Apple is Late to the Party: Marketers Stopped Trusting Open Rates Years Ago

At WWDC 2021, Apple announced Mail Privacy Protection. The new version of its Mail app, expected to be released in September, will ask users if it should load content (including tracking pixels) privately. That would protect the user’s privacy by hiding an actual user activity from the email sender. If the user says yes, the tracking pixels used to measure when a user opens an email will no longer be an accurate metric. 

How do email tracking pixels work?

Email tracking pixels are invisible image elements that many marketing platforms include by default. Whenever a user opens an email with a tracking pixel, the pixel is loaded too. The act of loading the pixel tells the marketing platform that the specific user opened the email. The pixel can also collect the user’s IP address (which can potentially give away a users’ geolocation or employer) and user agent (which can reveal the user’s device and email client). 

However, pixels aren’t perfect, which means neither are open rates. Currently, some email clients block images from loading when a user opens an email (which also blocks the tracking pixels). Other email clients (and some corporate firewalls) automatically open all images as soon as the email is delivered. If you’ve ever sent a newsletter and instantly saw opens, it is not your super-engaged users, unfortunately; it is most likely auto-opens juicing your open rate.

Enter Conversion Tracking

If you can’t use open rates to measure your email’s performance, what can you use? At Customer.io, we’ve always recommended measuring the success or failure of your email campaigns against the key action you want your customers to take. You don’t want your customers to open your email. You want them to buy your product, try out a new product feature, or take some other action specific to your business. We call this conversion tracking. 

Start Tracking What Matters

Open rates are a distraction; conversions are what count. We recently added the ability to measure conversions against webhook actions – so you can measure the effectiveness of your non-traditional messages. In addition, we plan to expand the variety and number of conversions you can track against a campaign.

For email specifically, we have added the ability for marketers to remove tracking pixels globally from all emails you send through Customer.io in a given workspace (we already allow you to do this on a per email basis). That will help you and your team focus on the metrics that make a difference to your business: conversions.

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