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Zero the hero! Apple's new Mail Protection Privacy and what it means for marketing.


Imagine you lived in a house in a picturesque village and one day you decided to take a walk to the big city because you needed to buy something in a large shop there. On your way you have to cross a road. It’s only small, there are no cars. However, the next road is much bigger and extremely busy. There’s an underpass but the lights aren’t working and you can hear someone shouting incoherently. As you get nearer the centre of the city you start to meet street vendors trying to sell you their wares. One person engages you in conversation, you tell them what you are going to buy. They tell you they have what you are looking for but much cheaper. All you must do is follow them down the narrow alleyway to their house and give them your name and address. In the distance you can see the large shop. What do you do?

In life, be it real, virtual or hypothesised we are constantly making decisions and weighing up pros and cons. We want to cross roads but we don’t want to get hit by cars. We’ll take an underpass unless we think it is safer to negotiate the road. We always want a deal but we never want to get conned.

The decisions that we constantly make in life are proven to be getting increasingly complex due to the huge amount of variety and options we now have. If we wanted to buy a washing machine 70 years ago there were only a handful of models and a handful of shops that sold them. Now we can source our washing machine direct from the manufacturer in China if we so wish.

However, technology is seeking to ease our decision making process. For instance, each subsequent version of Apple’s iOS operating system is somehow subtly addressing these quandaries in order to better help us get to where we want to be and iOS 15 is no different.

There’s going to be changes, lots of them. They’ll range from improvements in your widgets and better translation abilities to a facility enabling a different left and right eye colour for your Memoji and automatically prioritising 5G when Wi-Fi connectivity is slow, captive or insecure. In fact, lists 97 changes in iOS 15 but one of them is of particular interest to the marketing community.

iOS 15 is offering Mail Protection Privacy which will potentially put an end to clicks and open rate tracking as it will prevent senders seeing this data. This will of course impact the emails of anyone using an iPhone, iPad or iMac. Currently a staggering 45 per cent of the world’s emails use Apple iPhone, and a further 12 per cent use Apple Mail. And let’s not forget that when Apple suggested the blocking of 3rd-party cookies in Safari, Google followed suit. Basically, these changes, like many others in the industry, are being driven by frustrated customers tired of poor online experiences.

Currently no-one is quite sure how this privacy setting will be presented to the customer. If it is a passive opt-in hidden away in settings then it is likely that few people will choose to turn it on, if however, it is a pop up presented when customers first launch their email following the software upgrade then people will definitely say no to tracking.

Irrespective of the volumes of consumers that do activate this new function, the fact remains that marketers will be robbed of a certain amount of data which has been used to track activity. And because we’ve had the luxury of this data for so long and now its being taken away panic is beginning to set in.

But it doesn't need to be. Many of us have forgotten that there is a wealth of other techniques to define and enhance the customer experience. For instance, using customer journey orchestration software which provides a more rounded view of the customer. Email is but one channel in the mix and by taking a more holistic approach the value exchange becomes more robust and meaningful.

Online privacy is not going to go away and therefore it is critical to establish and build relationships. Zero party data will become the hero – this is the data that customers actively want to share with you because they understand by doing so they will get a better service than if they don’t. Digital lines are being drawn. We’re happy for house guests to know the colour of our living room wallpaper, but we don’t want them rummaging through our bedside drawers. It’s the same for brands. Marketers need to help the customers open their front doors while keeping their bedroom doors shut.

And that truly is the value exchange in action. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: just because you could, doesn’t mean you should. The bottom line is that no one wants to be creeped out by brands so the value exchange has never before been so critical. When it comes to data and marketing, zero really is the hero!

Like our content? Find more of our articles and case studies here.

Written by:

Richard Calvert

Founding Partner at The Thread Team

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