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The Email Marketing challenge to Apple’s Privacy Protection Feature

Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) is affecting Open Rate rendering it useless as an email performance metric, and that’s a good thing.

Something big happened in Q4 of 2021: Open Rates skyrocketed. It’s “big” for marketers anyway. No, we’re not collectively reading more emails from brands we bought one thing from last year.

Apple is obscuring the Opens of opted-in Apple Mail users by flooding the rates with more than the actual number of Opens, which might seem counterintuitive.

Chalk it up to, Apple works in mysterious ways 💁 ?

For anyone who needs context:
Opens = The total number of times an email was opened
Open Rate = The percentage of sent emails that were opened

What this means for email performance tracking

According to Litmus, Apple Mail’s overall market share was 51% as of Q4, 2021. And among those users, adoption of MPP has been upwards of 80%. Assuming your audience is anywhere close to the standard Apple Mail user-base, it’s had a big impact on your Open Rates already.

Besides using Open Rate as a standard KPI for the success of your email content, any testing that relies on it is now essentially bunk. Automatically A/B testing your subject lines? Using automatic Send Time optimization? These all generally rely on Opens to function. 

What about your remarketing emails that are sent to users who did not open? Or your reengagement series that fires after a user has not opened any of your recent emails?

The impacts of MPP on email and marketing automation are far reaching, and while they shouldn’t be taken lightly - they also aren’t the end of the world.


Why we’re not panicking about Apple’s MPP changes

Okay maybe we panicked (just a little bit I swear) when we first understood how many strategies this would impact. But once we got over the initial reaction of losing Open Rate we realized this wasn’t the end of the world it sounded like. 

MPP has NOT impacted email deliverability, or actual email engagement.

What it *is* doing is forcing marketers to evaluate email performance beyond The Open. Forget how many people opened the email, for the majority of organizations we work with, opening or reading the email is not the desired action we want the user to take. 

How many users clicked through? How many completed your conversion objective? How many replied? 

It’s also encouraged us to redefine what “engagement” means. Is a user actually “engaged” if they are opening an email? Or is it similar to opening junk snail mail before throwing it away?


Ok, now what?

Training wheels are off. Opens are out. Here are questions you should be asking.

  • What actions do we want users to take from our email, and how can we optimize for them?
  • How can we adjust our email reporting to give us actionable insights without relying on Opens or Open Rate as a KPI?
  • Can tracking multi-channel journeys and engagements tell us more about our customers, donors, and supporters?
  • What automated processes are we currently running that will be impacted by MPP?
  • Is our email body copy doing its job and leading readers to click the in-text links and buttons; in other words, how are our click-through rates measuring up to industry standards?


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