Open To Change: How Apple’s Removal of the Tracking-Pixel Will Change Email Marketing

August, 2021 - Aubrey Stork

Apple recently announced some enhancements to their privacy and identity protection toolkit. Among these enhancements is a change to tracking pixels in their proprietary email apps (Mail). Tracking pixels are the means through which email service providers measure opens. As such, we anticipate that with the iOS15 updates (expected September 2021), these data will no longer be accurate.

Here's what we expect to be impacted and what we believe will remain this same:

So, what does this mean to us and the work we do?

The fact is, open rates have always been a directional piece of information. They rely on the recipient having images downloaded to their email client and as such, open statistics have never been absolute. While this news from Apple will impact open rates - especially given that their market share is estimated to be up to 46% of all email clients - this change should be viewed as part of the evolution of email marketing, not its doom. We’ve seen similar changes in the past. For instance, Gmail has been caching images and tracking pixels since 2014. When it comes down to it, email marketers are among the most adaptable and creative problem-solvers around. They’ve always been up to the challenge of working with inconsistency, feature set differences, and limitations across innumerable email clients. In short, the power of email to support and drive business will not change, only the means of measurement will, and frankly, this change may just drive even stronger results.

What we anticipate this evolution will bring is greater focus on the absolute activity that we will continue to be able to measure, like clickthroughs, ecommerce and other measures of conversion. Altering our marketing efforts based on concrete evidence and making decisions with greater confidence should ultimately allow us to recognize more success, more often. So…

  • Instead of determining an A/B split test winner based on opens, determine the winner by clickthrough activity or transactions
  • Instead of establishing engagement of a customer by opens, look at clickthrough activity, website activity and in-store transactions (Salesforce Interaction Studio or Salesforce CDP anyone?)
  • Instead of relying on pixels for user device info, establish new ways of gathering express profile information and double-down on testing to ensure your email renders consistently across all email clients/devices
  • Instead of establishing product or category affinity based on an open, rework your email content to drive a click that informs you of your customers’ affinity

Do you have questions about how this change might impact you and your work? We’re always open to a conversation. For more information, check out Apple’s press release on the matter: Here