An update from Matt Hayes (CEO), Gabri Corti (CPO) & Riccardo Saccomandi (CTO).
After some initial, but in depth testing, we wanted to update you on how the recent Apple changes will affect open-time content personalization. Apple’s announcement (June 7) about their plans for the upcoming privacy updates have been quite the talking point in email circles. In their quest to advance their privacy leadership, Apple will release new features on iOS 15, iPadOS 15 and macOS Monterey devices. The new features will help users control and monitor how apps use data, specifically we are interested in the changes to the mail app. Here’s the official statement:
“In the Mail app, Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email, and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.” – Apple Press Release June 7
We’re expecting to see these updates start rolling out in September 2021 onwards. Upon updating their software, Apple users will see the following:
There’s a lot of privacy features in this update but we’re most interested in Mail Privacy Protection. The update provides anonymity to recipients receiving emails and it also changes how Apple Mail handles images.
Apple mail on the iPhone having around 34% market share and Apple mail (mac) having 10% - this is a very significant change that as marketers we need to prepare for.
Apple has stated that they will be masking IP addresses of email users so this will limit information on opens and our ability to detect other information that we use for contextual widgets (time, weather, location). It seems Apple will use different proxy servers around the world and each recipient should be redirected to the nearest proxy to them. So far it seems that the country is always correct, but you cannot count on knowing more than that. City-based targeting cannot be relied upon. It seems plausible that Apple will have a proxy in major cities around the world (e.g. London, New York, etc.) and those opening from those cities could have a right match also for the city. However, at this stage it is too early to test this fully.
Remember for weather and location - we can use first party data such as post code/zip code, preferred store, delivery city and so on. This is a longstanding and more reliable use case our customers have deployed in the past and will be a powerful strategy moving forward. For more detailed information contact your Account Manager.
Currently we use the user agent string to detect information about the open - this includes information about the operating system of the device being used to open the email. As part of this update, Apple strips the user agent string so we no longer see details about the operating system version and device (iPhone, iPad etc.). However, at the moment, Apple is stripping the user agent in a way that we can recognise it as them. This means we can identify the email open as being in an Apple environment.
We will be adding additional options to our rule builder and wider platform to show specific images or enable custom default images to be displayed when the user agent string is identified as Apple.
During our extensive testing we have seen unpredictable caching behaviour. Our images will no longer be served in real-time but downloaded by Apple sometime between the email being sent and the email being opened. When the email is opened, the images will be retrieved from Apple's servers, not from Kickdynamic. We will need to ensure that each image tag is unique when you send an email. This will ensure that Apple always downloads the latest version of the tag. More information on this here.
This caching change will affect the widgets that rely on real-time serving - countdown timers, live polls, social signals will be affected.
For brands using live polling and social signals we recommend throttling the send over an extended period to allow the social signals and votes time to unfold before they are cached.
Caching - tl;dr
Content will still be automated and personalized using zero and first party data. This data is the future of email personalization. This is something we have been working on for years with our content automation product and new prediction engine - LYNX.
In terms of open-time real time personalized content - your customers viewing email with an Apple email client will see personalized products/content that is updated less frequently. When they view in all other inboxes it is updated at every open.
For most use cases, the difference between real-time generation and near real-time generation does not negatively impact the positive effect of our technology. In fact, the automation and personalization use cases that the majority of our customers have been implementing for a many years will continue to see strong results.
Finally, it’s important to remember that this update affects Apple Mail opens, other inbox environments and Android devices are not affected and will continue to work as they currently do.
Our amazing and experienced team will work with you in the coming weeks to prepare for these changes. For open-time and IP detection your account manager will contact you with an Apple strategy plan that they can work with you on. For content automation and personalization content it is business as usual.