Apple introduced a new setting on its devices titled Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) which prompts Apple Mail users to enable a set of privacy tools aimed at hiding the user’s location and email engagement activity, including opens. Open rates have long been a standard metric for tracking email performance, so it’s important to understand how this new setting may impact your email engagement data, and how NationBuilder is incorporating these changes into its platform. To get started, let’s discuss how open rates are currently calculated.
How are open rates currently calculated?
Open activity is identified using a tracking pixel in the content of the email. A tracking pixel is a tiny, invisible image in the body of an HTML email that is displayed when an email recipient opens the email on their device. NationBuilder is able to identify when a tracking pixel has been downloaded and displayed on someone’s device, which allows us to see when an email has been opened. Using that data, the open rate was determined as the number of ‘opens’ divided by the total number of recipients.
How does Mail Privacy Protection impact this calculation?
Apple’s new Mail Privacy Protection disrupts our ability to see this open activity because, when enabled, email content is not downloaded when the recipient views an email in the Apple Mail app. Instead, it is downloaded in the background when the email is delivered to the recipient’s Apple Mail inbox regardless of whether or not the email is ever opened, so all Apple Mail deliveries “open” the tracking pixel. This hides the email sender’s ability to determine if a recipient is genuinely engaging with the email, and inflates the open rate.
What does this mean?
The classic method for calculating open rates is no longer reliable since a pixel-determined open rate would be inflated due to recipients who have Mail privacy Protection enabled. Moving forward, NationBuilder will surface the difference between Apple Mail Privacy Protection impacted opens from genuine email recipients viewing an email. We are referring to these as ‘unverified’ and ‘verified’ opens:
- Verified open: An open activity generated when an open tracking pixel is downloaded because the email recipient viewed the email content
Unverified open: An open activity generated by an email that was delivered to an Apple Mail inbox
- Note: These recipients will be recategorized as ‘verified’ if an open activity is later recorded through another email service or if the recipient clicks on a link within the email.
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How will I see these changes in NationBuilder?
We are calculating open rates differently. Moving forward, we will suppress all MPP-impacted, or ‘unverified’, activity from the calculation. The revised open rate is calculated using the total number of ‘verified’ opens, divided by the total number of email recipients minus the recipients who are impacted by Apple MPP. The end result will be an open rate that is indicative of real email engagement, and will provide reliable, actionable data in determining which email blasts are most successful.
We are showing you which supporter profiles are impacted. Within a sent email blast, you’ll be able to view the individual email recipients whose email open activity is ‘unverified.’
We’re adding new filter criteria. In addition to making the affected profiles available in the data of your sent emails, we’re also adding filters to the People section of the control panel to allow the option of filtering based on verified versus unverified open activity. This new criteria will be helpful when building saved filters for email blasts, as you may want to layer additional filter criteria on users whose open activity is hidden to determine if they are, in fact, engaging with your organization in a meaningful way. Alternatively, you may choose to retarget your email blast to individuals whose open activity is hidden to encourage a click.
How should email engagement be measured moving forward?
With decreased insight into open activity, measuring engagement by clicks will be extremely important.
Encourage click rates. Open rates, while popular, are a passive metric. Many recipients open an email without ever reading the content. High click rates are harder to achieve but they are indicative of actual engagement and interest on behalf of the recipient. Consider trying a few of the following tactics:
Include links and buttons to ‘Read more.’ Email recipients are less likely to click a link in a blast if the email contains all of the information they need to read. Try including a preview of the content with a button or link to your website where they can continue reading.
A/B test content. When in doubt, try making two versions of the same email, but with a few differences in the content. Perhaps one is longer form than the other, or one has links and one has buttons. You can add all of your recipients to a list, split the list in two, and see which email received a higher click rate.
Embed thumbnail images in your emails. This isn’t a revolutionary idea, but it might heighten your engagement rates. Try including an image of a video thumbnail or of an ActionButton in your email. Recipients are likely to click on the thumbnail to watch the video, or to click on the button to respond to the prompt, and in doing so will be taken to another page to complete the action while also recording the ‘click’ activity in NationBuilder.
Run reconfirmation campaigns. Once you have the insight into which of your supporters are impacted by Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection, it will be more important than ever to check in with those supporters and offer them the option to opt out of email if they no longer want to hear from you. NationBuilder equips you with the tools to run a reconfirmation campaign for individuals whose open activity is unverified, and who have not engaged with your organization by any other means (such as a donation or an event RSVP) in the last few months.
Losing insight into engagement data can be frustrating, but it’s also a great opportunity to hone in on your organization’s measures for success, and to create more compelling email content that will engage your supporters and drive them to action. We hope that these new changes to the product will allow you to continue segmenting, targeting, and communicating with your supporters in a meaningful way while also respecting their decision to keep their data private via Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection.
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