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If Your E-Mail Marketing Stats Have Gotten Wacky Lately, It's Not Your Staff's Fault

E-mails have become a crucial part of many dealers' promotions, growing in importance when the COVID pandemic made communications a vital way to reach customers. But recent changes to Apple's operating software could be distorting your key indicator to the point where you begin questioning your numbers.

The statistics are different largely because both major software systems for smartphones are amping up their security. For instance:

  • If customers opt for Apple's Mail Privacy Protection, it's possible that your software will indicate your e-mail to the customer was opened regardless of what the customer actually did. "That means you won't be able to accurate count opens, estimate location, or determine device type of e-mail for these contacts," the digital marketing agency Venveo warned in a recent podcast. The service also prevents e-mail senders from learning about a user's Mail activity and IP address.

  • Users on Apple's iCloud+ service now can create "fake" e-mail addresses when they do things like subscribe to newsletters and register for events. That makes it impossible for you to identify the customer for personal follow-ups.

  • Apple's Intelligent Tracking Prevention prevents known trackers from profiling users of Apple Safari web browser by via the user's IP address

  • Cookies--an electronic gizmo that enables companies to track people across websites (and send ads to seemingly every webpage you visit thereafter)--were going to be phased out on Google's Chrome web browser. It has delayed implementation several times, and now says it will support the tracking technology until the second half of 2024. Safari and Firefox already block cookies.

A survey by Hubspot of 300 e-mail marketers found 52% of respondents said Apple's changes reduced access to user data, 40% said it cut their click-through rates, and 34% reported reduced ability to see open rates.

Apple's latest changes follow an earlier update of its operating system, called iOS, that drastically limited activities that advertisers and app developers can track when a person is using a smart phone. If you have an Apple phone, you've probably seen an alert that asks: "Allow [name of app] to track your activity across other companies' apps and websites?" One report indicated roughly 90% of Americans clicked the "Ask App not to Track" choice.

As a result, Facebook and Instagram ads became less effective because they couldn't be targeted as precisely. This also means that if you send out Facebook notices to people in a targeted area--such as when they and their smartphone come near your store--Facebook won't do as good a job finding and alerting those people.

What do do? "The big thing here is that we need to start to change the way that we look at the metrics in our marketing," Venveo Founder Zach Williams wrote. "... Metrics like clicks, site traffic, click maps and unsubscribe rates can be other indicators that you should be looking at. But we'll also use things like surveys and customer interviews to gain additional information about what readers are looking for and responding to.”

Hubspot's survey found 62% of e-mail marketers reported prioritizing different key performance indicators (KPIs). Open rates became less important and clicks more important. The company also suggested comparing results for Apple vs. non-Apple users to see if iOS changes warped the Apple group's results. Try text messaging, too, Hubspot said--it generally has a higher opening rate.

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