Privacy lookback — some considerations

Recently, privacy initiatives in the email marketing industry have become a hot topic for marketers and consumers alike. It's important to be aware of the changing landscape. Read on to learn where you can expect to see changes in the email privacy landscape, as well as understand key metrics that still matter for your email program.

Reports of email’s demise have been greatly exaggerated

In June 2021, Apple announced their plans to implement Mail Privacy Protection (MPP). In late 2021, there was a great deal of uncertainty about the future of the email channel for marketing. Many email marketing professionals were bracing for colossal negative impacts. “Email is dead — again,” warned worried industry folks.

Granted, there was a period in the summer of 2021 when there were more questions than answers about the scope of MPP. It was a little reminiscent of when Gmail tabs were first introduced by Google about 10 years ago. After a brief period of handwringing, it turned out to be much ado about nothing. In fact, one could argue that tabs made the Gmail inbox more efficient, organized, and valuable to the mailbox owner. Since Gmail tabs, other mailbox providers have implemented similar formats to keep current with customer needs and evolving technology.

Change can be uncomfortable, but with change comes growth and opportunity. Adobe is here to assure you that email is not, in fact, in any danger of becoming extinct anytime soon. In fact, studies have shown that email is the preferred marketing channel for a whopping 73% of consumers.. Even with the proliferation of social media channels, email is still a very viable — and thriving — medium.

Last year, Adobe shared thought leadership around what to expect and how to prepare for MPP. Given the market share of Apple devices and the anticipated adoption of iOS 15, it was important to offer guidance to customers who were concerned about the impact on their email programs.

Adoption of MPP by end users was slow at first but took off just before the start of the holiday season. The Adobe Deliverability team, along with other deliverability experts in the industry, recommended that marketers decrease focus and dependency on open rates. Deliverability experts agreed that opens were always a slightly flawed metric given that some mailboxes had been prefetching images while other mailbox providers were suppressing images by default.

The focus should be on other KPIs that may have been deprioritized in the past, like clicks, website visits, purchases, and social media visits, in addition to opens. Keep in mind that mailbox providers have not fundamentally changed the signals they measure to make decisions on what emails land in inbox, in junk, or blocked entirely. They are still checking to see if subscribers are positively engaging with your emails (opening and clicking), or if end users are complaining about your messages (marking them as junk), as well as examining other proprietary data points.

The best advice is still to send relevant, targeted messages to those who have expressly signed up to receive your emails. Right person, right time, right message!

A little (more) privacy, please

With the proliferation of smart TVs, driverless automobiles, fully connected homes, and smartphones, our devices can collect, track, and identify our daily patterns, our online activity, and our locations. Not surprisingly, there has been a greater emphasis on what effect that has on us and on marketing at large.

Though the gadgets and devices we are using today are wildly beyond anything most of us could have fathomed even half a century ago, we have proof that as early as the end of the 19th century, technological advances had the potential to invade people’s privacy and encroach on the “right to be left alone.” Privacy efforts have picked up speed since 1970, starting with the United States Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). And privacy initiatives have reached an inflection point within the past couple of years.

For example, General Data Protection Regulation in Europe (GDPR), the Canadian Antispam Law (CASL) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) are a few of the higher profile — and stricter — laws in place that aim to safeguard and protect consumer privacy. To date, there are quite a few individual US state laws on the books, in addition to bills pending in various state legislatures. The possibility of a federal privacy bill is on the horizon (American Data Privacy and Protection Act). As more consumers become aware of and interested in such measures, we can expect more safeguards to spring up. Marketers must be able to adapt to the changing privacy landscape.

The future is now

The shift away from a third-party data strategy in favor of using first party data has been challenging for some marketers. First party data consists of data that you as a marketer collect from your customers directly, from your own channels. Some examples include data gathered from your CRM system, your loyalty program, and from your social media sites. This is data that you own, and the best part is that it was provided directly to you, with consent from your customers. It should not come as a surprise that consumers want to know and feel secure that their data is protected while also wanting to be delighted by personalized, timely, relevant messaging. Consumers want it all — and brands who are not moving forward in this respect are effectively moving backwards.

About the Author: Diane is a Deliverability Consultant focused on helping clients by delivering regular reporting and thought leadership about deliverability and privacy related topics.