Apple’s Privacy Policy Changes

The combination of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) and Google’s depreciation of the third-party cookie signals a paradigm shift as users gain increasing control over their data. Here’s how marketers can restructure their reporting, targeting and segmentation strategies to drive engagement.

Amanda Groth, 

14 April 2022



In 2022, we will see consumers increasingly take control over their data. Even as the world seemed to slow down due to the Covid-19 pandemic, developments in consumer privacy gained speed. With Google Chrome announcing the elimination of the third-party cookie alongside Apple’s latest mail protection policy, it seems the two tech giants are in an arms race when it comes to consumer privacy. Such fundamental shifts have unsurprisingly sparked consumers’ engagement in the data privacy discussion.

There is growing pressure on brands and marketeers to re-evaluate their strategies in order to remain complaint, maintain consumer trust and stay competitive in this new era. Businesses must become accustomed to a world where customer privacy is a top priority.

Apple’s Mail Protection Policy (MPP)

Apple see privacy as a fundamental human right, positioning it as one of their core values. It’s their selling point to attract customers, and it’s working. With each update Apple deploy to their devices, we see an increase in data privacy and transparency; however, their Mail Protection Policy (MPP) is a fundamental turning point for email marketing as we know it. Effective from September 2021, MPP is available on iOS 15, iPadOS 15, MacOS Monterey and watchOS 8 as part of Apple’s wider initiative to give users greater control over their data.

Apple’s MPP affects any email opened from the native Apple Mail app. Prior to Apple’s MPP, when a recipient opened an email using the Apple Mail app, Apple cached the image at the point of open, enabling marketers to track open rates. However, since the update, the image is cached on an Apple server after an email is sent but prior to the message being viewed by its recipient, eliminating marketers’ ability to know for sure whether an email was opened at all.

So what does Apple’s MPP really mean for marketers?

News of reduced visibility to customer data, in particular for email analytics, is inevitably a worry for marketeers. But let’s understand the real impact.

Open rates have long been a key KPI for email performance. However, with Apple’s MPP, open rates are no longer an accurate or robust measurement for email engagement. How marketers can now measure email performance needs some serious consideration.

Marketers feel they have been left to navigate in the dark when segmenting their email audience by engagement as now all emails sent to users with the Apple Mail app and ‘Protect Mail Activity’ on are marked as ‘Open’. As a result, there will be a danger of over-communicating to customers who are inactive but classified as ‘Openers’ in the CRM database.

Further, common strategies used by marketers to engage with ‘Non-Openers’ such as follows-ups and resend emails will no longer be as simple to accurately target.

How can marketers navigate the changes to email metrics?

The simplest approach is to stop using open rates as a measure of email performance success and instead use click-throughs to measure engagement. This approach requires a creative pivot. Email content must become more interactive and simpler in design, appearing more like a web page rather than a static medium to encourage clicks.

Alternatively, a more accurate measurement solution could be used to consider downstream funnel metrics such as conversion events, revenue, and opt-outs for all email sends, particularly for campaigns seeking to drive ROI.

A more complex approach would be to create bespoke flagging in your database to allow Apple devices to be monitored and segmented for separate reporting. This would allow open rates to be tracked on all non-Apple devices separately, but it is strongly reliant on the availability of device data.

The key consideration for all these options is effort versus impact. Open rates are just one of the many metrics at your disposal. It may be time to rethink your segmentation and reporting to better understand what actually drives customers to action.

Re-evaluate your campaign segmentation and targeting

To stay competitive in a market which just became even more challenging, brands must get smarter to look beyond surface-level reporting metrics and optimise the insights they do have. To that end, brands should use this opportunity to audit their existing campaigns and segmentations, restructuring those that are currently based on opens and non-opener resends.

One way to work around the open metric limitation is to develop an initial email in a sequence specifically designed to drive interactivity, allowing for targeting of resend emails to be based on clicks. These emails should be more like webpages, using carousels, quizzes, polls, video and sharing options to encourage clicking.

Alternatively, marketers can develop a separate strategy for Apple app customers and tailor communications differently for this segment.

Understanding MPP in the context of the depreciating third-party cookie

The combination of Apple’s MPP and Google’s depreciation of the third-party cookie signals a paradigm shift as users gain increasing control over their data. The two giants are leading the way in the industry, and we can only expect other brands to follow suit.

It is becoming clear that third-party data no longer aligns with consumer privacy, presenting issues in terms of compliance with regulations such as GDPR and CCPA. In 2022, we can expect to see a transformation as brands are forced to seek out new sources of data to stay compliant and serve their customers relevant and personalised communications at the right time. Whilst many brands hesitate, unsure how to operate when the changes come fully into play, those who get the ball rolling now will be ready to hit the ground running when the time comes.

It’s time to leverage your first-party data

As privacy regulations continue to tighten, businesses will face greater roadblocks when it comes to using third-party data to inform communications. To gain competitive advantage, brands must embrace data protection rather than view it as a barrier. Instead of climbing the walls built by Chrome and Apple, it’s time to leverage the data you already own.

Despite increased restrictions, most consumers are willing to share their data if it results in a more personalised customer experience. In fact, brands have an abundance of first-party data available to them which is often stored but left unused, and it’s extremely valuable. It’s crucial to see the value in your first-party data as it’s collected with your consumers’ consent and is key for building relationships with your customer based on trust. As we begin to operate in a cookie-free world, it has never been more important to integrate a solution which gives you control over your own data. The right first-party data solution can unlock new ways to influence customer behaviour, plan your campaigns and measure success whilst avoiding the risk of data regulation penalties.

Those who have already optimised their first-party data will find themselves in a good position to stand stead against ever-tightening rules. First-party data must be businesses top priority to prepare for a privacy-first future.

Get in touch to learn how you can leverage your first-party data to see real competitive advantage.

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