Ask the Experts: What's the impact of Apple MPP on email?


In 2021, Webbula launched a video series where we sat down with email industry experts to discuss various topics within the email marketing world. Each month, Webbula introduced a new lineup of email experts with a new topic.

Follow along in 2022, for 12 new questions and a new lineup of email experts. Thank you to every email expert who participated in this video series and provided advice to other email marketers. 

Video transcription completed with Descript. 




HubSpot Video


Matthew Dunn

Founder of Campaign-Genius


"One heck of a wake-up call for a field that had done things the same way for close to 20 years. I mean, we're now talking close to six months after it's gone into effect, and there's still a lot of unwinding, a lot of misinformation, a lot of misassumptions. There's a writer named Ben Thompson, who I follow pretty closely, Stratechery. He said of another field; it's really shifted from a deterministic measure to a probabilistic measure. Which, although it's hard to say, is not a bad description of adjustment to MPPs impact. Can we still find out, ratio-based statistics-based things? Absolutely. Should we completely ignore opens?

Are you nuts? Um, is it different? Yes"



HubSpot Video


Nicholas Einstein

Vice President of Product Marketing, Netcore Cloud



"I think a lot of us as email markers were really concerned about the Apple Mail Privacy Protection initiative when it was announced because it not only limits our reporting on opens coming from the Apple ecosystem, it also impacts our ability to apply some types of contextual personalization at the time of open, location-based personalization, that sort of stuff.

In fact, some [people] in the space are referring to it as pixel getting. I think a lot of that concern was slightly overblown. Email marketers are handling Apple MPP in stride. I think we're seeing that marketers who did rely heavily on open metrics as KPIs have now focused more on other metrics that are more tightly correlated to actual business value, clicks, conversions, revenue contribution, and lifetime value.

I think it is actually a really good thing that marketers are realizing this. Those who leverage personalization and opens find ways to deliver those experiences to the right audiences and use other tactics for other segments. In general, I think marketers are adjusting well, and one lesson is, it's good to focus on metrics that are more tightly aligned to business value, and sometimes, in general, email opens have not been."




HubSpot Video


Skip Fidura, FIDM

Fractional CMO, NED, Board Advisor, Public & Video Speaking Coach, Event Host, and Keynote Speaker


So I think with the apple tracking pixel announcement, what we really saw a lot more after the announcement than we've seen after the implementation - the impact just hasn't been that big.

I tell the story over here, I lived in the UK, and that the story of chicken, little just isn't really well known, but obviously to your American audience, everybody's going to know the story of chicken chicken little.

The acorn fell, the sky is falling. Apple turned off pixels, email marketing is going to die. Neither of those things happened. Let's face it open tracking has never been that accurate. I feel somewhat to blame for part of this pure around this, because I was there, in the early days back in the late 90's, early '00s, and we used open tracking to sell into traditional.

This is how we said, look, it's kind of like direct marketing, only better. We knew it wasn't accurate, but it didn't really matter. We didn't realize that everybody was going to become so reliant on it, but people did people over-relied on that metric because there we just so many opens.

It was easy to use that as a proxy for success, but it's never been a proxy for success. It's just been a proxy as to whether or not people open your email, maybe.



HubSpot Video


Jeanne Jennings

Founder, Email Optimization Shop. GM, Only Influencers, Chair, Email Innovation Summit



"This is an interesting question. As we're taping this, it is November 5th. Apple MPP - They started allowing iOS 15 downloads around mid-September-ish. All of us were anticipating that it would be a typical rollout for a new iOS version, which is six to eight weeks. And yet, this one has been much slower.

Partially it's slower because it looks like Apple is throttling when it's allowing people to update, perhaps because of all of the extra bandwidth and things that are involved with the image caching. Possibly just because people maybe, you know, aren't upgrading, but for whatever reason, as of November 5th, we're not really seeing a big change.

I'm not seeing with my clients a huge change in open rates. I have one client where we're seeing a little bit of an uptick, but it's really not very much. And all the other clients, we're not really seeing any noticeable uptick. You know, initially, I was very concerned about this. I did a couple of webinars with people, and honestly, my mind has kind of changed on Apple MPP.

You know, open rate has always had a margin of error. People who read complete emails with images off will not count as an open because the open rate is tied to images being enabled. People who scroll past an email with images enabled and don't look at it will be triggered as an open.

So we've always had that margin of error in it. And the way that we always sort of address that was, we said, well, for your house list, that margin of error should be roughly the same for every sense. So you can still get an apples-to-apples comparison. You just have to realize that it's a relative number, not an absolute figure like a click-through is.

So now the more I look at this with what's happening, the way that it's a gradual rollout, I think that we are going to continue to use open rates just as we always have. And I think that we are just going to acknowledge that that margin of error is larger than it used to be. But if you think about it, again, using open rate is a relative figure, you should still be able to use it as a kind of a marker for how your list is doing because at that margin of error, even with Apple MPP should be about the same for every send.

So I really think that the impact on open rates is going to be much less than we had anticipated. I think what this does is just drive home the fact that we can't think of open rates as an absolute metric. We never really could, even though some people did. And, we really need to think of it in terms of relative metrics. So that's kind of where I'm at now. We'll see if that changes as the rollout goes on, but, it's a bit of a contrarian view, but that's really kind of where I'm where I sit right now."




HubSpot Video


Gavin Laugenie

Head of Strategy & Insight, Dotdigital



"I think we all know that Apple made changes. After the buzz settled, we just had to look at the fact that maybe opens aren't that important. You know, maybe all of this isn't such a bad thing. Ultimately, it's all about, as I was saying before, the user experience. Your users don't care about opens.

What they do care about is the user experience. They care that you're being helpful or useful and that you listen to them. So I think more and more as we realize that opens aren't great or a huge thing. [We need to] listen a little more intently to what our customers are saying.

Listening to actually give back what they need. Overall, I think there has been a lot said about, not necessarily having opens or opens being a little bit [of a] noisier metric than they were before. I think people are starting to understand that it wasn't such a huge thing.

This wasn't necessarily all that we needed to think about [but rather] thinking then, in turn, more about our customers, and focusing more on engagement and clicks, because that's where it's all, it's all that. We can deliver more of what our customers want.

And that is, as I keep saying, being useful and being helpful."





HubSpot Video


Kath Pay

Founder & CEO, Holistic Email Marketing 


"So I have not seen anything much, but then my clients, you know, I've always been talking about how we shouldn't be using open rates to make decisions, right? So we don't really use it as a very valuable metric. We use it as a benchmark metric to a certain extent. We use it just to make sure that consistency and everything, and we can identify really, you know, good or bad anomalies because of it.

But we don't ever make any major decisions based on it. So one, it's not really going to affect them in the long run, and two, because it's been a slow rollout, it is just this gradual thing. Cause I think we're all braced for this, you know, like, oh sudden spike calls or something major, which to be honest, would be quite easy then because we could actually compare the past with the now, you know, and we can say, okay, we know this, but it's not that way.

So it is a bit more incremental. I don't think there's going to be anything. It's certainly not the doomsday everyone's talking about. That's not to say that there aren't marketers who are going to have to change how they're doing the automated programs and all the rest of it.

But, um, I think most marketers are aware of it now, and I've made the remedied the changes that they need to do accordingly."



HubSpot Video


Tejas Pitkar

Senior Manager Outbound Marketing, HurixDigital



"If you look at the impact, which I have, it's very minimal. In the past three months, since the announcement, we have found that an average of 12.5% of your open rates have come from pre-fetching from 15 Apple devices. And that's not a lot. If you look at the volume of emails that we sent.

We do see this number gradually increasing, every week. And we expect that in the first six months of 2022, the whole MPP effect is going to be felt fully by marketers globally. We're still looking at open rates right now. Our consulting marketers are looking at them to make the decisions, but using a huge amount of caution and also try to separate out the Apple users and the non-Apple users in order to treat them a bit differently.

On the deliverability side, not much impact has been cited as of now, but that could change in the next year. In terms of the lessons learned, I'll say the first one is that I wrote a blog that you know about this topic almost two years ago about how the open rate is a journey, and it's not a destination.

It's always been considered as a directional matrix, not the ultimate one----  But as you know, one of the advantages of this whole Apple MPP thing, is that it made marketers evolve to actually understand that, you know, going away from open rates could actually be better than what we all could imagine.

When the data industry is in a whole new direction, marketers will be super result-oriented, and not just looking at engagement to decide if the customer wants to purchase your product or not. Open rate doesn't tell you much about if a customer wants to purchase your product. Open rate just shows you if he opened the email or not.

The second lesson, I would say that marketers would have to be super agile about data and user privacy. I mean, frankly, it was just to be the privacy laws of the show, like CSL and GDPR CCPA that marketers had to comply with. But now, it's like even mailbox providers have slowly started toning Sudan, trying to ensure that, uh, you know, the users become more of the, how the personal information or the personal data is getting used.

So marketers will have to be super direct and interactive. At the same time, they have to create an activity list, but at the same time, they have to respect the----.

 The third thing is that I think is the same as with any other change, not just apple MPP. Previously, it was the team and the tradition. It's a patch, which was supposed to be like a huge change, but, you know, email is and always has evolved. So marketers keep learning and adapting to these kinds of changes that, you know, you have to keep doing what we do, you know, overcoming the odds.

 I mean, it's just one main inbox provider announcing extra docking. There could be many others which come out in the next year. And, they have only shown that these challenges can't be insurmountable, so can be email as a channel.

But, marketers should continue iterating and improving their content rather than focusing on, you know, engagement metrics. I mean, this whole apple MPP change will only affect the way that the performance was measured. It doesn't really affect your performance as a whole."



HubSpot Video


Matthew Vernhout

VP of Deliverability, Netcore Cloud


"So we've seen a pretty steady increase in messages being impacted by MPP from Apple in regards to the beginning of September being in a one or 2%, which is mostly just the beta users. We've seen peak days where, depending on the specific hour of the day, we might see 40% opens.

But overall, it's probably in the daily average of 15-16%, maybe as high as 20% at this point. So it's certainly having an impact. Is it negatively impacting marketing behavior? I wouldn't say I've seen a huge shift in the behavior of marketers based on that information. I think part of that is they're not noticing.

We notice it may be because we're looking at a massive number of brands all in one place, but individually, each brand may or may not see a huge impact, depending on their user base and how they're reading emails. I certainly think the technology providers are building tools to help brands understand, but those are lagging just a bit when it comes to getting those tools in their customer's hands and then educating customers on what they actually mean."



HubSpot Video


Naomi West

Senior Email & Lifecycle Marketer, Invoice2Go



"I think the biggest impact that I've seen, and it's a really positive one, in my opinion, is brands learning to drive engagement from their emails in creative ways. That to me means creating more of a conversational email marketing program, where you have a subscriber that is willing to say, yes, I'd love to hear more about this, and they have to click through to showcase to you as a marketer that they want to stay engaged or on your list or marketers asking for more information on email preferences: a greater collection of zero-party data.

And once again, brands use button clicks as inclusionary or exclusionary pieces in their marketing engagement without affecting kind of the global subscription status.

I hope to see more kinds of holiday opt-out campaigns, similar to how we saw last mother's day with people reaching out and saying, no, I don't want to receive emails about mother's day. I think that that impact is going to be just great overall for email moving forward."




HubSpot Video


Tom Wozniak

Head of Marketing, OPTIZMO


Yeah, I think it's still early days, but I know from some of the numbers I've seen, most people who are updating to iOS 15 are opting into the privacy protection plan early, just because of the way the flow is for that signup. Having looked at it, I think most people just will enable that because it seems obvious or logical.

From that standpoint, I really think we've known once they made the announcement that once a decent percentage of people started opting in for it, it was really going to make open rate not an accurate metric anymore. Maybe it can still be used directionally, but I think, one of the biggest lessons that's going to come out of it is those that really focused on open rate as a KPI are going to have to take a step back and probably find better metrics to really optimize toward. I don't think the open rate was ever a particularly perfect metric for that.

I think this is going to be a good thing for email in the long term. But there's going to be some challenges and changing ecosystem going on here for the next six to eight months while things really kind of level out.


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