CEO at Jeeng, a company helping publishers create automated & personalized messaging which fuel engagement and monetization.
At its WWDC this month, Apple announced a new feature aimed at stopping email senders from gathering critical pieces of data about email recipients. Specifically, the Apple Mail Privacy Protection, set to roll out this Fall with iOS 15, allows users to block email senders like publishers, retailers and more from detecting when they open an email, among other things.
The change has many email senders and ad servers in a panic. For years, email open rates have been the de facto standard for measuring campaign success and user engagement and for monetizing emails through advertising. Not only are open rates a primary KPI, but most email advertising vendors operate on a CPM or cost per impression model, which means brands pay and publishers get paid based on how many recipients see the ad. If you can’t track opens, you can’t track ad views, which means CPM-based performance metrics will be null and void.
But I believe the truth is that relying on open rates was lazy and didn’t give an accurate measure of what really matters: engagement. Sure, getting a user to open your email is a win, but it’s really only the first step. It’s what they do after that — namely, click-through — that really matters.
Email opens are only good for gauging whether announcements get through like a notification about a change in policy or an update of some kind. But for messages where the ultimate desired result is for the user to take some action — to click-through to the site, redeem the coupon, schedule a meeting or virtually any call to action whatsoever — opens just don’t cut it, and they really never have. Opens don’t tell us anything about intent, conversion or engagement.
Simply put, actions matter. As a marketer, I’d rather have a low open rate with a high number of click-throughs than a high open rate with no clicks. Marketers, publishers and ad platforms that have been relying on open or CPM rates have been resting on their laurels because they’ve not had to focus on metrics that really matter.
By giving users the option to block the open data, Apple is forcing marketers to a higher standard, to innovate their email strategies and shift to more valuable metrics like clicks and engagement to prove campaign effectiveness. By measuring success based on CPC instead of opens or CPM, emailers and those who advertise with them can get a much clearer and accurate picture of their audience’s interests, likes and behaviors. And that action-based data can be much more useful in creating the kind of compelling and relevant content that continues to drive action and engagement.
Certainly, this shift in metrics puts the onus on content and ad creators to up their game. With more stringent measurement comes the need for even more effective, engaging copy and creativity. And, with more in-depth audience engagement data that goes beyond the open rate, we’ll have more insight to inform those creative and editorial decisions.
For publishers and marketers whose email advertising relies solely on CPM, don’t worry. There are also platforms available that use CPC as the primary metric. But by leveraging relevancy and personalization to drive engagement beyond the open, marketers can finally start to get to the metrics that matter: audience actions instead of audience eyeballs.