The Link Between Inflation and Privacy Protection 

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Written by Dan Mandle | SVP, Data Science & Analytics
Researched by Carter Mason | Analytics Manager

There’s been a lot of press this year about inflation. So why would the broadhead Data Science & Analytics team want to publish yet another piece of content on this topic? Because this time, it’s about the inflation of a specific type of marketing metric and how one tech company’s laudable efforts to protect the privacy of its consumers are leading to inflated results for marketers.

What Happened?

It’s been a full year since Apple launched iOS 15. “Mail Privacy Protection” (MPP) was one among many new attributes from which Apple users would benefit if activated. What MPP does is give Apple permission to download and cache the emails that appear in a user’s inbox. When users see they have a message and go to access it in their mail app, the download request is triggered from Apple’s MPP cache instead of from the sender’s web host. Apple’s MPP cache effectively serves as a barrier to stop the flow of information which used to go to marketers from the pixel images they’d attach to their emails. Data historically associated with a recipient’s actual act of opening email (e.g., date, open rate, IP address) is therefore now hidden from those marketers.  

To be clear, open rates didn’t go away with MPP. However, because marketers’ pixel images are still collecting data, it’s the MPP cache’s act of downloading the email that triggers the logging of an open. Which means the open rates that marketers are looking at do not necessarily represent the recipient’s actual opening of the email.  

What Did We Do?

The team at broadhead wanted to get a sense of what the MPP-driven opens might be doing to results on our clients’ email campaigns. So, we looked at three years’ worth of email open rates to compare recent results to what we had been seeing prior to MPP’s launch. Across multiple brands and industries, we found an open rate increase that ranged anywhere from 5% to 73%. This sort of a range, with open rate increases that high, demonstrates how much of a shift we need to be making in what we ask of our email campaigns and their reported results.

What’s Next?

Inflated open rates do not mean we need to recommend less email. On the contrary, open rate inflation is just the latest opportunity for marketers to work more closely with their creative partners and their media vendors to ensure that—when email is a part of the marketing mix—it’s actually serving a purpose. E.g., exhibiting a brand’s personality, engaging with individuals in a more targeted and personalized fashion, informing leads and customers of news specifically tailored to their interests. In turn, this means open rates simply become less important—enough so that they wouldn’t even be included anymore in measurement frameworks. Instead, marketers can shift their focus towards lead generation, click-through rates to site, drivers of resource downloads, etc.  

Inflation is a challenge for consumers. But the inflation caused by Mail Privacy Protection is instead an opportunity for us to protect consumers while also improving our marketing ecosystems and the performance they deliver for our clients.