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Imagine this:

Not being able to see who, when, or how many times someone opens your email newsletters.

Well, buckle up, because visibility into email open rates is mostly going away starting this fall 2021.

At its annual developer conference in early June, Apple broke the newscycle when it revealed privacy features intended to give users of Apple Mail more control over what personal data to share. In doing so, the new Mail Privacy Protection will severely limit our ability to track email opens.

Unsurprisingly, Apple’s email privacy statement has been met with a mix of fiery reactions from email marketers, newsletter creators, and publishers in every nook and cranny of industry.

But don’t get slack-jawed with fear just yet, as there’s art around every corner. Truth is, this “logistical” change brings with it a “creative” opportunity - one that favors thoughtful email campaigns.

Sure, losing open rate insights won’t be the best thing that happened to organizations this year. But if you focus on informing and educating your members and email audience—or even getting them out of their day-to-day headspace in a relevant and meaningful way—then there’s no reason to panic.

How Email Open Tracking Works

Email open tracking (aka third-party pixel tracking) essentially works by placing an invisible image pixel at the end of emails. Then when the image downloads on the sender’s remote server?

Cha-ching, your email was opened.

From there, you get notified. The sender (you) can see how many times the recipient opens a message, the time of day, and even what city they're in.

This tracking of email opens has, for years, provided a wealth of intelligence to newsletter publishers and email marketers about how people interact with our email campaigns and the effectiveness of our content.

The new Apple email privacy policy will put an end to open tracking by downloading the embedded pixel—whether or not the user actually opens the email—to shield their location and personal data. As a result, it’ll effectively skew email tracking and open rates.

We applaud these email changes as they represent a major step towards better data privacy. Not everyone agrees though.

Critics of New Email Privacy Change

Critics of Apple Mail’s privacy update point to how pixel tracking has given us insight into our audience's likes and dislikes. We can also see which email templates and campaigns have generated the best open and reply rates.

Beyond email analytics, folks in favor of open-pixel tracking say it has allowed us to follow up timely, measure interest levels based on multiple email opens, and better understand people’s communication time frames.

Some business-minded critics also contend that while the new email privacy features increase user privacy, it’s more of a power move by Apple to fend off its rivals like Google and Facebook who earn most of their money selling ads based on personal information.

Related: How can the Google third-party cookies change impact membership organizations? Learn More >

Supporters of Email Privacy Features

Supporters of Apple Mail’s new privacy report think pixel blocking promotes quality emails over spam and ad-based newsletters that we’re forced to regularly plunge out of our inboxes.

They stress how we can still measure likes and dislikes, respond to user interest cues, and improve engagements using more important email metrics, analytics strategies, and new auto-personalization platforms.

Some advocates also highlight the creepiness of spy pixels and email privacy issues. 

How Much Change Are We Talking?

Is this new Apple Mail Privacy Protection really a big deal? To put this into perspective, let’s look at the stronghold that Apple Mail has on the email client market share.

The email marketing platform Litmus analyzed billions of email opens and found that among the mobile email market, Apple Mail makes up 93.5% of all mobile email opens when combining Apple iPhone and Apple iPad market shares.

Most popular email open platforms

On desktop, Apple Mail on Mac is responsible for 58.4% of all email opens. So yes, this Apple email privacy act is a disruptive game changer in the world of email marketing.

Plus, the opt-in that’ll be shown to Apple Mail users when iOS 15 launches this fall isn’t subtle.

Apple Email Privacy Opt-In

Apple is also launching a new Hide My Email feature that lets users create random email addresses so they don’t have to give their real one away to every site.

With so much disruption, is it even worth it to try different ways to make email work? 1000%!

Email marketing, on average, performs significantly better than most (if not all) forms of marketing—digital or otherwise—and delivers a much higher ROI.

The average email subscriber is worth $48.87 and the average email ROI is 42:1. With email, you get a direct line to your subscribers’ inbox. That’s simply not the case with social media platforms and other marketing channels.

How to Adapt & Grow Your Organization’s Newsletter

Here are three things to focus on in order to adapt and grow your association’s newsletter under Apple’s new email privacy settings. Getting a plan in place now that supports these three priorities will allow your email newsletter to improve member engagement and excel when iOS 15 launches.

Tip #1: Choose your email content wisely.

It’s essential to know your “user personas” and then craft your email newsletter for your unique members. Don’t just have them in mind - you literally want your content to speak TO them.

The goal is to empathize with your email recipients. Appeal to their interests, thoughts, passions, concerns, beliefs, language, motivators, and behaviors. 

Dialing in your target email audiences, and then segmenting and tailoring your emails for the user persona allows you to:

  • Gauge and appeal to recipients’ moods.
  • Anticipate and respond to members' needs and objectives.
  • Understand what topics they’ll find most relevant.
  • Use the same language and words in your email that they would use to describe your email contents.
  • Provide more specific, impactful, and audience-centric content, calls-to-action, and thought-provoking questions.

Another best practice here is to use more YOU pronouns and less WE. Let’s face it, your audience is busy and doesn't want to hear about how awesome your organization is. They want to know how you're helping them.

Tip #2: Focus on engagement metrics.

The two more important metrics to look at are click-through rates and unsubscribes. They show if people are interested in what they’re reading and feel good about your email campaigns and newsletter communications.

You should also run A/B tests on your campaigns to optimize clicks within your email. Then use auto-personalization platforms to send highly individualized email newsletters based on engagements.

Tip #3: Auto-personalize your newsletters.

Email auto-personalization allows you to automatically send curated content based on each of your member’s previous interactions. In turn, these personalized newsletters help improve member engagement and value.

The Sidecar newsletter is currently powered by, one of these email auto-personalization platforms. Such email platforms are more important than ever in light of the Apple Mail update and any future email privacy laws. 

When auto-personalizing your email newsletter, you just have to set it up initially. Then the AI-technology works for you in the background pulling in live and dynamic content that’s highly personalized and free from clutter.

Takeaways to Thrive Under New Email Privacy

With the rolling out of Apple’s email privacy features, the time is now to optimize your email and newsletter strategy.

Here are some best practices to keep in mind to inspire the action and engagement you need to continue changing the hearts and minds of members in this new frontier of email marketing:

  • Fill your newsletters with quality and deeply personalized content.
  • Use catchy, precise, and meaningful language.
  • Focus on click-throughs and reducing email churn.
Emily Shine
Post by Emily Shine
June 30, 2021
Emily Shine is a content writer and SEO strategist who helps purpose-driven organizations and entrepreneurs build their online presence. When she's not behind the computer, you can catch her in the park, gigging on a stomp box, or playing tennis.