Apple will block tracking pixels, IP addresses and cache images for its Apple Mail email users reading messages on Apple devices. Why? To protect their privacy. There are two camps with regard to this move:
- The "sky is falling" folks say they will lose all insight into customer behavior. They won't know who's opening, when or where.
- The "don't sweat it" crowd that says we need to break our addiction to the open rate anyway, and this will force us to use other, richer metrics.
The authors take is it's just another maturity level event that marketers will adapt to in their interpretation of intent. It could change or remove some functions that rely on open data to provide context. But the sky is not falling, email is not dying, and this is our chance to find better ways to measure customer intent. We're told to pay close attention to the following:
- The open metric: Open rates have never been an exact science since ISPs started blocking images on some devices. Apple's change will force marketers to abandon their obsession with the open metric and force them to focus on click, revenue and other intent-based KPIs. However, providers will still have some work-around available to them.
- Deliverability: This will change some of the inboxing statistics that many providers report. Those providers will have to make changes on automated processes that determine if you had a block. This could be problematic for how deliverability tracking has been done, but I would expect those companies to pivot to other indicators.
- Marketing automation: Marketers will need to look at any automations that base decision-making on the open criterion. This will eliminate some automations if marketers cannot get data to fuel their processes. This could be a challenge for some (think B2B) where in the initial stages of customer engagement, the open can be a leading indicator of intent. Yet, if we think about engagement, can and should that indicator be changed?
- Send Time Optimization/Real-Time Content: I'm already hearing people say that this will affect STO and RTC, which rely heavily on open data. And that's not a bad thing. STO in particular, for most solutions, is a simplistic statistic, one that does not incorporate deeper intelligence and data to determine optimal behavior. It gives the marketer a false sense of security because it implies that right-time delivery equals engagement and thus intent and conversion. This negates the reality that the message and brand equity determine the engagement more than the message open time.