Why It's Time to Close the Door on Email Open Rates

3 min read

The most common email marketing metric -- the open rate -- is about to become more challenging to measure when Apple releases iOS 15 in September 2021. We recommend three different ways to measure the effectiveness of your email marketing going forward.

UPDATED: 9/30/21

Apple iOS 15 Email Changes (2)

You can learn more about the impact of Apple's iOS 15 software on email marketing in this HubSpot article, but the bottom line is that Apple Mail mobile and iPad users will be able to opt out of email open tracking by opting in for new privacy features.  

Initially, we expected this would mean your email open rates would decline, but what's actually happening is an inflated open rate, since Apple iOS is now firing all tracking pixels vs. connecting them to individual users. To forecast the difference in your open rates, look at the percentage of your audience that uses Apple iOS and now anticipate that 100% will be marked as opens.  (Note that desktop Apple Mail is not impacted).

The bigger question is: should you continue to use open rates as a key metric?


Protecting Privacy is a Good Thing

Let's talk about why Apple is changing its policy. They have staked out a position to be a leader in protecting privacy. As much as I love me some data, I’m one of many marketers who knows enough about tracking to be wary of it myself.  I resist tracking by brands at every opportunity. At the same time, I want to know everything I can about our clients' prospects and Dialogue prospects.

It's time for me to bring those divergent viewpoints into alignment.

What we lose in data, we gain in trust.

It just means measuring results differently.

At the same time I resist tracking, I value relevant content. I am not alone. “What's true about people today is that they want BOTH privacy AND personalization," says Will DeKrey, HubSpot's Group Product Manager of Campaigns in the article linked above. "They still want content that is targeted, and messaging that speaks to their interests.”


Why Close the Door on Open Rates?

Some email marketing professionals already think open rates are little more than a vanity metric. We don't agree with that: maintaining or increasing your email open rate is a valid measure of your audience's engagement levels--among other data points.

Open rates are not as important, however, as what people do once they open an email. Which is to click. Or reply. Both start a dialogue, and both will continue to be valuable metrics that can measure your audience engagement and guide you in deepening the relevance of your content.


Best Email Marketing Metrics To Use Now 

At Dialogue, we are advising our clients that beginning in September 2021, we will shift to focusing on these email marketing metrics as a measure of effectiveness:

Click Thru Rate This is currently the number of clicks divided by the number of email opens.  Now it shifts to the number of email clicks reported in your website analytics program divided by the total sends for each email. As always, this is never an exact number but rather used for comparison purposes. Set a benchmark now using recent emails. 

Reply Rate This is the number of replies per email divided by total sends. Actively soliciting replies may be a change in strategy for you. It is worth considering. It does mean that you may generate a ton of questions. You could view that outcome as overtaxing your customer service team OR you could view it as an amazing first step towards moving a prospect closer to your desired action.

Unsubscribe Rate: This will continue to be important. Some unsubscribes are inevitable and expected.  HubSpot recommends keeping your unsubscribe rate to less than 0.4% for any send. This may go higher in the case of infrequent purchases, but you can stay ahead of that by removing unengaged contacts from your email marketing.

Got questions about your email marketing metrics in light of Apple iOS changes? Email me and I will do my best to answer!


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