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By: Kent Groves, Chief Strategy Officer, dentsu Health & Olympia Mantsios Global VP, Data & Analytics, dentsu Health 

It was January of 2020 when Google announced that it would eliminate third-party cookies from Chrome by 2022. Almost 2 years later, Apple implemented a new feature called Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) in its September 2021 iOS 15 release. This feature allows consumers to control privacy with their Mail app and prevent sharing their personal information with email senders (marketers).  

Privacy is a top priority for organizations that aggregate consumer data and they are obligated to adhere to newly proposed and implemented jurisdictional and global privacy legislation.  While MPP started with Apple, who is to say that others will not follow? This would be very much in line with the emergence of ‘Walled Gardens’ today: major tech providers are leveraging the scale of their vast collections of consumer data to act as centralized operators for digital advertising on their platforms. It is likely that over the next couple of years, marketers will not be able to collect any information about their users’ email activity regardless of operating system. The future may also see more addressable channels following in email’s footsteps, with required compliance similar to the current trends in global privacy legislation.  

While at first glance these changes sound like a marketing liability for the future, fortunately, there is a positive light at the end of the tunnel. Our task is to simply adapt to the new alternatives and be proactive by introducing new ways of executing and measuring email marketing.  

The MPP Impact for Email Marketers. 

When MPP is enabled by the consumer, it prevents senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user (consumer). Ultimately, this means that there isn’t a way of knowing when an email is opened, and the associated IP address is masked so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine the consumers’ location.  

According to Litmus 2021 Email Client Market Share Study1, broad consumer adoption of Apple products will see MPP have a large potential impact on marketers, because Apple related products represent more than 60% of all email client usage and more than 93% of all mobile email opens. Healthcare audiences, as a subset of the general population, will also be impacted, and as such, the email communications challenge in healthcare is very real.  

Email optimization, testing and targeting based on open rates will be heavily impacted moving forward. In addition, subject line testing and optimization, as well as Email list Healthcare Professional (HCP) targeting and segmentation strategies are likely to yield unreliable results if they are only based on open rates. Email send time optimizations will also be less reliable given that opens and open time will be skewed.  

The Solution and The Opportunity. 

The introduction of MPP has forced the industry experts to start thinking of different measurement ways for email campaigns. Although there are many ideas that could be used as a short-term solution for counting and predicting open rates on iOS devices, the true opportunity lies behind the idea of changing the way we think about email marketing holistically. To this end, future success in email marketing should be defined by deeper actions that drive business outcomes, not simply performance dictated by opens.  

It’s imperative that we update email creatives for both HCPs and patients. Healthcare marketing, by its nature, is designed to educate and inform. Therefore, email creative often has lengthy text combined with minimal callouts. As a result, click rates are low. If email creative becomes more interactive and offers a different digital experience to the healthcare audience via quizzes, surveys and other forms of engagement, the audience will interact with more ‘bottom of the funnel’ activities and the brand site will earn more clicks.  

Driving click-throughs will be critical for first-party cookie placement and event stream or engagement analysis. Consumers interact with brands across all channels; therefore, the customer experience should be connected and focus across all channels. Consequently, future analyses and reporting will focus on measuring business outcomes through the customer journey and not merely digital engagements. Email engagement reports will eventually lose favor and more advanced analytics, such as multi-touch attribution, will take their place.  

Email is a key channel of the addressable marketing ecosystem. According to the article “Email Marketing: Still The Most Powerful Tool To Take Your Business To The Next Level”2, email marketing still promises to deliver the highest ROI out of all marketing channels. It’s, therefore, important that we take the right steps to ensure we can measure, plan and optimize it in the future. Ultimately, the iOS update will give birth to a different future of email marketing, which in turn will give birth to more opportunities.   

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