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11/18/2021

How the Apple Privacy Update Impacts Holiday Marketing Campaigns

Julio Lopez
Director of Strategy, Retail at Movable Ink
Julio Lopez profile picture

For many consumers, the last 18 months have been a digital boot camp necessitated by the shift away from in-person engagements with the brands they love. Unable to go inside stores for weeks and months, consumers had to adapt to digital-first interactions, and retailers had to adapt to a surge of new customers as well as a spike in consumer data.

As we head into peak spending season, retailers are now also forced to deal with inherently broken global supply chains, and an accelerated focus on consumer privacy. The 2021 holiday season will be one like no other. 

Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection
In June 2021, Apple announced it would implement its Mail Privacy Protection, a new feature available with the September iOS 15 update that gives consumers more privacy over their personal data. Apple Mail users, almost 40% of the email client market, can opt into having their IP address masked or to anonymize their email addresses when that data is requested. The result is an impact on the accuracy of email open rates, and engagement tracking. The update will also impact the accuracy of time-dependent content as Apple may pre-load email images regardless of when the user opens the email. Lastly, the new feature added to the Apple Mail app limits the amount of contextual data accessible to marketers by blocking IP address detection. 

This is all happening right as holiday campaigns are in development. Most retailers began planning out their calendars in the late spring and early summer. With a string of major holidays around the corner, retail marketers will need to quickly adjust their strategies ahead of the holiday season to deliver valuable communications that meet customer expectations while operating within the new realities of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection features.

So What Does That Look Like?
A successful holiday marketing campaign is convenient, valuable, and agile. As such, marketers need to reach consumers at the appropriate time, with the appropriate items, and with the right level of product information in order to influence purchasing decisions. And given the competitive nature of the peak season, this also needs to happen quickly in order to win share of mind and share of wallet.

A successful personalized campaign can create a huge boost in sales and given the Apple Privacy Protection update, marketers will have to rely on zero- and first-party data to deliver these results. 

Location-based marketing with zero-party data
Using zero-party data, marketers can replace the need for contextual signals with the information customers voluntarily share. For example, when customers create an account on the brand’s website, they usually provide their zip code or address.

Marketers can use this customer-provided information to deliver necessary location-based information, such as upcoming weather patterns that influence apparel purchases, local store information such as hours of operation, and even combine the consumer’s location data with the company’s local inventory data to let the consumer know what products and SKUs are available at their local store.  These marketing tactics make it convenient for consumers to visit brick-and-mortar locations, drive cross-channel behaviors, and encourage a sense of urgency.

Driving Urgency with first-party data
With first-party data, marketers can capitalize on customers’ mobile app behaviors or website activity to ​​showcase personalized content. If a customer recently purchased a pair of shoes, subsequent promotional sends can include “You may also like” product grids that tap into a recommendations API or Complete the Look API.

The holiday season is also notable for the increase in cart abandon behaviors. A treasure trove of first-party data is simply the aggregate behaviors of all consumers on-site. By combining cart abandon messaging in promo BAU sends with those aggregated website behaviors as a form of social proof, the retailer can show how many items are remaining in stock, how many were sold in the last 24 hours, or how many active viewers there are. Consumers seek validation of their purchase decisions at an increased rate during the holidays, and social proof delivers that sense of validation during the conversion funnel. 

Using zero- and first-party data is the ultimate compromise between consumers’ need for privacy and their desire for personalized marketing. 

Measuring Efficacy
Although Apple’s announcement initially had marketers scrambling to rethink their holiday communications strategy, zero- and first-party data are powerful tools that go past the Apple MPP updates and allow retailers to create compelling marketing campaigns that result in measurable performance lift. 

While marketers won’t need to reinvent the wheel, their key performance indicators (KPIs) may be getting a much-needed update as a result. As Apple’s update will impact the accuracy of open rates, marketers will now have to pivot to other KPIs to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns.

Open rates have long been an imperfect metric that is now going to become more flawed. This will force senders to rely on more meaningful downstream impacts such as clicks, conversion events and revenue. Savvy marketers will also look at cross-channel engagement and LTV as measures of success.

What’s Next?
Last year’s holiday season was one the retail industry has never experienced before. The lessons marketers and retailers learned in 2020 will greatly impact their marketing strategies in the latter half of 2021 and beyond as we continue to navigate another undoubtedly unique year. To really win the holiday season, marketers will need to rely on the right data and marketing solutions that leverage zero- and first-party data, and automate email and mobile personalization to remain agile during this uncertainty.

Marketers can face the upcoming retail season backed by zero- and first-party data and continue to deliver campaigns that are valuable, convenient, and agile while ensuring consumer privacy is respected.

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