Aug 19, 2021

The Future of Email Marketing and the End of Open Rates

Back in June, Apple announced a new privacy feature that left marketers wondering: Is this really the end of open rates? In September, iOS 15 users will be given the option to opt in to mail privacy features that allow them to hide their IP address and privately load all remote content, aka those invisible pixels that send a signal that your email has been opened. 

While the open rate is a tried-and-true metric marketers have come to rely on to determine consumers’ overall interest, it’s not the only one. But with Apple Mail on iOS and iPad accounting for 46% of email opens in 2020, it’s also not something we can take lightly. 

So, what do we do?

Very early in my career, I learned that email is a gateway, not the destination. As a channel it serves to drive consumers to take action somewhere else. Be it their shopping cart to complete their purchase or a blog post to learn something new, email takes your audience from one place to another. 

Keep in mind, you also have to entice your audience to take the desired action. This is where email personalization and providing value-add content are key. Consumers expect brands to deliver a hyper-tailored experience throughout their lifecycle.  

This is something our team puts into practice every day. 

If we can continue to meet consumers where they are with content that provides value and drives them to engage further, then Apple’s update doesn’t seem so scary for email marketers. And it’s definitely not the last privacy update to cause digital marketers to have to pivot. 

Here’s how you can prepare for the potential rollout of the iOS privacy features:

  1. Adjust your benchmarking metrics. Open and click-to-open rates will be super inflated, so focus on click rate instead. This will be one of your main engagement measurements to determine if your audience finds your content relevant. 
  2. Say goodbye to email open A/B testing and localized send time optimizations. Subject line, day of week and send-time tests will be insignificant. Instead, shift your strategy to test headlines, calls-to-action, and content. 
  3. Gather as much engagement data as possible. Look for Email Service Providers (ESPs) that offer heat map tracking for a visual data display of where consumers are spending the most time on your email. 
  4. Ramp up your Marketing Automation strategy. In order to meet consumers where they are, you’ll need to send emails based on individual actions and behaviors. Invest in a platform that allows you to execute journeys and data-driven workflows.
  5. Review existing workflows that leverage open data. If you’re currently utilizing Marketing Automation for re-engagement campaigns or using email opens as a decision within consumer journeys, you’ll want to update those to trigger emails based on clicks instead. 
  6. Seize the moment and start to clean up your audience list. Implement a re-engagement campaign now to ensure you’re only sending to contacts who want to hear from you. Remove those who don’t engage to promote a healthy database and keep deliverability in tact. 
  7. Focus on tactics that will bulk up your zero-party and first-party data. Surveys are a great way to capture info, and you can leverage your ESP to track link clicks to build meaningful segments for remarketing. 

Email marketing still proves to be one of the most beneficial ways brands can engage with their audience in a personal way, so while it may be the end of open rates, email is here to stay.

You’ve got mail!