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Point of View: Apple Privacy Update

Tricia Babischkin | October 25, 2021 

What is happening?

In the spring of 2021, Apple announced a radical change to the privacy position for users of their native email applications across the iOS and desktop operating systems. This change will essentially report every email sent to those users as opened because Apple will cache the content and not report back to the sender the time of open. Additionally, it will also mask the IP address to eliminate the location-based targeting of personalized content.

It is important to note that this is not by default and is in fact an option to be checked upon updating the operating system. However, the wording of the option is such that it is expected there will be about a 90% adoption rate.

What will this affect?

Given the predominance of the use of the apple native mail applications, it is expected that this will greatly inflate the reported open rates across all domains, as the native application does not tie to a single domain. This change will also render the click to open rate KPI has highly inaccurate as the count of opens will be inflated and thus deflating the CTOR. Additionally, we expect that any location-based personalization that is rendered at the time of open will likely be inaccurate.

What will not be affected?

It is important to know that click reporting will not be affected. This is critical in making decisions about content and content that drives traffic to your website. Also, the tracking metrics that follow a subscriber when they click is also unaffected by this update. Finally, SFMC is reporting that Einstein’s Send Time Optimization’s process is not expected to be affected by this change.

What can I do?

While there is currently no work around to prevent Apple from masking the IP and the open, there are things you can do today to understand the effect on your KPIs and how to adjust your email marketing.

  1. Understand the numbers: Pull the reporting of the % of opens that are from native Apple email applications historically. If you’d like to predict the effect on your open rate, you can use this formula to project the increase:
    • ((% of Apple Mail Openers/100)*0.9*75)+(pre change open rate*(1-[(% of Apple Mail Openers/100)*0.9])
    • This assumes 90% adoption rate and a 75% open rate on Apple Mail
  2. Consider removing open based and location-based content: Until the accuracy can be confirmed, we recommend not using countdown timers, location-based weather content, and holding A/B subject tests that rely on opens for a winner.
    • While this is likely temporary, pulling it now will prevent poor subscriber experiences due to lack of feedback due to the privacy update.
  3. Adjust your journeys: Update engagement splits in journeys away from an open to a click as the click will more accurately reflect engagement with the brand. 
  4. Update your content: If you have historically only focused on getting someone to open your email, you may want to consider reviewing and updating your emails to push for click engagement. 
    • Consider making the most of the content behind the click instead of the body of the email.
    • Consider strong calls to action and consider testing them for clicks.

Finally, as this is a disruptor in the email ecosystem, we fully expect there to be some unintended consequences. For example, the suppression of personal data limits marketers’ ability to deliver personalized experiences. But we also know that subscribers are willing to give personal data in exchange for a more personalized experience. ListEngage can assist you with creating campaigns to capture precious first party data. Whether through innovative solutions like Jebbit or strategic survey campaigns, we can support you from strategy to build to deploy to results analysis. For more information, please reach out to your ListEngage Project Manager or Account Executive.

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Tricia Babischkin | Strategic Consultant

Tricia Babischkin is a Strategic Consultant for ListEngage and recently named one of Salesforce's 2020 Marketing Champions. With over 20 years in marketing, most of that time in digital, specifically email marketing, she has helped hundreds of companies improve their conversations with their customers. At the end of the day, after she’s read the hundreds of marketing emails in her inbox, Tricia firmly believes and promotes that there is no more powerful digital marketing tool than email when used responsibly and properly. Contact her, if you would like to have her expertise enhance your email program at