Interviews, insight & analysis on Ecommerce

iOS15 and the death of third party cookies: what it means for ecommerce

By Christopher Baldwin, VP Marketing, Insider

With the announcement from Apple earlier this month that their new operating system, iOS15, is now available to download, ecommerce leaders and digital marketers will be intrigued to see how the changes will affect their strategies. The update will largely impact email marketing, With the update giving Apple users greater control over their data and how it is shared, iOS15 will largely impact email marketing, and is another step in Apple’s reinforcement of user privacy and security.

There are two features – “Mail Privacy Protection” (MPP) and “Hide my Email” – which will require an operational shift for marketers. Apple is the world’s largest email sender, delivering 40% of the world’s commercial and transactional emails, meaning these updates will have a substantial impact on email marketing as we know it with Apple users gaining greater control over their data and how it is shared, in another move that will prove to accelerate the consumer privacy mandate.

Feature 1: Mail Privacy Protection (MPP)

MPP will enable iOS15 email users to choose whether to load remote content privately without disclosing their IP addresses, simply by opting in. 

At the moment, most email service providers embed an invisible single-pixel image into emails, to track how frequently and whether a subscriber opens an email. The single-pixel image lays the foundation for tracking unique and gross email open rates.

With MPP, users will have the choice as to whether they allow brands to do this or not. Once enabled at the user (or subscriber) end, the feature will prevent brands (or senders) from deploying invisible pixels in their emails to collect user-specific information. Unfortunately, this therefore means that senders won’t be able to accurately track email engagement open rates. 

Feature 2: Hide My Email

The “Hide My Email” feature will forward promotional marketing offers to a temporary encrypted email address, linked to their primary email account. At the discretion of users, these temporary email addresses can be deleted at any time, meaning marketers will be unable to distinguish between genuine and temporary email addresses, and will ultimately affect their ability to make educated conclusions regarding bounce rates. 

The rise of Invited Personalisation

iOS15 is not the only thing changing in the world of consumer privacy – come 2023, Google will be removing support for third-party cookies in Chrome. The case, therefore, for marketers to move towards first-party data and ‘invited personalisation’ has never been stronger. This decision by Google means marketers can no longer rely on this data for personalisation, leaving the industry scrambling to find new ways and means to provide personalised customer experiences while ceding to consumers’ data privacy concerns. 

But it’s not all doom and gloom. These changes represent an opportunity for brands and retailers to build an authentic and genuine relationship with customers, and a value proposition that entices customers to willingly share their data, knowing they will receive something better in return. Sai Koppala, Chief Marketing Officer at SheerID calls it “invited personalization” – data gathered directly from customers that allows retailers to understand them at a deeper level.

In return for sharing their personal data, customers can expect a superior customer experience that is hyper-relevant and personalized based on their interests, behaviors and needs. If a customer adds an item to their basket but does not complete the sale, or if an item is out of stock, retailers can notify users when the item is back in stock, entice them back with a special offer or discount, or suggest alternative items that match the same criteria, via email or web push notification

The average shopping cart abandonment rate for eCommerce hovers between 57% and 76%, meaning there is huge potential to reclaim lost revenue through cart abandonment retrieval. Highly personalised emails will help to prompt the customer into completing a sale, as well as reinforcing how valuable their custom is to the retailer.

The road ahead: what marketers should start doing now ahead of the changes

Now is the time for marketers to re-evaluate their strategy to adapt to these changes. 

1.       Start measuring the metrics that matter the most

Open rates are not always accurate and in most cases it’s a vanity metric that marketers disproportionately value. Start shifting focus towards Bottom of the Funnel (BoFu) metrics that are closely aligned with conversions or revenues. These include click rates, unsubscribe rates, or revenue per subscriber. Emphasis on conversion metrics will also help brands (and senders) understand individual user activity – behavioural and channel interaction will help to enrich customer profiles and ultimately how effective your email marketing is.

2.            Run conversion-driven A/B tests

It’s critical to test subject lines when optimizing for clicks and conversions, and not just for opens. Conversion will trump engagement any day! A/B testing proves to be an effective data-gathering tool for retailers and brands, allowing them to interpret how people behave when they land on a webpage, open an email or respond to a social ad, for instance. 

This type of controlled testing and analysis can determine what strategies create high user engagement and what will work best for the brand or retailer. 

3. Create and compare “before” open rate benchmarks against “after”

These should be compared to “after” open rate benchmarks once uptake of the iOS15 update occurs. Testing should take into account parameters such as pre-headers, send time, day of the week, CTAs, etc. Doing this will offer insights into the impact of and difference in engagement on conversion and enable marketers to make informed decisions on how to adapt.

How to succeed in this brave new world of privacy-first marketing

As we edge into a world of increased personalisation, it is key that marketers are creating a strategy built on trust and a true exchange of value for their customers. Those marketers and companies that do not figure out a strategy to maintain and grow their access to first-party data may have to spend 10 to 20 percent more on marketing and sales to generate the same returns.

This may seem like a daunting task, but having the right technology, people and processes in place to support the shift in mindset and embed these changes can help simplify the process. A successful outcome will be strong, loyal relationships with customers not only for the short term but the long term too. 

Remaining agile and adapting to evolving customer behavior, industry trends, and algorithmic platform changes is an essential part of a marketers job. As we start to see the impacts across the industry of these new privacy rules and what it means for ecommerce, it’s worth revisiting strategies regularly over the next 6 months or so, as Apple users gradually update their software and the true impact of the privacy changes become more visible.

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