What Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection Means for Home Builder Email Marketing

As part of Apple’s larger initiative to give users more control over the data they share, Apple launched its newest privacy feature on September 20, 2021: Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) which limits email tracking on the native Mail app.

Predictably, this has left marketers scrambling to understand what MPP is and how it could affect their email marketing programs. We’ll cover everything you need to know and provide tips on how to adjust your email marketing strategy.

What is the Mail Privacy Protection update?

Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection is part of the iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS 12 Monterey system updates and applies to the native email client. In short, MPP will prevent senders from using tracking pixels that let them know when an email is opened. It will also hide a user’s IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or determine a user’s location.

How does Mail Privacy Protection work?

When users open the native mail client after updating to the new version of iOS, they will be prompted to opt into MPP. This means adoption will gradually increase as people update their operating systems. This feature is not turned on by default but will automatically sync across devices associated with that user’s Apple ID if enabled.

When MPP is enabled, Apple Mail will route email messages through a proxy server that pre-loads content, including tracking pixels, before displaying it to users. Meaning all emails will be automatically marked as opened even if the user doesn’t open the message.

If the recipient does open the email, the request to download and display the message’s content will come from an IP address assigned to the general region closest to the user, meaning any information provided by the pixel will be inaccurate. Marketers won’t be able to tell who opened an email, when, or where.

How many people will be affected?

In short, a significant part of your mailing list may no longer be tracked the same way. Nearly half of all email users use Apple’s native Mail app so this update has the potential to have a big impact.

iOS 15 is expected to be adopted fairly quickly, with about a 90% adoption rate within six months of launch (conversely, macOS Monterey adoption is expected to be much slower, with an estimated 50% adoption within seven months of launch). Currently, 96% of people have opted into Apple’s App Tracking Transparency tool so it’s highly likely people will opt into the Mail Privacy Protection feature.

What does the Mail Privacy Protection update mean for email marketing?

Open rate, the percentage of people who opened an email, is an important key performance indicator used to measure a campaign’s effectiveness. Marketers often use open rates to understand how engaged their audience is and how that engagement changes over time. Since Apple users may be automatically reported as having opened an email, reporting will be inaccurate.

This change will also affect all open-related metrics marketers including:

  • Live content
  • Automated workflows
  • Reengagement campaigns
  • Send time optimization
  • Audience segmentation
  • A/B testing
  • Countdown timers
  • Email list cleaning
  • Personalization
  • Monitoring deliverability

How should home builder marketers adapt?

While these changes may sound scary, marketers shouldn’t count email out just yet. With some adjustments, your home builder email marketing program can still be effective.  Here are our recommendations:

Create a new definition of success

Shift from relying solely on opens and look toward other metrics like click data. Click data is usually a more reliable engagement signal. Unlike opens, clicks are intentional actions since users will still need to actively click on a link.

Reevaluate current workflows and campaign activities

Review your current email automation workflows, reengagement campaigns, or list hygiene actions that rely on opens and adjust the triggers needed to move a buyer through the funnel or remove from your mailing list.

Review your existing data

If you haven’t already, review your current database to understand how many people are using Apple Mail so you know the percentage of your audience will be potentially impacted.

Create a reliable audience segment

When you’re reviewing your data, create a segment of users who use non-Apple email clients. You can use this segment for testing when you need to rely on opens.

Ultimately, while Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection will impact the industry, email marketing continues to have the highest return on investment. Homebuilders can rely on email to drive website traffic and sales more than other channels like social media marketing.

If you need help developing a successful email marketing campaign that sets you apart from the competition, give us a call.