Apple Mail Privacy Protection and Act-On - FAQs

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Apple's Mail Privacy Protection impacts digital marketing by masking behavior tracking, specifically open tracking. It impacts the information available about your contacts’ behaviors. Continue reading our FAQs to learn more about Apple Mail Privacy Protection and Act-On and how you can adapt your marketing program for the changing future.

What is Apple Mail Privacy Protection?

Apple released a feature called Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) on September 20, 2021.  Here is Apple’s description:
"Mail Privacy Protection hides your IP address, so senders can’t link it to your other online activity or determine your location. And it prevents senders from seeing if and when you’ve opened their email."
As of September 20, 2021, Apple Mail users who update to iOS15 on their mobile devices (iPhones, iPads) will have the option to opt-in to this privacy protection feature. If the feature is enabled, their IP address will be hidden and all mail content will load privately.

It’s important to note that Apple MPP applies to all contacts who use Apple Mail to view their email, not just mobile devices. This also applies to contacts who have non-Apple email providers (such as Gmail) but open their messages in the Apple Mail app.

How will this impact my marketing program?

As metrics like email opens are becoming less reliable, it’s important to pivot your strategies to focus on behaviors and metrics that measure holistic brand engagement rather than behavior unique to specific channels. Metrics such as clicks, form submissions, landing page visits, SMS opt-ins, SMS clicks, and landing page visits tracked with our beacon tracker functionality can give you invaluable information on how your recipients are engaging not just with your brand, but with your various marketing channels.

This will also have a disproportionately large impact on mailing consumer domains.  Business email addresses, unless a user has their mail imported and receives them in their Apple Mail apps, will generally be unimpacted by these changes.

For more advice on updating your marketing strategies in response to Apple’s privacy changes, see our blog post, What Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection Means for the Modern Marketer.

Also, feel free to reference our impact Webinar from September 2021, What Email Privacy Protection Will Mean for Marketers, to hear advice from our Deliverability experts on how to respond to MPP.

How does this impact data in Act-On?

Overall, Apple MPP masks who opened the email (and whether they opened it), when, and where.

Impacted Contacts

Contacts who use the Apple Mail app on any device and opt-in to privacy protection will reflect false open data. This is true regardless of their email provider (such as Gmail, or a business email).  Over 95% of users opt-in to allow Apple to hide their open and location behaviors.

All Apple Mail users on iOS 15 or later are impacted.

Contacts who use iOS and other Apple products but open their email with another client (such as the Gmail app or a web browser) will not be impacted by this change, and you should expect to see open and location behavior from those devices as expected.

Open Rates

Like most email tracking software, Act-On relies on a transparent 1px image to track email open behavior. Normally, this image loads from Act-On’s server when a contact opens the email in a browser or app. For contacts who have opted-in to Apple MPP, this image will be pre-fetched. As a result, every message delivered to these contacts will appear as opened, when they have not actually opened the email.

Because of this, open rates from your contacts who use Apple MPP will be significantly inflated because their mail service loads the email message before the contact reads it.  That being said, if your mail is landing in the spam folder, you will not see Apple MPP inflated opens for those users.  Even with increased open rates and decreased accuracy, you can be assured that mail to those users is, at a bare minimum, reaching the inbox of your recipients.

Location Data

Act-On also collects the IP address when the tracking pixel is loaded. Because the pixel will be pre-loaded at a remote location other than where the Apple Mail user is, location data will be inaccurate as a result.

How do I know who uses Apple Mail?

The best way to identify and measure the potential impact on your message reports will be to examine your data for messages you have already sent. Data for messages sent after the changes will be far less reliable. We'll explain why below.

Existing Email Report Data

Existing data for email messages sent before these changes can help you understand the volume of impact based on your unique audience.

Sent Message Reports

In your Act-On Sent Message Report, you can review the Device and Client tab to see how many contacts are opening messages using the Apple Mail client.

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Data Studio Reports

You can also use Data Studio to generate a report of Email Messages for all contacts who opened their email from Apple Mail. You will want to look at the field “UA: Browser”, or “Browser”. Make sure the data only includes messages sent prior to the iOS 15 release (September 20, 2021).

Future Email Report Data

For emails sent after these changes, Apple Mail is actively obscuring identifiable information. These opens may be listed under “Unknown”, or in some circumstances, they may even be misattributed to another browser client. You may still see Apple Mail in your reports, however, these will most likely be from contacts who have not opted into MPP or updated their devices.

What Act-On features are impacted?

Feature

Impact

A/B Testing

A/B Testing chooses a winner based on total clicks. Opens are considered when there is a tie in the number of clicks for each message. Therefore, A/B tests that have tied in clicks may be impacted by the changes in Apple Mail open data because the Apple Mail opens will be counted.

Adaptive Sending

Adaptive sending considers the time previous opens were tracked to predict the best time to send the next message.

Although the open behavior will be less reliable, keep in mind that Adaptive Sending also considers other engagement behaviors, not just opens, when deciding the best time to send. More info.

Automated Programs

Branching: Programs using the “If Prospect Effectively Opened a Message” as a branch condition will consider Apple Mail opens as effective opens. Branches that use a "did not open" condition will miss the Apple Mail contacts who actually did not open the message.

Program Lists and Segments: If you are using a segment of contacts who either opened or did not open a message, your segment will begin including these Apple Mail contacts who have not necessarily opened a message. Depending on how you are using this segment, this could impact who is added to the program, who is moved to a branch, and who exits early.

Early Exit Conditions: Programs using the “If Prospect Effectively Opened a Message” as an early exit condition may see these contacts exit the program. Conditions that use a "did not open" behavior will miss the Apple Mail contacts who actually did not open program messages and they will stay in the program.

Reports: Program Message Reports will show opens for all Apple Mail users who have opted-in to MPP.

Contact Report

Activity History: Apple Mail users will show Open behaviors artificially. This may confuse your sales team.

Data Studio

Reports containing Email Open data may contain misattributed opens. Their associated data will also be unreliable, such as these fields: Action Time, Action Day, Action Month, Action Week, Browser, Operating System, GeoIP data, User Agent (UA) data, and IP Address.

Message Reports

Reports will include opens for all Apple Mail users who have opted in to MPP.

Scoring

The “Opened any message” and “Opened specific messages” scoring rules will be affected by any non-recipient opening activity.

Segmentation

The “opened messages” option in behavior-based segmentation may result in your segment being larger than it should be.

 

What do I need to do in Act-On?

Reporting

Review your Message reports and/or Data Studio reports for Emails sent prior to the Apple Mail changes. Look for the count of contacts who use the Apple Mail client. This will help you gauge how many of your contacts are using Apple Mail, so you can estimate the impact on your future reports.

List Segments

Locate your list segments that rely on Open behavior and how they are being used. If they are included in a program you may want to alter the segment or program logic.

Automated Programs

Review your Automated Programs and decide if you want to continue using “open” or "did not open" behaviors as any early exit or branching conditions (for example, with re-engagement campaigns, consider focusing on clicks instead of opens).

Behavior Scoring

Review your score sheets. You may want to reduce the weight for email open behavior and/or increase the weight for other engagement behaviors like clicks and form submissions.

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