In-Depth

Getting Ready for Apple’s New Mail Privacy Features

It’s that time of year again: cooler weather, back-to-school, and big new updates to iOS and macOS. This year, Apple is introducing a feature for its email apps that has the email marketing world talking. You may have heard about it already: Mail Privacy Protection. In this blog post, we’ll learn what this feature is, why it matters, and how you can continue to make sure that your emails get great results.

What is Mail Privacy Protection?

Mail Privacy Protection is the name of a feature that comes built-in to Apple’s Mail app on iOS 15 and macOS 12. The purpose of this feature is to protect the privacy of the inbox by making sure that email senders are unable to track if and when someone opens their email.

Users are prompted to turn on Mail Privacy Protection after upgrading to iOS 15

How Does Mail Privacy Protection Work?

Mail Privacy Protection seeks to disrupt how senders track email opens. Email tracking is traditionally done by embedding an invisible image called a “tracking pixel” into the body of an email. When the recipient opens the email, their email app requests and downloads this invisible image. By monitoring these requests, the sender can track when the recipient opens the email, which email app the recipient is using, and the geographic location of the recipient (based on IP address). Mail Privacy Protection disrupts this approach by always downloading all the images in an email (including the tracking pixel), even if the recipient never opens the email at all. In addition, images are downloaded via a proxy server that hides the actual geographic location of the recipient (although, in most cases, the proxy server is in the same general vicinity as the recipient). The end result is that the sender cannot be sure if the email was actually opened and read by the recipient, or if it was simply downloaded in the background by the Mail Privacy Protection feature.

Click tracking is not affected by Mail Privacy Protection and continues to work as before.

Why Does This Matter?

Mail Privacy Protection reduces the reliability of the “open rate” number in your email campaign report, but the impact will vary depending on how many of your subscribers end up using this feature. In order to have a significant impact on your open rate, a large number of your subscribers need to be using Apple’s Mail app, need to have updated to the latest version of iOS or macOS, and need to have opted-in to this feature (which we expect most people to do). According to Litmus, approximately 50% of emails are read using Apple Mail, so as people upgrade their software over time, we expect most email campaigns to be affected to some degree.

The introduction of Mail Privacy Protection gives marketers an opportunity to rethink how they evaluate the performance of their email campaigns. The open rate has traditionally been an important metric used to gauge the quality of a subject line, how engaged subscribers are, or the impact of a campaign. However, as that signal becomes less reliable, email marketers can look to other indicators like click rates, conversion rates, list growth vs. unsubscribes, etc. to evaluate performance. We discuss this further down below.

Direct Mail Works With Mail Privacy Protection

Direct Mail is ready for the changes brought on by Mail Privacy Protection. You may notice a couple of changes in the “Reports” tab in Direct Mail:

  1. In most cases, Direct Mail is able to detect if an “email open” event is coming from a device with Mail Privacy Protection enabled. This does not mean that Direct Mail can determine if an open is “authentic” (i.e. the user actually opened your email), but simply that the recipient’s email app has the privacy feature enabled. Look for the email client labeled “Apple Device (Mail Privacy Protection)” in the “Summary” and “Recipients” sections of your campaign report.
  2. In the “Summary” section of your campaign report, Direct Mail reports an estimated actual open rate, given as a range. This estimate will only appear if there are enough recipients using Mail Privacy Protection to have a material impact on the open rate (greater than or equal to a 1% difference). This same estimate is also shown in the Stamps app, and in the web-based campaign reports.
  3. When determining open rate, Direct Mail considers all of the “email open” events for a given recipient. For example, if a recipient opens your email twice, once from a device using Mail Privacy Protection and once from a device without, Direct Mail will know that the recipient did actually open the email and will factor that information into the estimate.

How You Can Prepare For Mail Privacy Protection

First and foremost, no need to worry. Email marketing remains the most effective form of marketing and one of the best performing sales channels, even as technology and the privacy landscape continues to evolve. We are here to help you understand and respond to these changes as they come. Here are some suggestions on how you can adapt as your subscribers adopt Mail Privacy Protection:

  1. Remember that “click rate” accuracy is not affected by these changes, and continues to be a very high quality signal of how engaged your subscribers are with your content. Consider including more “clickable” content (i.e. links and buttons) in your emails that entices your subscribers to click. Remember that you can turn any image into a link by clicking on it and entering a URL.
  2. Remember that the goal has never been to get the highest open rate, but rather to drive downstream conversions (i.e. sales, sign-ups, leads, etc.). Consider looking to other metrics to evaluate campaign performance:
    • Number of clicks
    • Number of forwards or social media shares. These appear on your campaign report as clicks on the links titled [forward to a friend url], [twitter share url], etc.
    • Number of goal conversions on your website. You can use Direct Mail’s integration with Google Analytics to link up conversions on your website with the email campaign that brought them there.
    • Number of unsubscribes (the lower the better 😀)
  3. A/B testing based on open rates may no longer be a good idea, but continue to strive for quality subject lines (here are some best practices) and content. You can also use Direct Mail’s Preview Text feature to stand out in the inbox. In the past, many privacy-conscious users turned off all email image loading, missing out on the great visual content in your emails. The introduction of Mail Privacy Protection means that many of these users will now turn on image loading and engage more with your emails.
  4. The campaign report and the subscriber “Get Info” window both show times and dates for each email open. Remember that opens from “Apple Device (Mail Privacy Protection)” may not, in fact, be authentic opens, and the accompanying dates and times are simply when the tracking pixel image was requested.
  5. Some email marketers like to segment their mailing list based on the open rate, as a proxy for how “engaged” the subscribers are. This may no longer be the best idea. Instead, consider segmenting based on click rate or some other custom criteria that you import into Direct Mail. You can use our Zapier integration or API to keep your mailing lists up-to-date with data from other sources (like e-commerce stores, spreadsheets, or databases).
  6. If you are running autoresponders that are triggered by email opens, you should consider changing them to be triggered by a click, or triggered on a time delay. In Direct Mail, once an autoresponder is created, you cannot change the trigger type, so you’ll need to create a new autoresponder in its place.
  7. Direct Mail relies on the recipient’s IP address to determine geographic location. While Mail Privacy Protection does hide the recipient’s actual IP address, the proxy IP address is typically in the same general location (i.e. same city, or at least same country and time zone). As a result, Direct Mail is still able to determine the approximate general location of the recipient.

We’re Here For You!

We are committed to helping you run successful email marketing campaigns and to growing your business. If you have any questions about Mail Privacy Protection, or email marketing best practices, please don’t hesitate to contact our support team. Be sure to sign up for our mailing list, too, and get notified about great new features rolling out soon to boost newsletter engagement and interactivity!

Enhance Your Email Marketing With Video

Online video is ubiquitous these days. Social media, advertising, and entertainment platforms are all moving to focus on video. What about email?

One of the most common questions we have received lately is how to integrate video into marketing emails. In this blog post, we’ll share ideas on how you can using video to enhance your email marketing efforts, and show you how easy Direct Mail makes it to add videos to your emails.

Grow Your Lists, Increase Engagement

For email marketers, the name of the game is engagement: how can we increase the number of people who sign up for, read, and click through our emails? Given our ever-shrinking attention spans, video can be an effective way to increase engagement with your emails:

  • Video marketing company Wistia ran a number of tests and found that including video thumbnails in marketing emails yielded a 22% lift in clicks.
  • Video platform Vimeo has tools you can use to collect email addresses from the folks who watch your videos. Videos can be great lead magnets.

We’re not affiliated with Wistia, but they do have a number of other guides you may find helpful:

How to Insert Video Into Your Email

Direct Mail makes it super easy to add video content to your email, but first you need to make sure that your video has been uploaded to a video platform. YouTube and Vimeo are both popular choices and are integrated with Direct Mail. After you’ve uploaded your video, open Direct Mail, click the “Insert Content” button, choose “Video”, and click the spot in your email where you’d like place the video.

Next, paste in the URL to your video. Direct Mail will automatically grab a thumbnail of the video and insert it into your email. You can optionally choose the style of play button that Direct Mail overlays on top of the thumbnail.

When your recipients click on the thumbnail, their video will open in YouTube or Vimeo and automatically start playing.

Can I Play the Video Directly Inside the Email?

Unfortunately, no popular email app supports playing video from YouTube or Vimeo directly in the body of the email. If this ever changes, you can be sure that Direct Mail will support this feature! Until then, the video thumbnail + play button combination should be well understood by your recipients.

If including some motion in the email itself is critical to your design goals, you can consider creating an animated GIF of a few frames of your video. The GIF can then be inserted into your email with a link to watch the rest. Here are a couple resources to help you with that process:

Be careful with this approach, as even short animated GIFs can end up taking a super long time to download. Just watch that the size of your image file doesn’t exceed a few megabytes.

Conclusion

Video content has always been popular, and the story is no different in our online world. Using video to enhance your email marketing efforts can yield a larger subscriber list and increased engagement. Direct Mail’s built-in template editor makes it easy to spruce up your emails with video content, too.

Want more info on combining video with your email marketing? Have a question about something else? Please reach out to our support team today!

Grow Your List With Lead Magnets

Growing your mailing list is one of the most effective ways to grow your business. Consider the following statistics:

  • There are over 3.9 billion daily active email users world-wide
  • The average click-through rate for email campaigns is 2-4%, compared to just 0.9% for Facebook (or 0.4% for LinkedIn)
  • 65% of U.S. consumers have made a purchase based on a message they received via email, compared to just 20% via Facebook or 6% via Twitter (source)

As you make plans for 2021, email marketing and growing your list should be a top priority! In this blog post, we discuss a highly effective method you can use to attract new subscribers to your mailing list: lead magnets.

What’s a Lead Magnet?

Simply put, a lead magnet is an attractive piece of content or valuable item that you offer visitors to your website in exchange for them handing over their name and email address. For example, a lead magnet could be an e-book or digital guide in an area of your expertise, access to a webinar, or a template or resource.

 The good folks over at The Balance put together a great explainer with excellent ideas and examples of lead magnets:

How Do I Create a Lead Magnet in Direct Mail?

The first step is creating a subscribe form to capture your new leads (choose Addresses > New Subscribe Form… from the menu bar at the top of your screen). Here’s an example.

Sample email sign-up form

The next step is creating the message that will be sent to your new leads. The message should contain the digital content or item that was promised in exchange for signing up. For example, you could include a link to the item or include it directly as an attachment.

Example lead magnet email

The next step is creating an autoresponder that will automatically send your message to anyone that signs up for your list. This help article explains how to do that.

Example autoresponder

Now your lead magnet is set up. The final step is simply sharing the link to your lead magnet (i.e. the sign-up form you created). Here are some ideas:

  • Add a link from your website to your lead magnet
  • Embed the form directly on your website (or WordPress blog)
  • Add a button to your business Facebook page
  • Pin a tweet with the link to the top of your Twitter feed
  • Promote your lead magnet on social media
  • Add the lead magnet link to your email signature

Year-in, year-out email marketing continues to provide the best return on your marketing dollars. As you make plans for growth in 2021, be sure to focus on your mailing list and consider using a lead magnet to boost your subscriber count.

If you have any questions about setting up a lead magnet, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our support team!

2020 Holiday Email Marketing Guide

Congratulations! You have made it nearly all the way through 2020, a year like none other! The holidays are now upon us and, you know what that means: turkey, gifts, and overflowing inboxes. As you prepare your year-end marketing, here are some tips on how Direct Mail can help you break through a crowded inbox, boost sales, and grow your customer base.

1. Check out our holiday-themed templates

Direct Mail comes ready to go with a number of holiday-themed templates. They look super-sharp on mobile devices and large screens, and are easy to customize (like all our templates).

You can find these templates in Direct Mail by clicking the “Choose Template” button and searching for Glimmer, Merry Pines, Slopes, or Quattro—or browse the other options available in the template gallery.

2. Stay on top of your holiday calendar

The end of the year is chock full of special occasions and opportunities to celebrate—more than just Thanksgiving and Christmas. Consider theming additional email campaigns around these upcoming holidays in November and December:

  • November 10: Marine Corps Birthday
  • November 11: Veterans Day
  • November 11: Remembrance Day 🇬🇧🇨🇦🇦🇺
  • November 11: Singles Day (i.e. World Shopping Day) 🇨🇳
  • November 13: World Kindness Day
  • November 19: International Men’s Day
  • November 19: Women’s Entrepreneurship Day
  • November 20: World Children’s Day
  • November 21: National Adoption Day
  • November 26: Thanksgiving
  • November 27: Black Friday
  • November 28: Small Business Saturday
  • November 30: Cyber Monday
  • December 1: Giving Tuesday
  • December 15: Free Shipping Day
  • December 22: First Day of Winter
  • December 24: Christmas Eve
  • December 25: Christmas Day
  • December 26: Boxing Day 🇬🇧🇨🇦🇦🇺
  • December 31: New Years Eve
When should I start my campaigns?

Consider starting your campaigns a week in advance (or earlier, if your customers average time to purchase is longer) with a follow-up scheduled for the day of. You might also consider sending a thank you email post-holiday.

How much is too much?

It is possible to send too much email. Bombarding your subscribers can lead to unsubscribes or even spam complaints. A good rule of thumb is to not increase your typical email frequency by more than 3× during the holidays.

3. Write subject lines that are irresistible

It’s going to be a crowded inbox, so stay away from bland, generic (or spammy) subject lines. Here are some ideas:

Personalize

Adding a personal touch to the subject line almost always improves your open rate. Direct Mail makes this easy. If you want to include your recipient’s first name in the subject, just include the mail-merge tag “[first name]”. Like this:

You’re not limited to first names, of course. It can be any piece of information that you have stored in Direct Mail for a contact (e.g. occupation, city, last purchase, etc.)

Don’t get carried away

Aim for a ten words or less in your subject line, and limit the number of punctuation or special characters so it doesn’t appear spammy. Using an emoji can help, but try and stick to just one. Also, note that some devices can’t display emoji, so it’s best to use emoji as an enhancement, instead of a replacement for words.

Ask a question

Questions are naturally engaging. Consider using a question as the subject line in order to draw your subscribers into the content.

State your offer loud and clear

Featuring your offer prominently in the subject line can be a good way to stand out in a crowded inbox. According to NRF and IPC, online shoppers top considerations are:

  1. Free shipping, or clear shipping charges prior to purchase
  2. Simple, reliable, free returns
  3. Rapid response customer service
Try these on for size…

Here are some subject line examples for your inspiration:

  • Warm up to winter with us this Saturday 🔥
  • Our ultimate winter packing list
  • [first name], spread some cheer with us — open house sale!
  • We’re thankful for our customers: Coupon Inside!
  • Stuff yourself with savings 🍗
  • Early access to Black Friday deals
  • Celebrate Small Biz Sat with us: BOGO sale 🎉
  • See you on Small Business Saturday?
  • Ho Ho Ho (Spend Less Dough)
  • You’re Getting Warmer – Packages from $59
  • Meow-y Christmas! 5 holiday treats safe for your cat
  • We Like You a Latke!
  • Challah for These Chanukkah Deals
  • Let’s start this year right. 10% off throughout January
  • The holidays may be over, but the savings aren’t!
  • …check out more examples here

4. Include a “[Do It] Now” button

The easier you can make it for your subscribers to purchase (or take some kind of action), the better. After all, the holidays are just as busy for them as they are for you. Make your call-to-action prominent and easy to find. Direct Mail’s built-in buttons work great for this, and are available in a number of styles.

Here are some sample calls to action you might consider (and some interesting psychology behind it):

  • Shop now
  • Get it now
  • Act now
  • Subscribe now
  • Sign up now
  • Receive it now
  • Get access now
  • Do it now
  • Get your code now
  • Start spending now
  • Browse now

5. Get inspired!

Struggling to come up with ideas for your email campaigns? Get some inspiration from this gallery and the suggestions below.

  • Cyber Monday sale
  • Free shipping now available!
  • Gift card bonus (e.g. buy $100 in gift cards, get a bonus $25 for free!)
  • Holiday gift guide
  • Special coupon code
  • End-of-year update
  • Year-in-review or celebration of the year’s achievements
  • Holiday hours or holiday schedule update
  • Pre-sale or early-bird discount
  • Thank you for being our customer (and optionally include a referral code)
  • New product or service announcements
  • Share a holiday video
  • Promote a social media contest (e.g. photo contest)
  • Black Friday offers
  • Looking ahead to what’s coming in the new year
  • Last-minute deals or reminders
  • Shipping or ordering deadlines
  • Special gift packages
  • Small Business Saturday (it’s not just for brick and mortar!)
  • Share a story about how you celebrate the holidays
  • Giving Tuesday
  • Post-holiday specials

6. Check out these Direct Mail tech tips

Now that you’re ready to rock your campaigns, it’s time to put Direct Mail to work for you! Here are a couple of how-to articles to level-up your Direct Mail skills:

Sending Your Email Campaign at the Perfect Time. Learn how to schedule your campaigns to send even when your computer (or you!) are asleep, so that they arrive in your recipient’s inbox at the perfect time.

Search and Segment Like a Pro. Learn how to find and segment portions of your mailing list so that you an send targeted campaigns, or perform bulk editing operations.

Going beyond open and click rates

One of the traditional ways to measure the effectiveness of an email marketing campaign is to look at open and click-through rates. In this blog post, however, we take a look at another performance measurement that you might not have considered before: conversion rate.

What is a conversion rate?

When we talk here about conversion rates, we are talking about what percentage of your email subscribers have taken some kind of action that (1) can be tracked and (2) goes beyond opening or clicking a link in your email. Common examples might include:

  • what percentage of your email subscribers purchased something from your website, or
  • filled out a form or survey on your website, or
  • downloaded something from your website, or
  • scheduled an appointment with you, or
  • signed up for your event online

When one of those actions takes place, we say that the person has converted. You may have noticed that the above examples are all actions that take place on your website. If you use a website analytics service (like Google Analytics) you can collect data on how many of your visitors convert, and learn what brought those visitors to your site. By combining Direct Mail’s email reporting with your website analytics, you can find out how effective your email campaigns are at driving conversions on your website—in other words, what your email campaign’s conversion rate is.

Using Google Analytics

The rest of this blog will make two assumptions:

  1. You are using Google Analytics on your website
  2. You have already set up one or more conversion “goals” on your website that you’d like Google Analytics to track

If you haven’t done those things yet, we recommend taking a look at one of these great Intro to Google Analytics courses:

Tagging your campaigns

Let’s say one of your email campaign goals is to get subscribers to click on a link in your email that takes them to your website. Once they’ve landed on your website, one of your goals may be for them to take an action that will convert them into a paying customer (or a repeat customer). Google Analytics can show you what percentage of your website visitors have converted, and, with an extra 5 seconds of work on your part, it can also show you which email campaigns those website visitors came from.

To get these extra insights, you need to tell Direct Mail to “tag” the links in your email campaign. This is done by checking the “Tag for Google Analytics” checkbox that appears when you send a campaign. You can also optionally enter a custom campaign name (e.g. “Fall 2018”). If you do not enter a campaign name, it defaults to the subject line of your message. The campaign name will be shown in Google Analytics—it is not visible to your recipients.

 

When you send your message, Direct Mail appends some extra information to the links in your email. When someone clicks a link in your email, this extra information tells Google Analytics that the visitor came from your email campaign. This is what allows Google Analytics to attribute that visitor’s conversion (if they convert) to your email campaign.

Viewing the results in Google Analytics

After you have sent your email campaign, you can view open and click reports in Direct Mail like normal. To access the extra Google Analytics conversion data, you’ll want to sign in to your Google Analytics account in your browser.

Once you’ve signed in, click on the “Acquisition” link on the left-hand side, then click “Campaigns”, then click “All Campaigns”

You will see a list of all of the campaigns that Google Analytics is tracking. These campaigns include not only email campaigns sent by Direct Mail, but also other ad campaigns that you may be running to drive traffic to your site (like Google AdWords, Facebook ads, etc.). Find and click on the email campaign that you sent with Direct Mail—remember to look for the “campaign name” that you used above when clicking the “Tag for Google Analytics” button.

Viewing the columns left-to-right, you can see the metrics that Google Analytics is tracking: number of users, bounce rate, session duration, etc. The right-most group of columns may be the most interesting. These columns show the performance for the selected goal.

In this screenshot, we can see that the “Fall 2018” campaign resulted in 27 conversions for “Goal 1: Purchase”. This means that 27 people who received my “Fall 2018” email campaign clicked a link in the email and eventually went on to purchase something from my website—either right away or several days later. I originally sent this email campaign to 950 subscribers, so that makes my conversion rate 27 ÷ 950 = 2.8%. Nice!

If you want to see the combined conversion rate for all of your Direct Mail campaigns (instead of just one of them), click on “Acquisition”, then “Campaigns”, then “All Campaigns”, then click on “Source”. A list of all the campaign sources will appear—look for the one labeled “directmailmac”.

Conclusion

Open and click-through rates are not the only way to track campaign performance. Taking a look at conversion rates can yield additional insight. Direct Mail’s “Tag for Google Analytics” feature can help you uncover additional insights into how effective your campaigns are at converting leads into customers. If you have any questions about anything discussed in this blog post, or want to give feedback, please let us know!

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