Even in 2021 email is still king! People are inundated by tweets and tik-toks and don’t forget Instagram stories…but their email inbox grants your correspondence entry and provides your clientele with the opportunity to respond accordingly – join an event, make a donation, or simply stay in touch. 

It follows that email open rates are an email marketing metric we have always relied on. This metric gives us an indication of the effectiveness of subject lines, send time, and overall subscriber engagement. This is all about to change. 

They may no longer be the most reliable email engagement metric that nonprofits can rely on.

In June 2021, Apple announced the release of a new privacy feature in iOS 15 and Mac OS Monterey. With this update, your contacts using Apple Mail have the option to enable a new feature called “Mail Privacy Protection.” This feature will limit the ability of your email marketing platform to accurately track: whether or not an email has been opened, where a contact is located when they open it, and the type of device used to open it. 

As such, open rates are no longer going to be a reliable metric.

Uh. Oh. What does this mean? 

First, don’t panic.

This update only affects Apple Mail users – and according to Litmus, Apple Mail currently holds only 11.5% of the market share. However, it’s still unclear as to whether or not this privacy update will extend to anyone using any mail app on an Apple device, or just individuals who use Apple Mail. 

Set benchmarks now to measure changes.

Now is a good time to set a new benchmark. Let’s say that historically, the average open rate for your newsletter is 10%. You can use this benchmark to analyze future open rates and draw comparisons, conclusions, and plans for what’s next.

In short: Adjust how you measure success.

Even before this update, open rates weren’t a final say on being able to measure engagement. Keep in mind: active email engagement can best be determined by: overall email click through rates, individual link clicks to gauge content popularity, and website traffic to linked pages.

Your Email is Not Spam

While these changes may present some new tracking hurdles, your emails are not ending up automatically in someone’s spam. It will continue to be delivered to your contacts who use Apple Mail, and email engagement will continue to be tracked and reported. You can expect to see inaccurate email open rates, depending on the number of individuals in your community who have “Mail Privacy Protection” enabled.

Let’s Be Honest

Email open rates are not dead — yet. It is fair to say that this is just the beginning. Apple Mail Privacy Protection is just one of the updates that Apple is making to empower users to take control of their data and privacy. It is likely only a matter of time until other providers follow suit. 

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