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iOS15 and the death of third-party cookies: the new rules of privacy and what it means for customer experience

iOS15 and the death of third-party cookies: the new rules of privacy and what it means for customer experience

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With the release of Apple’s new update, iOS15, marketer and consumer experience will change. Christopher Baldwin, VP Marketing at Insider, tells Intelligent SME.tech about what iOS15 means for users and vendors alike.  

With the launch of Apple’s new operating system, iOS15, brands will no doubt be curious to see how their marketing strategies will be affected.  

In another stride towards reinforcing Apple’s legacy reputation around user privacy and security, the recent update will see Apple users gaining greater control over their data and how it is shared. 

There are two features in particular – ‘Mail Privacy Protection’ (MPP) and ‘Hide My Email’ – that will change the face of digital marketing as we know it. Apple is one of the world’s leading email senders, delivering 40% of the world’s commercial and transactional emails, meaning these updates will have a substantial impact on email marketing as we know it. 

Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) 

MPP will enable iOS15 email users to choose whether or not to load remote content privately without disclosing their IP addresses, simply by opting in.  

Currently, most email service providers embed an invisible single-pixel image into emails, to track whether a subscriber opens an email and how frequently. The single-pixel image lays the foundation for tracking unique and gross email open rates. However, with MPP, users will have the choice as to whether they allow brands to do this or not. 

Once enabled at the user (or subscriber) end, the feature will prevent brands (or senders) from deploying invisible pixels in their emails to collect user-specific information. Therefore, senders won’t be able to accurately track email engagement open rates. 

Hide My Email 

The ‘Hide My Email’ feature will forward promotional marketing offers to a temporary encrypted email address, linked to the user’s primary email account. These temporary email addresses can be deleted at any time, at the discretion of users, meaning marketers will be unable to distinguish between genuine and temporary email addresses and this will ultimately affect their ability to make educated conclusions regarding bounce rates.  

The rise of personalisation 

Google’s recent decision to remove third-party cookies from its Chrome browser means marketers can no longer rely on this data for personalisation, leaving the industry scrambling to find new ways and means to provide personalised customer experiences while ceding to consumers’ data privacy concerns.  

Contrary to many of the industry conversations happening in relation to iOS15 and privacy, it’s not all doom and gloom. These changes represent an opportunity for brands to build an authentic and genuine relationship with customers and a value proposition that entices customers to willingly share their data, knowing they will receive something in return.  

By agreeing to share personal data, customers can expect a higher level of service that is aligned more closely to the service they would expect to receive in a physical store. For example, retailers can track what items a customer has viewed and searched for, as well as previous purchase history. If a customer adds an item to their basket but does not complete the sale, or if an item is out of stock, retailers can send a reminder email or notification when the item is back in stock, entice them back with a special offer or discount or suggest alternative items that match the same criteria. These emails not only help to prompt the customer into completing a transaction but reinforces how valuable their custom is to the retailer on a more personal level. 

The road ahead 

Now is the time for marketers to re-evaluate their strategy in order to adapt to these imminent changes and provide their customers with the best experiences. 

  1. Generate relevant insights and leverage segmentation 

The iOS15 update is available across Apple devices now, so marketers should analyse their existing subscriber databases and gather relevant insights as soon as possible.  

Segmenting your users in this way will help you to understand just how many of your subscribers are affected by the iOS15 update and therefore enable you to target these users in different ways, such as alternative subject lines to grab attention, discount offerings etc. in order to maintain a strong level of engagement and experience. 

  1. Re-engage dormant Apple users 

Craft contextual email campaigns to win back dormant Apple users. With users having an average of 200 emails in their inbox, creating an email that is highly personalised and individually tailored to each user will help re-engage those who may have fallen by the wayside.  

  1. Start measuring the metrics that matter the most 

Start shifting focus towards Bottom of the Funnel (BoFu) metrics that are closely aligned with conversions or revenues. These include click rates, unsubscribe rates or revenue per subscriber. Emphasis on conversion metrics will also help brands (and senders) understand individual user activity – behavioural and channel interaction will help to enrich customer profiles and ultimately how effective your email marketing is. 

  1. Run conversion-driven A/B tests 

It’s critical to test subject lines when optimising for clicks and conversions and not just for opens. Conversion trumps engagement. A/B testing proves to be an effective data-gathering tool for retailers and brands, allowing them to interpret how people behave when they land on a webpage, open an email or respond to a social ad, for instance.  

This type of controlled testing and analysis can determine what strategies create high user engagement and what will work best for the brand or retailer.  

  1. Create “before” open rate benchmarks for Apple users 

Compare the open rates you are seeing now vs. those you will see in 6 months when the depreciation of the update has started to take effect. Testing should take into account parameters such as pre-headers, send time, day of the week, CTAs, etc. Doing this will offer insights into the impact of and difference in engagement on conversion and enable marketers to make informed decisions on how to adapt. 

How to succeed in this brave new world of privacy-first marketing 

In this new world of increased personalisation, marketers must create a strategy built on trust and a true exchange of value for their customers. 

Those brands that do not figure out a strategy to maintain – and even grow – their access to first-party data may have to spend 10-20% more on marketing and sales to generate the same returns. 

This may seem like a daunting task, but having the right technology, people and processes in place to support the shift in mindset and embed the changes can help simplify the process. A successful end result will be strong, loyal relationships with customers not only now, but in the future too.  

Remaining agile and adapting to evolving customer behaviour, industry trends, and algorithmic platform changes is an essential part of a marketer’s job. It is worth revisiting strategies regularly over the next 6 months or so, as Apple users gradually update their software and the true impact of the privacy changes become more visible. 

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