It wasn’t that long ago that headlines were announcing that email is “dead”, “dying”, “obsolete” and “so 90’s”. Well, there are over 4 billion email users with in-boxes containing an average of 200 emails, so let’s just for fun pretend that email isn’t dead, and that for many nonprofit organizations it’s still the easiest and most cost-effective way to reach our constituents.
“But”, you ask, “what about social media?” I’m not an expert here, but not everyone is on social media, and if I want my patrons and donors to feel like they’re being personally reached? I think you get what I mean here. According to a new study by EmailToolTester, nonprofit organizations have the highest open rate of any industry sector at 20%, and the Art, Culture and Entertainment sector is third at 16%. Welcome emails are the most important, with a stunning 82% open rate. The top email tools, such as Mailchimp, are also now moving toward multi-channel approaches with email as the central focus. Imagine building a marketing campaign that starts with an email which then automatically switches to follow-up emails, text messages, and social media engagement. Vive la email!
OK, “disaster” might be too strong a word but I’ll let you, as a nonprofit warrior who has a hard-won email list that you meticulously track to optimize content, be the decider.
In 2021 emails are mostly opened on smartphones, and 45% of those emails are being opened on iPhones, with the Apple Mail app. If you’re an iPhone user, you might be aware that in September Apple is releasing its latest operating system, iOS 15.
According to MacRumors.com, Apple will introduce “a new email privacy feature called Mail Privacy Protection which prevents companies and advertisers from tracking how you interact with their emails.” This new feature is not enabled by default – when iPhone users receive the update, they will see a screen that will invite them to opt-in.
Sounds great, right? But what does this opt-in mean for your organization’s marketing and engagement efforts?
Email service providers like Mailchimp, Constant Contact and many more insert an invisible 1-pixel image on every email you send out on their platform. The image tracks whether an email is opened and how often, as well as forwards, location, and more. If the Apple users opt-in, here’s what happens for you, the email sender:
- Your open rates will actually be inflated, because Apple will be routing all email through a proxy server that treats the mail in such a way that it will appear to have been opened, even if it has not.
- Purging inactive subscribers to improve your deliverability becomes more difficult. If a recipient is perceived as inactive, your effort could end up in a spam folder because the ISP thinks that email has little value.
- You can no longer analyze open rates by domain (@gmail.com, @yahoo, etc), which hinders your ability to identify ISP’s who have blocked your emails or altered your ability to deliver them.
- Say goodbye to tracking your click-through and click-to-open rates, as well as the ability to do accurate A/B testing.
Okay, so now what? Thanks to Jay Schwedelson at Worldata, there is a solution.
Your email service provider already knows how many people open your org’s email with Apple Mail, and how many open email with all other applications (Gmail, Outlook, etc.) RIGHT NOW, call Constant Contact, MailChimp, ConvertKit, or whichever email marketing service you use, and have them put your current Apple Mail users into one group, and all others into another group. Now you’ll have the capability to do tracking reports that break out the two groups. Send out your newsletter, or a show reminder, anything to engage so that you can then determine that your current open rates are consistent among both groups. By October, your iPhone users will have inflated open rates, but everyone else should still be showing an open rate of about the same, and you can then trust that your Apple Mail rates should be about the same, as long as you’ve acted in time to establish the open rates of both groups.
Another new feature in iOS15 is Hide My Email, which gives users the ability to “instantly generate unique, random email addresses that forward to your inbox – so you don’t have to share your real email address when signing up” for a newsletter, show announcements, etc. This will be another headache with connecting to patrons and their behavior in order to provide a unique experience.
This is a complicated subject and if you want to learn more, just google “email marketers prepare for iOS 15” and you’ll find a lot of good posts, including some that posit that maybe it is time to rethink the whole concept of “open rate” and its relevance. I plan to write more about this re-thinking in the future.
It’s important to let your patrons know about these upcoming changes and how it might impact them.
Send a dedicated email to your Apple users, or place a pop-up on your website that connects to those using the Safari browser. While consumers having more control over their personal data is a good thing, as arts and culture organizations we know that our patrons have signed up to receive our emails because they want to. Let’s do our best to stay connected with them!
– Robyn Zimmann