Open Rates Weren’t As Helpful As You Thought Anyway

I am sure a lot of you have heard that Apple’s new privacy policy will be just awful for us email marketers.

Not up to speed? Start with Reuter’s Explainer: What do Apple’s new iPhone privacy changes mean for consumers and businesses?

Considering that the various Apple email clients (iOS Mail, macOS Mail, iPadOS Mail) had over 46% of combined email opens in 2020, it is definitely something we need to pay attention to.

So what’s the big deal?

As email company Validity says in a statement:

Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) prevents senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about their recipients. Any subscriber that uses an Apple mail client with MPP will have their email images prefetched and cached, causing those emails to register as ‘opened,’ even if the recipient did not physically open the email

So open rate metrics are pretty much garbage now.

But were open rates that helpful to begin with?

Not really. They may have showed you short term trends, but even then they are just too unreliable.

This post from waaaay back in 2008 was already saying the open rate must die. In that article, Loren McDonald laid out several reasons why open rates were not the best indication of an email’s performance:

  • The email is “opened” (launched), but images are blocked: not counted as an open
  • The email is not opened (launched), but images are enabled and is read in the preview pane: counted as an open
  • The text version of a multi-part message is read on a BlackBerry [Again, this was 2008! RIP Blackberry ~KL]. The HTML version (with images blocked) is later opened in Gmail (or other email service/client). The email has been opened and read twice — but zero opens are recorded.
  • A text version is opened and read but not clicked: not counted as an open
  • A text version is opened and read, but the user clicks a link: not counted as an open with some email software. Others assign an open because the email was clicked on, which assumes an open.

So there have been issues with open rates for a while.

We have seen this when we run our email re-engagement campaigns. I will often get a reply from someone saying they read our newsletter every week. But since they have images disabled, we couldn’t tell and they were marked as unengaged.

Tracking click through rates and conversions will give you a much better picture of how your content is working.

Need help calculating email metrics? Download our free e-book, Email Metrics Explained.

As Erik Huberman pointed out for Forbes in IOS 15 Is Not The Death Of Email Marketing, “Clicks are the new open rate.”

He also listed his strategy moving forward:

  • Baseline the data. Find out who is using Apple email clients (Google will not be too far behind so Gmail too)
  • Remove unengaged subscribers. [Gee, where have you heard that before?]
  • Identify alternative segments based on user metrics. Clicks, conversions, etc.
  • Leverage text messaging. This may or may not be right for you, but it’s definitely something to look into.

So we were overdue for a shift in how we tracked email success anyway. Apple just gave us a little nudge.

Want to learn more about Apple’s new policies? Here are some more resources I found while researching this post:

How HubSpot’s Email Team is Responding to iOS 15

Losing open tracking will not kill email

Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection Is Here: What It Actually Means for Email Marketers and What to Do Now

Should Marketers Worry About Apple’s Hide My Email?

Published On: October 20, 2021|Categories: Email Marketing|