How Recent Changes to Apple Mail and Gmail Will Affect Year-End Digital Campaigns and How to Respond
On September 20, 2021, just as nonprofits were launching or preparing to launch their year-end fundraising email campaigns, Apple implemented its Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) along with new features that fundamentally alter how organizations conduct their email outreach. While these changes were first announced in June, the relatively short notice has meant that nonprofits may still be finding their footing in this new landscape.
What’s more, this year Google rolled out changes to Gmail that limit how much of an email will load before it is “clipped,” essentially hiding long emails “below the fold,” and meaning that crucial information, like donate buttons, may be truncated.
Here are the following changes to Apple Mail and Gmail, and how they will affect your year-end campaigns:
Apple MPP Changes
NO MORE PIXELS
Most email providers like Mailchimp and Movable Ink add an invisible pixel to emails to collect data from recipients. Typically 1 pixel by 1 pixel in size, the transparent image acts as a unique identifier that tells servers all kinds of information: if and when an email was opened, what device opened it, and sometimes where the recipient was when they opened the email, as well as the associated IP address.
But now Apple automatically preloads an email’s images and content, effectively neutralizing the pixel. As a result:
Open rates are no longer a reliable performance metric.
Tasks auto-triggered by email opens, such as resends or drip campaigns, are unnecessary because now all emails sent to an Apple Mail address are marked open whether or not the recipient actually opened them.
Live content, such as countdown timers for year-end fundraising, is now inaccurate. That’s because live content is tied to when an email is opened, but because Apple marks them as such even when the recipient hasn’t opened them, organizations can’t be certain that the content is correct when a recipient actually does open the email.
These effects apply to all Apple Mail emails no matter who the provider is, be it Campaign Monitor, HubSpot, or Mailchimp.
HIDE MY EMAIL
The tech giant also debuted Hide My Email, a feature available only to those who pay for iCloud+, Apple’s cloud storage and cloud computing service. It’s a sizable group: The service counted 660 million subscribers in April.
Those millions can now create an unlimited number of randomly generated icloud.com email addresses that can be activated and deactivated at will. So, for any form, app, or website that requires an email address, a user can submit a “dummy” icloud.com address that will relay the email to another account chosen by the user. Because the user can kill the fake account at any time, emails sent to it once it’s been deactivated will count as a hard bounce. Get enough of those, and your hard bounce rate will exceed 2 percent monthly. Once that happens, email providers may begin blocking or directing your emails to spam or junk folders.
Hide My Email can also obscure who your audience is because it masks a user’s identity. And, if a user deactivates the email you have on file for them but then signs up again with another Hide My Email icloud.com address, you have no way of knowing that it’s the same donor or prospect who’d been on your list earlier.
Given that 27% of all email opens are in Gmail, this is another email client that deserves special attention at year-end. In 2021, Gmail began “clipping” email messages 102 kB or larger, and inserting “[Message clipped],” along with a link to read the entire message. That precious 102 kB includes all elements such as text, UTM tracking links, and HTML styling. The only saving grace is that images are excluded from this size limit.
Here’s why clipping can cause problems for nonprofit marketers and fundraisers:
Donors and subscribers who use Gmail will have to click “View entire message” to read longer messages--meaning donate buttons placed at the bottom may get cut off
Tracking pixels -- which are becoming obsolete thanks to Apple Mail -- may get cut off
Deliverability may be impacted. Clipped Unsubscribe links and physical addresses may increase the likelihood of your domain getting flagged by CAN-SPAM.
Our Recommendations for Year-End Digital Campaigns
Below, we’ve compiled a list of what worked well in 2020 year-end campaigns, and what has to change in 2021.
To get the full list of our recommendations, as well as how to prepare for Google’s eventual phasing out of third-party cookies, download our latest resource: The Data Privacy Conundrum: What Nonprofits Must Know For Year-End Planning and Beyond.