The end of the opening rate?

12 November

Historically, the open rate is a metric widely used by CRM managers to analyze and monitor the performance of their marketing campaigns. Today, it lies at the heart of many marketing strategies, and questioning its reliability can be destabilizing.

Yet despite its level of use, the open rate hides many flaws, and the release of Apple's new operating systems (OS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey and watchOS 8), only serves to highlight them even more. The need for CRM managers to rethink its use in their campaign monitoring strategies is now essential.

Why is the opening rate less reliable?

On September 20, Apple rolled out iOS 15, which comes with a host of new features, one of which in particular affects open rates; the Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) feature. This new feature enables users of Apple's Mail app to protect their email activities.

What does it really mean?

  • Open rate: by downloading email content automatically and in the background, it becomes impossible to identify whether the user actually opened the email.
  • It will now be impossible to identify the type of Apple device used.
  • The user's IP address will be hidden: it is no longer possible to associate the user's online activities with their email address thanks to the IP. Note that this impact is minimal in Europe, as since 2018 the RGPD has already regulated this aspect.


How is the open rate calculated? Why was it already imperfect?

The open rate is calculated using an invisible image placed in the e-mail (commonly called a pixel). When the images in the email are downloaded, this returns the open rate information.

It should be noted that the reliability of the open rate has already been questionable for some time. Long before Apple Mail Privacy Protection, the automatic downloading and caching of images was already a growing practice:

  • Gmail has been automatically loading and caching images since 2014, for both the web version and mobile apps.
  • Yahoo and AOL have deployed caching features since 2018 that to speed up email reading rendering, preload images from emails most likely to be read.
  • More and more anti-spam tools preload email content, including images, for analysis.

Apple is simply accelerating an already well-established trend.


Why shouldn't you be concerned?

Firstly, because you are certainly already doing things very well:

  • You've built opt-in and opt-out lists,
  • You're careful with your marketing pressure, 
  • You've created customized scenarios based on your customers' characteristics.

Then there's the fact that marketing campaigns have no shortage of interesting indicators to track their performance, to name but a few:

  • Clicks
  • Unsubscribing
  • Spam complaints
  • Transactions

This could also be a good time to get closer to your customers and ask them what they prefer, in terms of content and frequency, so you can adapt your scenarios even further...


Should we say goodbye to the opening rate?

Not necessarily, the open rate remains a good indicator if you review its use. It shouldn't be one of your campaign objectives, but a way for you to monitor the health of your deliverability by comparing it to itself. You can always use it to :

  • Analyze your deliverability between different e-mailproviders (Gmail, Hotmail, Orange, etc.). If your open rate is 30% everywhere except with one provider, you may be spamming with that one.
  • Segment your scenarios on engagement by combining it with click-through rate for greater precision. Resending emails to your most engaged customers is a good practice. By combining opens and clicks, you can continue to create tailored scenarios that keep your contacts active. Be careful, however, to keep your marketing pressure in mind, so as not to overwhelm your customers who may be inactive.

This is a positive period, as it allows you to update the way you use your metrics, and to personalize and monitor your marketing campaigns more precisely. Even if it's disorienting, you're already doing very well on your other campaigns (social networks) without the open rate.

To sum up and help you navigate this transition period, here's our suggested action plan:

  • Review the importance of open rate in your marketing campaign monitoring strategy
  • Rethink your strategies with new KPIs
  • Putting your customers and their choices at the heart of your strategy