In our previous MPP updates blog, we mentioned that senders who embraced Apple’s changes as an opportunity to innovate have benefitted in the post-MPP email landscape.
We spoke with two of these senders in our most recent edition of State of Email Live: Michael Cabral from women’s fashion retailer J.Jill, and Tal Goren from digital gaming business Rank Interactive.
Both senders knew MPP would affect at least half of their email audience, but despite this obstacle, they continued to deliver standout performances. While average IPRs at Apple are only 69 percent, Rank Interactive achieved 91 percent—and J.Jill has achieved 100 percent!
Clearly, there’s a set of ingredients for MPP success—and our guests know the recipe. Let’s dive into how their businesses successfully dealt with the MPP challenge.
Following the release of MPP, both senders have come to harness a much broader set of metrics to measure subscriber engagement.
For J.Jill, this includes click-throughs, site traffic, and purchase activity. J.Jill is also fortunate to have remarkably engaged subscribers who phone their customer service team when they don’t receive their emails!
Rank Interactive’s ESP (Acoustic) has started to monitor “effective rate” (i.e., clicks as a percentage of sent email). They are also paying attention to factors like when customers last logged in, played, or made a deposit. Promo codes also provide an important engagement signal (i.e., how often are they redeemed, and which ones are most effective?).
Senders are also investigating unsubscribes, complaints, and hard bounces more thoroughly, which all provide strong indicators of disengagement.
Since harnessing new metrics, senders are recognizing some engagement data points hold more weight than others.
For example, a purchase carries higher intent than a login. This means engagement segmentation is becoming multi-dimensional. Senders are using engagement matrices containing frequency of interaction on one axis, and quality of interaction on the other. Messaging then is driven by the score/box each subscriber falls into.
However, the loss of open rates means senders have fewer data points than before to inform how their subscribers are engaging, creating more uncertainty. Because of this, senders are shortening their active/inactive thresholds to ensure they’re not inadvertently sending to disengaged subscribers.
It was initially feared that MPP would have a devastating impact on many types of dynamic content. However, the actual change in effectiveness has been mixed.
J.Jill still makes regular use of countdown timers, and says the effectiveness of these timers has been impacted less than they initially feared—perhaps because the difference between “recent-time” and “real-time” is generally small (typically no more than two minutes, according to Movable Ink’s research). However, geotargeted promotions based on weather are no longer useful.
This also provides practical examples of the shift to zero-party data. J.Jill would previously show customers their three nearest stores based on where they were located, but this information (see below) is now taken from their customer database.
Michael voiced his concern about the impact MPP would have on his A/B testing program (i.e., how would he monitor subject line performance if winning open rates were no longer accurate?). His misgivings were well-founded, as it has become much harder to gauge subject line effectiveness since the release of MPP. He’s adjusted by making his tests broader and longer, but as a sender promoting products that typically only get bought once or twice a year, he’s finding it to be a real challenge!
Tal spoke to the importance of sending perfect emails (bad emails equal bad customer experiences). Rank Interactive carries out many test/control activities (e.g., offer vs no offer). Validity also forms an important part of Rank Interactive’s email program, as extensive inbox placement testing, design and content testing, and use of Everest’s engagement tracking pixel all provide valuable engagement insights.
A big implication of MPP is now being felt by businesses when they move their email program from one sending platform to another. Established best practice is to identify the program’s most engaged subscribers and move them first, effectively priming the pump as sender reputation is established on the new platform.
J.Jill has just completed a re-platforming exercise following this best practice. While they had moved from opens to clicks as their engagement indicator, this didn’t completely solve the problem. Many customers may open the email to view the product or promotion, but instead of clicking through, they go offline and visit a store in person. This has led to engagement factors like recency & frequency of purchase now feeding into Michael’s deliverability strategy.
As this year’s peak sales season approaches, deliverability will be more important than ever. Validity’s data shows that global email volumes will almost certainly set new records.
However, this data also shows global open and click rates are already under pressure after unprecedented August activity—and spam trap hits and complaint rates are already trending upwards. There is definitely a sense that programs are storing up trouble because they believe their engagement levels are still high—but this isn’t actually the case!
While senders may believe their subscribers are super engaged because they’re still relying on open rates to track engagement, MBPs have a substantially different view of this data. MBPs aren’t reliant on tracking pixels, so they know for a fact whether emails are opened or not. This means deliverability will be an issue for senders relying on open rates that have been highly inflated by MPP.
Senders need to think very carefully about their sending strategies during the peak sales season. Many run multiple deployments on the busiest days, and traditional best practice is to suppress the second send if the first one generated an open. With opens now less trustworthy, there is increased risk of blasting all customers anyway, irrespective of who has already opened.
These challenges mean senders will need to be more proactive about providing opt-out/opt-down functionality, the ability to “snooze” programs, and promoting their preference centers.
While it’s easy to be down on MPP, there are several upsides to Apple’s re-imagining of the world of email subscriber privacy. A pixel fire from an MPP-enabled user provides unequivocal proof that the email address is valid, and that it has been delivered to the recipient’s inbox. MPP pixel fires also provide senders with a means to gauge the size of their Apple Mail audience, and even to target them with subscriber-specific messaging.
MPP has certainly forced email marketers to up their game. It’s easy to get caught up in a routine, and MPP has provided senders with a great opportunity to learn and change as they evaluate better engagement signals. It’s a classic case of sink or swim!
A key learning from the past year is that while MPP has made the measurement of email opens more difficult, it doesn’t make opens less important!
After deliverability, persuading subscribers to open and engage with their emails is every sender’s next major challenge. Both J.Jill and Rank Interactive feel a key reason they were less impacted by MPP was that they had focused on engagement optimization tactics long before MPP was a thing. These tactics include:
More good news is that with the release of iOS16, Apple is now supporting Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI). This is a broad industry initiative that enables authenticated senders to display their brand logos beside their emails at participating MBPs.
Following Gmail’s long-awaited participation in mid-2021, this means ~90 percent of global MBPs now support BIMI, and there will be significant benefits for early adopters because of improved recognition in congested inboxes. Early research shows senders will also benefit from increased levels of trust, enhanced brand recall, and increased likelihood to purchase. Both our guests are currently implementing BIMI and are confident it will play a big role in assuring their customers that they can trust their emails.
Our two customer guests had a wealth of expertise to share around their MPP experience—and we’ve only scratched the surface in this blog post!
To learn more about how they responded to this email challenge (and the successful tactics they implemented), watch the full State of Email webinar.