Tracking in emails

email tracking

Why and how do we measure opens and clicks?

Opens and clicks in emails are traditionally measured by inserting an invisible tracking pixel in the HTML code. The information about who opened your email is shown in the email analytics dashboard in your email or marketing automation platform. Links in an email can be tracked by adding a UTM code to them. This tracks if a recipient clicked on a link.

This is all standard practice in marketing emails and it provides crucial information: As a marketer, you need to know if you are sending the right information at the right time to your customers. The GDPR allows this, because legitimate interest is one of the legal grounds for processing personal data. Knowing if you are providing useful and timely information to your customer is considered a legitimate interest for your company or organization.

An essential part of succesful email marketing

Email marketers have used tracking pixels for a long time to measure actions like email opens, as well as gathering information about the recipient’s location and IP address. Knowing more about your subscriber and his or her preferences benefits not just you. You can use the data gathered to ensure your subscribers get more relevant and timely emails. This will make them more inclined to open and read them. You will also see which subscribers never interact with your email. These unengaged subscribers can be targeted in a campaign to re-engage them, or removed from your list. This will increase the efficiency of your campaigns.

But what about Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection?

In June, Apple announced a new feature in the release of iOS 15, expected in September 2021. Mail Privacy Protection will block tracking pixels from collecting information about the user by downloading and storing the images (including the tracking pixel) on a remote server and making it available to the user if and when they open the email in Apple Mail. This will seriously impact the opening rates you will see in your marketing automation platform.

It works like this: The Apple Mail system will proactively call the email sender’s server for the email content, so every email to a user who has enabled the new features will appear to you as opened. Opening rates will rise for Apple Mail, but you have no way of knowing if your subscribers have opened and read an email on their device. It will also mess with A/B testing based on opens.

Don’t panic, adapt!

The first thing you need to determine, is if this change will impact your campaigns significantly, or at all. All this only applies to Apple Mail, if an iPhone user uses the Gmail app, nothing changes. So find out on what devices, and in which clients, your subscribers receive their emails. Next, you may need to rethink how you measure your campaigns. Look at clicks and conversion to determine success, rather than simple opens. Test content instead of subject lines (Salesforce Marketing Cloud comes with built-in AI to help you with this). Create smaller segments and audiences. Get creative!

Most importantly: Keep to the best practices of email marketing. Obtain a valid opt-in. Provide information about tracking in your privacy statement or on your webforms. Put an unsubscribe link in every marketing mail and comply with the GDPR when processing personal data. Practice list hygiene and make sure your sender reputation is impeccable.  Then you are good to go!

Tracking and reporting forms an essential part of every marketing automation platform. We will gladly answer any questions you might have about email marketing, marketing automation and the GDPR. Contact us!

Special thanks to the legal experts of the DDMA.

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