Times They Are A Changin’ - How Apple's New Privacy Protection Impacts Your Email Marketing Campaign

October 8, 2021

As one of the world's largest tech companies, Apple sets the rules under which all the other smaller players have to live. And when it changes those rules, startups like yours are tasked with adjusting quickly to maximize their growth potential.

This happened recently in the world of email marketing. The iPhone maker recently changed the privacy controls used for its email customers. That means changes for you as well. As a result, you'll likely need to modify the way you operate your email marketing campaigns.

But don't worry. While the new privacy protections for Apple Mail require adjustments on your part, you won't need a wholesale reorganization of your marketing strategy. Rather, email marketing remains a crucial way to expand your startup. You will just want to take the new environment into account.

What Are Apple's New Email Privacy Protection Features?

Apple has always been an innovator. From the Mac to the iPhone to one of the giants of the modern economy, the company has remained at the forefront of technological development for decades. Given this background, you should expect ongoing changes, including updates to its email privacy protections.

The key for you is understanding the new policies and adjusting your email marketing campaign accordingly.

According to Apple, the latest updates represent part of their "legacy of privacy leadership." The email changes come as part of an overall update in data management. The specific email updates involve:

  • Changes that prevent senders from knowing when an email is opened
  • Functionality that masks a user's IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity
  • Features that stop senders from determining details like a user's location

Why Are Apple's Changes Such a Big Deal?

Apple represents an enormous part of the global email ecosystem. Think of the company as a digital post office, dominating this form of communication as thoroughly as the USPS dominates snail mail.

Just look at the stats. According to Litmus, Apple has two of the top three email clients. The iPhone ranks #1 in the world, with 38.9% of the market. Apple Mail comes in third on the list with 11.5%. (Google's Gmail ranks second with a 27.2% market share.)

Counting the iPad, which also controls some 1.4% of the market, Apple's email clients claim a combined 51.8% of traffic. Yes, one company has control of more than half the market.

As a result of this dominance, even small updates to email privacy settings can send giant shockwaves through the industry.

The Future of Email Marketing

No, the news from Apple doesn't mean you should give up on email marketing. This strategy still represents an excellent ROI proposition, with each dollar spent typically returning about $36 in revenue.

[Email marketing] still represents an excellent ROI proposition, with each dollar spent typically returning about $36 in revenue.

Given this level of return, email will likely remain the most effective form of marketing. If you know what you're doing, it still represents an excellent choice for your small business. (And, if you want to know more, you can check out our Email Marketing 101 to get started.)

But the Apple news does mean you'll have to rethink some aspects of your approach to email marketing. In addition, you should consider the privacy change as part of a broader process that you'll have to prepare for as you ramp up your startup's marketing plan.

How You Should Adapt Your Email Marketing Following the Apple Changes

Thanks to the new updates, your email marketing programs will experience two main changes:

  1. Your open rates will become less reliable as data tools.
  2. You won't have as much data about the people receiving your emails.

Remember: Apple only makes up part of the market. Yes, it's an immense share. But, in absolute terms, many recipients of your marketing emails will have email clients other than Apple.

Apple accounts for about 52% of the market and new privacy changes are generally nearly universally accepted (the adoption rate for the previous update ran at 96%), so you can assume that approximately half your recipients will be Apple users who have updated their settings.

At the same time, you should also assume that more changes are on the way. In a competitive landscape, other players in the industry will begin upgrading their security policies in response to the Apple move.

Taking a broad view, the changes at Apple mark a shift in the overall ad-tech business. For years, advertisers have relied on data to drive their sales strategy. However, as consumers become more obsessed with protecting their personal information, Big Tech players, like Apple, have been responding with increased security measures.

Taking a broad view, the changes at Apple mark a shift in the overall ad-tech business.... As consumers become more obsessed with protecting their personal information, Big Tech players, like Apple, have been responding with increased security measures.

This is part of a long-term trend that is shaking the advertising world. The end game might see the elimination of such common marketing staples as cookies. In that way, you should view Apple's email changes as an early step in a long-term process.

But how do you respond to this specific change? Here are a few steps you can take to optimize your email marketing efforts in response to the Apple updates:

Change the Way You Crunch Your Data

With new settings, you won't be able to trust open rates for Apple email clients. However, as we've noted, this will likely account for only about half your mailing list. Until other companies update their privacy settings, you can still use open stats from non-Apple providers.

As such, you can use your non-Apple items to continue to crunch statistics related to email opening. You just have to be more careful about how you organize the data. From there, you can also look for correlations that can apply to your Apple names as well.

Rely Less on Statistics Related to Email Opening

Since the main thrust of the Apple updates relates to knowing when emails are opened, you need to deemphasize this in your planning.

That means turning to other statistics to measure the effectiveness of your campaign. Figures such as click rate and conversion rate will remain useful, even with the new privacy settings.

Don't Give Up on Getting People to Open Emails

Just because it gets harder to track, you shouldn't ignore the important task of getting recipients to open your marketing email. You just need to get more clever about discovering what works.

You won't have a direct statistic for your Apple users anymore. However, you can use tools like surveys and polls to find out what attracts consumers to your campaigns.

Playing Apple's Game with Your Email Marketing

Email marketing remains a top method for expanding your small business. However, as with anything that intersects with technology, you have to stay up-to-date with the latest details.

Apple's changes are just the latest in a long list of topics you need to track. Just like with Google's or Facebook's algorithms, you need to have the latest information to get the most out of your marketing efforts.

Don't get discouraged. Yes, Apple has implemented new email privacy protection features. And yes, these will impact your email marketing campaigns. However, with the information provided here, you can still run a successful email marketing campaign and get the new sales your startup needs to thrive.