You’ve got Mail… Privacy Protection

Woman looking at her email inbox on a computer

Back in June 2021, Apple announced at their annual Worldwide Developers Conference that they’d be introducing Mail Privacy Protection (MPP). This caused a bit of a panic at the time, as businesses around the globe worried about the future of open rates and the impending death of the ability to track email engagement. Fast-forward to September 2021 and it finally arrived. Apple users with the Mail.app on iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and more recently macOS, were able to activate MPP, throwing a blindfold over the eyes of email senders who were unable to see which of their Apple device users were engaging in their content.

Was MPP the end of engagement metrics?

We’re not as blind to customer engagement as many people thought. First of all, lets take a look into how the MPP works. It hides the IP address of the user which prevents senders from linking the opened email to other online activity, or even tracking their location. On top of this it stops the sender from being able to see if and when the email has been opened, because the email will be ‘opened’ automatically by the MPP when received on an MPP enabled device. Currently, Apple have set up the MPP with no default, meaning that users have to manually select if they want to protect their mail activity or not (but we know what choice most users would pick from reading Apple’s description of how the MPP works).

This choice is then automatically synced across all devices associated with the same Apple ID. In fact, Apple have recently released an advert in the US encouraging their users to activate Apple MPP, and turn off in-app tracking altogether – you can watch this here.

Screenshot of Apple's Mail Privacy Protection notice

When an email is sent to a recipient opted in to the MPP, the message is first sent through a proxy server where the content (including tracking pixels) are pre-loaded – or ‘opened’ – before being sent on to the user. This means the email will show as having being opened, despite the fact the user might have deleted it ‘unread’ from their inbox and never engaged with the content.

So is that it? Have we lost the ability to track consumer engagement with content? Far from it. We know that the important elements of tracking an email campaign includes the sends, opens and click-through-rates. So we can still track engagement with emails – but we have to focus on viewing key metrics holistically to ensure we can better track email engagement.

Following the implementation of Apple MPP, marketers have seen their open rate metric increase. Your open rates are likely to have significantly increased, so using the traditional open rates as a metric in 2022 won’t give you an accurate overview of how your content is being engaged with by your audience. Understanding the new normal and using click-throughs along with your other metrics such as revenue, interactions through other channels – any data you have – will give you a more accurate overview.

An email opened by MPP won’t have had any of the links or content clicked on by the user, therefore that gives a metric that we can start to use to track customer engagement. Now you may be thinking that the click-through rates alone won’t help to show increases or decreases in engagement over time, so ideally you’ll need to refer to your data prior to September 2021 as a starting point to set the benchmark to track your engagement. Viewing and using your existing data, whilst incorporating your new data as a way to benchmark the new normal (which can include all data holistically and not solely focusing on clicks) will give you the ability to better track engagement levels now MPP is live. If you’d like other supporting metrics, there are others you can use including revenue increase or decrease from your content (where applicable).

Some red flags to avoid

Across the industry, some tools will enable you remove any Apple MPP enabled device data in an attempt to prevent MPP open rates from inflating your real engagement numbers. This is a dangerous practice though, because opens made by a human use exactly the same mechanisms as non-human opens, therefore are completely indistinguishable. Indiscriminately removing MPP interactions will result in genuine human interactions being removed from your reporting insights, therefore you’re losing a key amount of usable and actionable data when it comes to developing and improving your marketing practices.

Excluding Apple MPP users not only removes them as a source of tracking open rates, but you also loose the ability to accurately score your customers and track their activity across the board, and you’ll be blind to click-rates, bounce rates, and other key metrics that will give you the tools to consistently improve your marketing function. Remember – just because a user has Apple MPP activated, doesn’t mean that they aren’t engaging in the content themselves, but using other metrics will help you develop a better overview of your customer and their engagement.

There’s a wealth of other metrics and usable data at our fingertips which can be used to keep track of how your contacts engage with you. What we definitely wouldn’t suggest is filtering out Apple MPP enabled devices when it comes to tracking your data, as that could easily be 70% or more of your data, which won’t give you accurate insights into your engagement rates.

MPP graph

MPP graph

How can Dotdigital help you track your customer engagement?

At Dotdigital, we have a variety of ways to track genuine contact engagement. Firstly, we have a tool which can filter out all non-human activity. This includes opens and clicks which have occurred during the sending of an email or campaign. This removes any false engagement and interaction rates which can skew your reports, leaving them inaccurate and avoid using misleading data when it comes to planning your future campaigns.

We also have our enhanced Single customer view which can be used to get a better overview of your contacts and their activity. It’ll enable you to know who they are, what their interests are and what drives their purchasing decisions. It combines all actionable and real-time data in a single location meaning you can gather and use the correct data to engage with your contacts as if you were speaking to them one-to-one by creating personalized campaigns and content.

The SCV contains six key elements of data:

  • Customer information
  • Channels
  • Memberships
  • Sales
  • Engagement
  • Activity timeline and recent orders

Single customer view in Dotdigital gives you multiple metrics through which you can holistically track engagement, including:

  • The number of emails sent
  • The date of the last email you sent to them
  • The date of the last email open
  • The date of their last visit to your website
  • The total number of visits to your website within a defined time-frame

So what are the takeaways from Apple MPP?

We’ve been able to delve in to the detail using our in-house data science and analytics teams to more accurately identify which opens are happening from Apple MPP enabled devices. This research has also shown us that since January 2022, the majority of Apple users who are going to upgrade to iOS 15 and activate MPP have done so. You’ll be able to see from your own data that the increase in open rates between September 2021 and January 2022 has levelled off, which you can now use to create your benchmark when it comes to using your data before and after MPP came into affect.

We’ve also been able to see that the largest proportion of open rates by a group of customers is done on MPP enabled devices. Globally it’s over 50% of all opens for Dotdigital customers, but in some regions (including the AMERICAS), this customer segment increases to 70% and above. Total opens per day have almost doubled to pre-September 2021 levels, and with no current way to tell if the open on an Apple MPP enabled device was a real user or an automated open, the risk involved with removing that segment of users from your data is that you’ll be losing a large proportion of quality information, rather than just your opens metrics.

Our summary

To summarize, we know that the Apple MPP has ruffled a few feathers, but it has definitely not taken away the ability to track customer engagement. You have the data available, but you just need to review your metrics, understand your new baseline, and tweak the ones you’re using. We have a whole host of content for you to view across our blog from engagement, clicks, and split testing, so make sure you take a look today.

To find out more about Dotdigital can help you, get in touch with us today.

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