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Tim Cook’s remarks at the 2021 WWD, leading up to the unveiling of the new Mail Privacy Protection and Hide My Email features have thrown email marketers into a tizzy. The full text of Tim Cook’s remarks at the Apple World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) 2021 were “At Apple, we believe that privacy is a fundamental human right. We don’t think that you should have to make a trade-off between great features and privacy. We believe that you deserve both. Since the beginning we’ve worked to help you keep your personal data under your control. And over the years we’ve integrated powerful privacy control into our operating systems, most recently adding privacy nutrition labels, and app tracking transparency. Today privacy is more important than ever, because when you use the Internet and 3rd party apps you can be tracked by a complex ecosystem of data brokers and adtech firms, often without your permission. We don’t think this is right. We believe in protecting your privacy, and giving you transparency and control over your information. And to tell you about the NEW ways we’re giving you even MORE control, here are Katie and Eric.”

And ever since that bell was rung, which can’t be unrung, we have received a lot of frantic messages and emails desperate to know how Mail Privacy Protection and Hide My Email features are going to impact email marketing. Here’s why we think that you don’t need to worry about them too much, most specifically as they relate to tracking open rates.

We are going to assume that you have already heard about the updates, and the ‘sky is falling’ pronouncements swirling around these updates. And we are going to talk here about the thing that we are being asked about: how will these new features affect the monitoring of open rates. Here’s the bottom line when it comes to this:

How Apple is positioning Mail Privacy Protection: Email marketers will no longer be able to tell when you have opened your email, and will no longer be able to track you across the web.

What is really going on: Apple is going to be downloading all remote content from your (or your ESP’s) servers, and onto the user’s device, before the user ever opens your email, and so the content will be loaded from the cache on the device instead of from your server, thus thwarting your pixel.

What you should do: Don’t worry too much about it (see the “Why you shouldn’t worry too much about it” section).

How Apple is positioning Hide My Email: Apple will protect you when you sign up for a product, service or mailing list by not giving up your actual email address, and you’ll magically still get the email from that company.

What is really going on: Apple has discovered the usefulness of tagged email, and has learned how to create temporary, pass-through email addresses.

What you should do: Don’t worry too much about it (see the “Why you shouldn’t worry too much about it” section).

Why you shouldn’t worry about it too much

Here are the reasons that you shouldn’t worry about this too much with respect to open rate tracking, and ‘hide my email’:

1. Neither of these are turned on by default; users have to opt-in.

2. Users already do things which don’t trigger the tracking pixel, this is nothing new: they forward mail from the email address you have to a different one, they read your email in the preview pane or split pane view, or they intentionally disable the loading of remote content. This is something you should already have been taking into account.

3. Users already use tagged and throwaway addresses; very few users still have only one email address (and the ones that do generally belong to a single particular demographic).

4. The open rate is only affected for users a) who have opted in (see #1), and b) who are using the native Mail.app (many, many users use the Gmail app or other email apps).

5. In terms of tracking open rates for purposes of measuring the effectiveness of email campaigns (on the sending side) or the spaminess of an email campaign (on the receiving side), both email senders and receivers will still have those metrics everywhere except where that email has been delivered to an Apple device, which has opted in, and which is using the native Mail.app.

What you should be doing: Focus on making your email as engaging as you possibly can, offer lots of value in your email, only be selling in every 4th or so email (the rest should be pure value with – at most – very soft, subtle selling), and you’ll be fine, because people will look forward to receiving and reading your email.


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