Apple MPP Breaks Open-Triggered Email Sequences: Pros & Cons of 8 Alternatives

August 24, 2022 | 8 minute read
Chad S. White
Head of Research, Oracle Digital Experience Agency
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This post was originally published on MarketingProfs.com.

With Apple Mail users enabling Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) at high rates, email opens have become an increasingly unreliable signal of individual-level engagement for email marketers. That is requiring marketers to redefine how they select active audiences for campaigns, how they determine inactivity and make suppression decisions, and how they design journey progressions that were previously driven by opens.

That last impact will be particularly hard felt by B2B brands, who are the biggest users of open-triggered journeys to move customers and prospects down interaction funnels. While B2B brands are likely to be less impacted by MPP than their B2C colleagues, most will ultimately see 15% to 35% of their audiences affected. That’s too much of their audience impacted to ignore. 

Brands need to make changes to their open-triggered journeys to avoid short-circuited progressions that leave customers and prospects hanging. Luckily, marketers have several alternatives to consider. Let’s talk about the pros and cons of each.

1. Sending the full journey sequence with prominent opt-out

The crudest approach is to simply remove the requirement of an open to move forward in the series and just send the full series spaced out over a period of time. With this approach, expectation setting is key. 

Consider including a series name or some other common language in the subject line of each email in the series so subscribers can immediately see how all the emails in the journey are related. The subject line or preview text could also indicate how many emails are in the series and which email this one is (i.e., “Part 2 of 3: How to…”). The body of the email should also include common language, plus a common design. You could also use a secondary content block to strengthen each email’s place in the series, either using it to remind openers of what the previous email in the series discussed or using it to tease the next email in the series.

Since the journey isn’t driven by the subscriber’s engagement, be sure to provide an opt-out for the series so those who aren’t interested can stop getting the series. In addition to placing it before your global unsubscribe link in the footer, place it higher up in the email as well.

Pros

  • Easy to set up, since it’s a singular track.
  • Can be aligned to the buyer’s journey. For instance, there can be an awareness track, consideration track, etc.

Cons

  • The longer the series, the higher the risk that you’re sending emails to some subscribers who aren’t interested in them.
  • Since the progression isn’t engagement-driven, the pacing may be too fast or too slow for some subscribers. 

2. Using clicks to accelerate a full journey progression

Depending on the calls-to-action in your series, clicks can be a signal to speed up the timing of your next email.

“If your subscribers are engaging with the journey, you want to capitalize on that,” says Jessica Stamer, Consulting Technical Manager for Oracle Marketing Consulting. “With just a couple extra steps on your journey canvas, you can give them another opportunity to engage sooner so their lead score can potentially rise faster and you can get them over to sales when they’re the warmest.”

Pros: 

  • Easy to set up. 
  • Can capitalize on subscriber interest by not making them wait for the next email in the series.

Cons: 

  • Doesn’t eliminate the risks associated with sending your series to subscribers who may not be interested. And the longer the series is, the higher that risk is.

3. Using real opens to accelerate a full journey progression

Just because some of your opens have been deprecated by MPP doesn’t mean that all opens are useless now. Many digital marketing platforms, including Oracle’s, are able to discern real opens triggered by subscribers from the unreliable auto-generated opens from MPP. Depending on your email service provider, you may be able to use real opens to accelerate the progression of a subscriber through your series.

Pros

  • Real opens are a lower bar for engagement than a click. That will result in more subscribers being advanced more quickly through your series.

Cons

  • Not all marketing platforms can distinguish between real opens and auto opens from Apple (but Oracle Responsys and Oracle Eloqua both can).
  • Doesn’t eliminate the risks associated with sending your series to subscribers who may not be interested. And the longer the series is, the higher that risk is.

4. Using real opens and auto opens to trigger journey progressions

While MPP has made opens a less reliable trigger for journey progressions, B2B brands with a low percentage of auto opens may opt to continue using both real opens and auto opens to advance their series. Yes, that would mean sending the entire series to any subscriber who has enabled MPP, but you’d avoid sending it to non-Apple users who aren’t engaging with the series. So, compared to sending your full journey progression to everyone, this approach would result in a considerably more targeted audience.

Pros

  • Marketing platform doesn’t need to be able to distinguish between real opens and auto opens.
  • Progresses far fewer non-engaging subscribers through the journey compared to sending the full journey progression to everyone.

Cons

  • Still progressing subscribers through the journey who aren’t engaging.

5. Using clicks to trigger journey progression

Instead of using an open, marketers can use an email click to progress the subscriber through the journey.

“For our B2B clients who want stronger engagement-driven routing, this is our recommendation,” says Cristal Foster, Head of List Growth & Demand Generation at Oracle Marketing Consulting. “But when embracing this approach, companies need to reevaluate the placement and copy of their CTAs and do some A/B testing to maximize clicks.”

Pros

  • Easy to set up. 
  • Allows branching in your message based on clicks, so the next message in the series can be tailored to the subscriber’s interest and action.
  • Only subscribers who are truly interested receive the next email in the series.

Cons

  • Even if emails are optimized to encourage clicks, far fewer people will progress than when series progression was open-driven.

Optimize your calls-to-action using this 4-point process.

6. Using real opens or clicks to progress to next leg of a journey

When appropriate, consider breaking journeys up into multiple legs of 2-3 emails each and then using engagement with any of the emails in one leg to trigger a progression to the next leg of the journey. For example, if a brand sent the first two emails of their series three days apart and a subscriber opened and clicked on the first of those two emails but not the second, then they’d still progress and receive the third and fourth emails of the series.

Pros

  • More forgiving than a series that requires a click in each email to progress. That will result in more subscribers experiencing the full journey.

Cons

  • Only makes sense for journeys that are composed of at least 3 emails—and ideally more.
  • May not be supported by all digital marketing platforms.

7. Incentivizing clicks through a loyalty program

To increase the chances of success with any of the click-based approaches we discussed, brands with sophisticated loyalty programs should consider giving subscribers extra reasons to click by offering rewards for consuming content, says Clint Kaiser, Head of Analytics & Strategic Services at Oracle Marketing Consulting.

“For example, some loyalty programs reward people for viewing blog posts and other webpages, watching videos, or completing surveys—often with a monthly cap on such rewards,” he says. “All of these activities can be driven through email by requiring a click. There could also be a gamified approach, for example, to completing a sequence of actions related to an email series and then the consumer being awarded points for it.”

Pros

  • Provides subscribers with an extra nudge to provide that click to accelerate or progress a journey.

Cons

  • Not effective with prospects, since they’re highly unlikely to be loyalty members. 
  • Not every brand has a loyalty program—and even some that do, don’t have the ability to incentivize email clicks.

Learn about Oracle CrowdTwist, our market-leading customer loyalty platform.

8. Using cross-channel activity to trigger journey progressions

Email marketers tend to lean heavily on email marketing data, but brands can trigger journeys based on behaviors from outside of the channel. For example, if you’re a software provider and your onboarding sequence encourages a new customer to complete a profile or use certain functionality and then you see that activity in their account, then triggering an email on, say, advanced strategies for using that functionality would make sense. Other cross-channel triggers might include the activation of a credit card, the creation of an account, or downloading an app.

“Leveraging other activities like website visits to evaluate engagement is often a forgotten insight,” says Peggy Sehorn, Expert Consultant Technical Manager at Oracle Marketing Consulting. “Website visits provide particularly great insight into your customers’ digital footprint. Plus, if your marketing automation platform allows you to tag pages that are considered high-value content for a particular interest or topic, then that gives you another layer of engagement insight. In those cases, you can apply recency criteria, too, so subscribers who visited any of those high-value pages within the last 30 days, for instance, are automatically progressed to the next email in the series.”

Pros

  • The right cross-channel activity can provide a clear indication of a subscriber’s engagement with the email, even in the absence of a real open or click.

Cons

  • Because of legacy systems or poor integration between your marketing platform and other systems, getting timely data to trigger the progression might be difficult. Having a customer data platform generally makes this much easier.

For our most comprehensive advice, download our Definitive Guide to Adapting to Mail Privacy Protection.

Marketers have many choices for reimagining their open-triggered journeys so they’re more effective in the age of Mail Privacy Protection and auto-generated opens. Each of them have their own pros and cons, and none of them can replicate the experiences that subscribers had prior to Mail Privacy Protection. There’s no going back, so marketers need to choose the best paths forward for each of their journeys that provide the best experiences possible.

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Need help adapting to Mail Privacy Protection? Oracle Marketing Consulting has more than 500 of the leading marketing minds ready to help you to achieve more with the leading marketing cloud, including Email Deliverability Services and Analytics & Strategic Services teams that can help you make changes to your program to minimize the damage done by Apple’s MPP.

Talk to your Oracle account manager, visit us online, or reach out to us at CXMconsulting_ww@Oracle.com.

Chad S. White

Head of Research, Oracle Digital Experience Agency

Chad S. White is the Head of Research at Oracle Digital Experience Agency and the author of four editions of Email Marketing Rules and nearly 4,000 posts about digital and email marketing. A former journalist, he’s been featured in more than 100 publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Advertising Age. Chad was named the ANA's 2018 Email Marketer Thought Leader of the Year. Follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Mastodon.


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