Seismic shifts in CRM advertising – what’s altering and why it is advisable put together now
Clint Bratton is the managing director of the CRM agency Track
Email marketing is an important part of the digital and performance marketing ecosystem, which for the most part outperforms any other channel.
Because of this, it’s a big deal if something changes the fundamentals of email marketing noticeably – like the upcoming data tracking changes from Apple’s iOS 15 update. This has significant ramifications for any email marketer – and a lot of chaos for marketers who are ignorant or not prepared.
Marketers and CRM professionals who are aware and ready will do well compared to the brands who wait and respond to the change.
What exactly is changing?
The upcoming iOS 15 update from Apple is expected to be released between September and November 2021. The new operating system continues Apple’s recent drive to give consumers more control over their data and includes Mail Privacy Protection, a feature that allows users to turn off industry-standard email tracking. This, in turn, will make it more difficult for marketers to get data on email behavior from Apple users.
The change doesn’t automatically affect people who own an Apple device. First, the user is offered a choice according to the following experience. Based on 94% of users who have applied an earlier update for app tracking, we expect an acceptance rate among customers of almost 100%.
Source: Ryan Jones
Based on the user experiences shown, it would be logical for customers to believe that third-party email apps like Gmail for the iPhone are adopting the changed customer preferences. However, this is not the case. In fact, the change will only take effect when Apple Mail is used as the default email app (including Apple Mail users who link third-party email accounts like Gmail).
While the penetration of Apple openings will vary by database, access to email through mobile devices has grown in popularity, increasing Apple’s influence on email. In Australia, Apple customers make up between 35-40% of most data sets, while Apple is more dominant in the US with 50-60% of customers (Litmus). While the remaining recipients on Android or other email clients are not initially subject to this change, we assume that the other email providers will quickly follow Apple’s example.
Regardless, the volume of Apple Mail users is immediately significant enough to make traditional email reporting data very unreliable overall.
What is the immediate impact of your marketing programs?
There are two main effects as detailed below.
1. Open data is unreliable
The greatest complications result from inaccurate open data. Marketers can no longer see if an Apple Mail recipient has opened their email. Apple will essentially cache the email opened for the recipient, regardless of whether the users subsequently open and read that message. To the sender, it looks like 100% of these recipients opened these emails, so the open rates appear to have increased but are completely fake.
This is a big deal for CRM marketers, with multiple repercussions, and potentially dramatic consequences:
- Open rates and click-to-open rates (CTOR) can no longer be used as a central metric for reporting and optimizing email marketing.
- A / B testing of subject lines and pre-header content is pointless.
- Existing workflows will derail, especially those that use an open email as a signal, as these will be triggered unnecessarily, while reminders that are normally sent to non-engaged audiences will not be activated at all.
- The frequency of emails is likely to increase inadvertently if open-based models fail and assume that all customers are very engaged (automatically falling into the highest sending frequencies).
- Airtime optimization will fail based on users’ historical opening activity.
- Email deliverability is becoming increasingly difficult because postmasters within service providers (e.g. Gmail) cannot assess your authenticity based on the open rate, which determines engagement on your list.
- IP warming is made much more difficult (at least initially).
2. The recipient’s IP addresses and operating system are reported incorrectly
Marketers can no longer target or personalize activities based on IP address or operating system. While this personalization is quite a niche to use, where it is used it comes with some significant redesign and functionality tradeoffs:
- The recipient’s location is unknown.
- Device type personalization fails (e.g. device trackers that detect the operating system to enable App Store or Google Play download messaging).
- Countdown timers may show out of date times and show the time Apple received the email versus the recipient’s actual opening time.
- Any content supported by the localization of IPs is completely inaccurate (such as localized weather or the closest business location).
We need a new solution to measure campaign success.
Open rates are dead!
The days of using open rates to give an indication of a campaign’s success are numbered. Marketers need to look beyond the vanity metric of an open email to know if a real person is still around and interested in the content. Deeper metrics like clicks and view-through data that map digital conversion goals are becoming the new industry standard for assessing engagement and success of email campaigns and automations.
Replacing the pursuit of email openings with email clicks will go a long way in solving the CRM marketer’s challenges.
Surely the click metrics are definitely more meaningful for the real success of the campaign? Click behavior can be used as a direct substitute for assessing a marketing experiment (subject line or content A / B tests) as well as for motivating interaction workflows and becomes an important metric for postmasters in determining the reputation of a sender.
What else do CRM marketers need to do now?
To prepare for change, email and CRM marketers need to act now.
You need to focus on getting more click activity and benchmarks to evaluate campaign success.
There’s also a lot more marketers can do to get the most out of existing email tracking features while they are in place. Special:
- Now clean up (read Remove) your lists of inactive, unengaged contacts.
- Experiment to find out which subject line and content variables are best for your existing automations.
Other activities that must be completed before Apple makes the change include:
- A comprehensive review and revision of all workflows that depend on the open rate or IP / OS detection in order to execute and personalize email campaigns or digital workflows.
- Use more traditional and meaningful RFM (Recency, Frequency, Monetary) or a combination of clicks, purchase activity, and purchase value to determine engagement and support custom activities.
- Prioritize alternative email reputation systems. The implementation of a DMARC / BIMI guideline is becoming more and more important for ensuring deliverability.
- Consider using additional CRM tactics like push notifications or SMS to expand your reach.
- Look at existing creatives for all of your automations and campaigns to see what can be done to make the emails more clickable.
- Examine and revise the targeting and relevance of all your messages – the content can be more relevant, compelling, and therefore more clickable.
A change for the better?
Apple’s updates and the rate of consumer adoption are an indictment against the digital marketing fraternity. The setup is that all consumer data abusers are some form of marketers, and therefore all marketers are abusers. That’s the logical conclusion from this update, as Apple doesn’t differentiate between senders – everyone is effectively camouflaged with the same brush of the invasive marketer that captures consumer data and invades consumer privacy. There is no way for a customer to hand-select individual and trustworthy brands that they may consent to traditional follow-up in order to proceed.
For digital and CRM marketers, the thin facade of “doing the right thing” hides an uncomfortable truth.
Tracking consumers through websites and email campaigns is commonplace and normal. But for the unsuspecting mom and dad consumers, these tracking guidelines are confronting.
The industry has buried consents and not done enough to truly educate, educate, and gain acceptance for this type of persecution. The industry was discovered and sparked a consumer revolt.
The immediate changes provide an opportunity to challenge and define new standards to improve the industry’s reputation with consumers. In the eyes of consumers, when CRM marketers tracked every email opened, the line was crossed when it was common practice for the marketer. A move towards consumers accepting the right to privacy as to which emails they open and don’t open is just the beginning. The immediate resolution to switch to click tracking is also a concern. Can marketers be transparent and inform consumers that their online movements are being tracked – and, as a trusted brand, seek individual consents?
The line between what is acceptable and what is normal has to shift towards the customer. It’s time to make CRM less invasive.