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Creative Connecting: How To Adapt to the Apple Privacy Updates

ColumnistsMar 29, 2022

Creative Connecting: How To Adapt to the Apple Privacy Updates

Duvall O’Steen and Jen Cullen Williams advise jewelers on adjusting their email marketing strategy in light of the recent Apple changes.

Duvall O’Steen, left, and Jen Cullen Williams are independent communications strategists and senior consultants for the Luxury Brand Group. They can be reached at DuvallOsteenNYC@gmail.com or Jen@JenCullenWilliams.com.
Many jewelry brands and retailers use email marketing regularly to keep customers engaged, informed, and loyal.

For many, email marketing has replaced catalogs and direct mail.

Recent changes to consumer privacy have presented new challenges for those using email to keep customers updated and inspired to purchase.

Here, we will take a deep dive into how Apple’s privacy updates (likely to be followed soon by Google and other mail providers) affect email marketing in the fine jewelry industry.

What Is MPP?
Mail Privacy Protection is a new feature announced in June 2021 and activated in September 2021 as part of Apple’s iOS 15 update, which gives Apple users choice as it relates to sharing their personal information with email marketers.

According to leading email marketing company Constant Contact, “Mail Privacy Protection gives users of Apple’s mail app the option of hiding if and when they open marketing emails.”

MPP also prevents senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the email recipient or user. Apple Mail users who activate this feature can now better control your use of their data.

Constant Contact said many Apple email users are likely to take advantage of this new protection: “Generally, when users are given the opportunity to opt-out of data tracking, they take it.”

According to Miya Owens, associate general counsel for the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, jewelers should take note and modify their marketing plans and privacy policies accordingly.

“Apple’s recent Mail Privacy Protection updates are part of a growing landscape of private business and regulatory efforts to give people more control over their personal data. Over the past six years or so, legislatures worldwide have either passed or are considering passing laws aimed at protecting consumer’s personal data.

“In turn, JVC encourages all jewelry businesses to make data protection policies and procedures a part of their daily business practices and emphasizes the importance of compliance with the growing set of applicable laws and regulations.”

How Does MPP Affect My Email Marketing? 
Apple Mail is one of the most popular email providers in the world. 

GetApp’s recent “Email and Social Media Marketing Survey” found that 21 percent of marketers claim that Apple mail users account for more than half of their company’s email subscribers. 

Further, Practical e-Commerce reports that Apple iPhones account for about 48 percent of the U.S. smartphone market. As of 2022, more than 75 percent of all email opens occur on a smartphone. Therefore, roughly 36 percent of all U.S. email recipients could be using iOS 15 with the new mail privacy protection option.

“The new privacy tools result in inflated email open rates; therefore, using the open rate as a measure of success is no longer an option.”

In a nutshell, the consensus among experts from Forbes, BusinessWire, GetApp, and Constant Contact appears to be that email marketing is neither dying nor going away, but strategy and measurements, or KPIs (key performance indicators), for the success of email marketing campaigns will need to change. 

The new privacy tools result in inflated email open rates; therefore, using the open rate as a measure of success is no longer an option.

Both click-to-open rates and open-rate powered automations (e.g., automatic follow-up emails, retargeting to non-openers, automated email series, and A/B subject line testing) are also now unreliable. In addition, individual user data is no longer available.

All of this makes subject line optimization more challenging.

According to Forbes, the new privacy updates allow IP masking and hiding email addresses with a unique address created by Apple. Therefore, jewelers who use IP data to calculate time zones, geolocations, sales tax for invoices, and other location-specific factors will have to rely on information gained by alternate means.

You might also need to collect email addresses from online inquiries, downloadable content, and newsletter subscriptions.

Luckily, these sources of information are more accurate indications of user interest anyway, as opposed to merely opening an email.

New Measures of Success
According to Ben Smithee, CEO of The Smithee Group, “Not being able to accurately track open rates changes the No. 1 metric for email marketing success. From a tracking standpoint, getting people to click from the email to your website is the primary way we will need to track conversion and optimization.”
 
Focus on click-through rate as the new measurement of success for your email campaigns. Place your links, widgets, buttons, and incentives as “click bait” throughout the content of the email. Don’t be afraid of repetition because most people merely skim emails, as opposed to reading them in detail.

In addition, track the forward/share rates, which is an engagement metric that shows the percentage of recipients who took action to forward or clicked to share the email content on social media. It is a digital form of word-of-mouth advertising, which can drive interest and potential conversion. 

Providing relevant, fun, and personalized content will help make your emails more shareable.

 Related stories will be right here … 

New Strategies for Testing & Segmenting
Smithee also advised, “Content strategy and other means of pre-testing and seeding subject line verbiage are now more important than ever.”

The new MPP for iOS 15 has compromised all traditional testing of email marketing, including subject lines, time of day, and day of week.

A/B subject line testing, for example, involves sending out two versions of an email with different subject lines to test if one has a higher open rate. Despite the limitations of the new privacy guidelines and the associated inaccuracies in open rates, Practical eCommerce advises continued use of A/B tests on subject lines.

Assuming the ratio of iOS 15 recipients is consistent for both A and B groups, the test should still correctly identify the winner. What would be inaccurate would be a test that compares subject lines from before and after iOS 15, such as a holiday 2020 email versus an email for holiday 2021.

Also, according to Constant Contact, segmenting email lists (most engaged or least engaged) based on how often the recipients open your emails is no longer an effective way of determining who your most engaged subscribers are.

As an alternative, divide or segment your email lists using data that does not rely on open rates, for example, click segmentation or manually created segments.

New Content Strategies To Stimulate Click-Through and Gather Data
Now that click-through is the primary measure of success, consider limiting the information in your emails, using teasers to prompt users to click through to discover more detailed information.

For example, if your email contains the top three trends for Mother’s Day gifts this year, do not list the trends but instead simply mention them with an option to click through to learn what they are. 

If incentives are offered in your email, consider only stating one of them clearly with the option to click through to learn more, e.g., “20 percent off one item, plus gift with purchase … click here to view the gift.”

For personal appearances and trunk shows, use verbiage such as, “Meet the designer and receive a signed personal gift (click here to learn more).”

Also consider requiring forms to be filled out where you can capture the data that is no longer accessible given the blockage of the invisible pixels that made such information available before iOS15. 

When subscribing to your blog, for example, capture things like email address, geographic location (ZIP code), phone number, and opt-in to SMS marketing. To claim a discount, ask for data that can help you plan your automated email series—topics of interest, birth date, etc.

Personalization & Automation
Most email marketing campaigns are personalized these days as well.

Luckily, some personalizations will remain unaffected, such as including names in subject lines or personalizing content based on what a subscriber has previously clicked on. 

Any personalizations related to email opens, however, will need to change. Keep that in mind as you plan content and devise creative new ways to personalize your messaging.

Regarding automation, jewelers will also need to explore new sequences for automation to keep generating leads.

Create automatic follow-up emails or retargeting campaigns based on if recipients clicked or based on what particular content inspired them to click.

Similarly, for email series, planning and programming will need to be centered on metrics beyond that of whether or not an email was opened. Plan the content flow based on other more measurable actions.

For example, when sending a new customer a welcome or thank you email, put the opt-in links for rewards programs into the email. If the customer clicks to opt-in, the next email in the series (perhaps a request for birthdate or phone number for opt-in to SMS text marketing) can be generated. 

Or, if a purchase is made online, when a customer clicks on the initial email to retrieve the receipt or track the package, then subsequent emails can be generated, such as shipping/tracking information, opt-in to loyalty rewards program, etc.

Beyond Email Marketing - These Changes Affect All Digital Marketing
The effects of these changes are not limited to email marketing. 

Smithee said: “Apple’s iOs updates have a significant effect on the entire world of digital marketing for most organizations. More so, they are a symbol of many changes coming down the pipeline, such as the elimination of third-party cookies on Google. All these changes are being made in the walled-garden environments of Google and Meta (parent company of Facebook and Instagram). 

“The changes impact interest targeting and prospecting accuracy and also limit the reach and effectiveness of traditional social media and search/display advertising. Jewelry businesses must evolve and use more intelligent advertising approaches. For example, use of MAIDs (mobile advertising IDs) and data intelligence for audience building is much more effective than your traditional interest targeting on these platforms.”
For More Information
For more information on consumer privacy issues, JVC’s Owens suggests relevant articles on the JVC website.

She also recommended reviewing CIBJO-The World Jewellery Confederation’s 2021 special report on handling consumer data, titled “Traversing the Ethical and Legal Minefield Associated With Collecting and Handling Personal Data.”

Read an abstract and full report here.

The Good News
The good news is that email continues to have the largest return on investment (ROI) of all forms of digital marketing and is more likely to drive sales than other channels, such as social media marketing. 

Also, click data continues to be exceptionally accurate.

According to Forbes, small businesses “should focus on metrics that show the number of users who click on links, fill out a form, or interact with other touchpoints to gauge the effectiveness of their marketing efforts.”  

Be sure to use the knowledge gathered to properly plan your email marketing strategy and be sure to keep up to date. 

Smithee advised, “Competition and marketing/advertising overall has become highly strategic and highly technical. If you don’t invest in keeping up and invest in the right strategies, many great businesses are going to struggle in the future. Things are moving fast!”

Luckily, emails will continue to reach users and if email marketing was successful for a business before, it still will be. We just have to plan and measure it differently to respect consumer privacy.

Duvall O'Steenis an independent communications strategist and senior consultant for the Luxury Brand Group.
Jen Cullen Williamsis an independent communications strategist and senior consultant for the Luxury Brand Group.

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