’ on the email.

At a minimum, this will have the following immediate impacts:

    • Opens will be higher and no longer representative of actual opens by recipients
    • Technology will spike lots of opens all at once as Apple essentially will “open” all emails when it receives them
    • The inability to see actives/inactives will impact deliverability
    • If companies were previously suppressing inactives from deployments, this will increase costs as there will no longer be full visibility into which recipients are active or inactives


So What’s A Marketer To Do…?

And what can be done to minimize the fallout?  Marketers will now need to focus even more on good email content and targeted personalization to get their users to provide more direct 1st party information vs. getting it from a pixel.  It will be more important than ever to validate the contact data they have already acquired for their prospects and customers.  They also will need to get better at managing their own data from their websites as well as their purchase data to calculate revenue per email as a key metric vs., their old standby, opens.

Not recommended: Don’t simply segment out Apple data and keep doing what has always been done because other providers might soon follow suit.

Of course, there are still plenty of unknowns:

    • Will Apple send cached and open emails to spam folders? Given that they do not control inbox placement (the ISPs do) it’s unclear what will happen here for now.
    • Apple’s website has 10+ pixel tracking built-ins. Given that their ‘website team’ is different than their ‘email data privacy team’, it remains to be seen what they will be doing with this data.
    • Verizon Media sells their data to marketers. Will Apple begin doing the same?

Notwithstanding Apple’s privacy changes, email marketing ROI will still be about leveraging deliverability, inbox placement, and quality, targeted content.  Real personalization, good copy, and a clear call to action are tried and true strategies, which will continue to perform.


The Bottom Line

The most significant impact is that open rates will become even less reliable as a way to track user engagement. Moreover, with this update companies will not be able to see any data relating to time, location or device used to open Mail messages when they are viewed through the native Apple Mail app. While Apple's various mail products do account for more than 40% of the email client market worldwide, for now this change will only affect the approximately 13% of users who actively use the native Apple Mail application, thus only 5.2% of all email users. As of right now, other email applications such as Gmail and Outlook are not affected by Apple's change.


The Good News - AtData’s SafeToSend Service is Unaffected

The good news is this change will not affect AtData’s SafeToSend service as we use multiple metrics and data points – over 10 terabytes of data - to determine address quality. We also have developed offerings that give companies even more insight into email deliverability, which address these and other upcoming changes.

We're learning more every day about the effects that Apple's privacy changes will have on email operations, and we continue to track Apple’s development updates. As new information comes to light, we'll communicate what it will mean.  If there are any questions or immediate concerns, please contact AtData’s service team.