Email is a vital tool for any business hoping to have a direct relationship with customers. Globally, the email marketing market is projected to reach $17.9bn by the year 2027.
ndeed, entire new businesses are now being built on email. The newsletter Morning Brew was bought by Business Insider last year for $75m; Substack, a platform for monetising email newsletters through subscription, was valued at around $650m earlier this year.
But there’s always someone ready to spoil the party.
And when it comes to email, the party pooper is Apple CEO Tim Cook.
At its most recent World Wide Developers Conference, Apple announced a host of features designed to give its customers greater control over their relationship with businesses that use – and abuse – emails.
Users will be able to stop marketers seeing if they open newsletters, obscure their IP address from email marketers, and sign up for emails using a proxy email address that Apple controls.
What does this mean for businesses that rely on email? Well, it’s unclear – and there are a lot of variables.
Apple’s Mail app can be used for many different types of email account – Gmail, Outlook, etc, so the effects of this change depend on how many recipients use Apple’s email client vs their own providers’ app.
So email marketers need to understand how many, and how often Apple users will intercept their messages.
They will also need to wean themselves off some metrics. Previously brands relied on open rates as an indicator of interest. Now, with a significant number of opens automated, click-through rates become a more valuable metric to understand the success of the mail.
This isn’t the first time that Apple has undermined other businesses in the name of protecting users’ privacy. Privacy is no longer a corporate ideal or a marketing point of difference.
Android is more open, with less user control over privacy. Apple, of course, thinks different.
In 2018 Tim Cook wrapped himself in the US flag saying: “Privacy, from an American point of view, is one of these key civil liberties that defines what it is to be an American.”
But it’s more than just empty patriotism. Apple has introduced a host of privacy-protecting initiatives in recent years, like API-level protection for location, contacts, calendars, camera, and microphone. ‘Sign in with Apple’ is a native method of signing into iOS apps that hides the user’s identity.
And then of course there is the recent Identifier for Advertising (IDFA) change, which sees all iPhone users given the option to ‘Ask app not to track’.
Which sounds like a small thing – but it is destabilising the mobile advertising business for big guys like Facebook and the smallest business that want to target customers on mobile devices.
Some early studies are even indicating a migration away from Apple; Liftoff, an app marketing optimisation tool reported that some reports say Android ad spend has increased by 21pc following Apple’s IDFA changes.
But I suspect Tim Cook isn’t too worried. He knows Apple’s brand is the tech equivalent of luxury goods. And that layering a promise of privacy on top of its products creates a powerful combination – high-end hardware with software that puts the user’s preferences before the demands of surveillance capitalism.
Who is this going to appeal to? Probably, higher net worth individuals than those who choose Android.
And how are businesses going to reach these wealthier users? Directly through Apple, of course.
So it’s no surprise to learn that Apple is working to expand its own privacy-first services.
Apple is rumoured to be working on its own search engine; it’s been upweighting its advertising team; and it’s also created a service for paid podcasts which, like the app store, allows content creators to monetise their relationship with their readers – but they’ve got to give Apple a 30pc cut.
It’s all part of an ecosystem where Apple is the gatekeeper for everything online. Users who choose Apple are choosing security and privacy, but they’re tying themselves into a relationship with Apple. Their subscriptions, their identity and the reporting of their habits are all mediated by Apple.
Marketers who want to target these users are going to need to go to one place. The address is 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, California.