Another set of iOS updates have sent marketers scurrying once again with Apple officially announcing the end to email open rates. With most of us barely over the incredibly strong opt out that iOS 14.5 has brought with IDFA, WWDC 2021 brought the latest raft of Apple announcements. WWDC 2021 included their usual software updates, a nicer looking version of Maps but most notably for marketers, a new swath of privacy measures.
With iOS 15, Apple Mail users will be able to turn off open tracking from the Mail app as well as blocking the ability to track their IP address and email address, all starting this fall. What that means is that when you send an email – they will always show as opened (the unachievable 100% open rate will be everywhere). At this stage, the change is specific to Apple but the most recent Litmus report on email providers shows their dominance in this area and given their continued growth as a company, where Apple leads, others usually follow.
iOS 15: First launch of Mail app. pic.twitter.com/W4ewu9XFCk— Ryan Jones (@rjonesy) June 7, 2021
So what does this mean for email and open rates? And do open rates even matter?
Pro’s and Cons of Email Open Rates
The biggest pro of email open rates is probably the most obvious. Email open rates let you know how many people are reading your email. And that is important because the world’s greatest email has little impact unless someone sees it. In the ever competitive landscape that is someone’s email inbox, it is not a given that someone will see it. A/B testing, personalization and segmentation based on open rates which is industry standard practise at this stage will be directly impacted. Optimizing everything that increases opens will continue to be important but it will be tougher to evaluate.
Another pro of email open rates is the ability to monitor deliverability and keep up list hygiene. Open rates are usually one of the first places you will notice a decrease in your deliverability. A large number of unopened emails can help show a problem in deliverability quicker than click through rates. And once you have identified a problem with your deliverability, monitoring email rates can show you when your improvements are taking effect. For list hygiene, monitoring repeated behaviour of not opening emails is a great way to ensure that you only send to people who continue to be interested in your offering. Unfortunately, this will no longer be an option if other email providers go the same route as Apple.
Although there are a lot of pro’s, this doesn’t signal the death knell to email marketing.
There has always been strong pushback that there has been an over reliance on open rates. Many consider it a vanity metric – opening an email can be the same as getting a flyer in the mail, just because you saw it, it doesn’t mean any activity related from that. Because of this, open rates can be used as a shield metric to distract from what should be the goal of email marketing, creating engaging content, sending it to relevant audiences that provides value and results in conversions. If no one is clicking through from your email, all your open rate is showing is that you need to revamp your email content or your offer doesn’t match. Well crafted emails will continue to do well in terms of click through rates, regardless of whether you can tell the open rate.
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Ensure your deliverability is in order
As I mentioned above, open rates have been one of the metrics to watch in terms of deliverability. You should start looking at list hygiene and pre-screening emails. Taking steps like adding a double opt-in on signup forms also can be a huge help in making sure that people actively want your emails or email cleaning tools that stop bad emails making it into your list. You should also look at setting up monitors for your email domain to keep an eye on how your IP and domains are doing. Google Postmaster as one example, allows you to monitor your overall deliverability (to Gmail) for free.
Revisit your core metrics and how to improve them
The guts of what this update means is that clicks and CTR will become the flagship metric for email marketing. Focusing on email opens will be important but how you measure its impact will also have to rely on CTR. You should already be tracking click through rates but if you haven’t, you should start now. Optimizing emails towards clicks should mean a renewed focus on the creative and copy you are using and ensuring you are segmenting your users so that the content is relevant and personalized.
Look at your overall messaging strategy
Although email will continue, it is good time to look at your outbound strategy and whether there are other ways of connecting with your users. Push notifications and in-app messages for app based products are still worth testing although WWDC has also brought some adjustments in push notification grouping and display. You could also try SMS, which when used correctly with customer experience in mind can be incredibly powerful as a channel. Browser notifications and even direct mail can all play a part in outbound messaging. Regardless of the upcoming changes, continuing to refine and refresh your messaging strategy should be a regular occurrence.
Every area of marketing is subject to change and email marketing is no different. As Craig discussed, marketing efforts post-click will be more important as tech giants put up the walls around user behaviour. Apple’s announcement is the biggest disrupter to email marketing since GDPR and CCPA were introduced. But email has survived and thrived for this long and this update is unlikely to derail that.
What do you think of the recent updates? Let me know in the comments!