During Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June 2021, the tech giant previewed new privacy protections coming in September across iOS 15 and macOS Monterey. The update will give Apple users more control over their information by anonymizing tracking pixels sent through email. A major part of Apple’s new privacy initiative is Mail Privacy Protection (MPP), which plans to provide Apple users the option to decide how their data will be shared when using Apple Mail.
So what’s the skinny on Mail Privacy Protection? Essentially, by opting in, users can stop email senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about them and hide their IP address along with any contextual information associated with it. In turn, Mail Privacy Protection may throw a curveball in existing media and entertainment marketing strategies. Since Mail Privacy Protection impacts personalization by stripping pixels and IP addresses, a countdown timer to drive awareness for an upcoming t tentpole release won’t cut it anymore. Email touchpoints will now require zero or first-party data to replace strategies that once revolved around tracking pixels.
This extra layer of security around invisible pixels will allow Apple to cache images before a user opens an email. By caching these images, any hidden pixels in the email will filter and register back to the sender as “read,” creating a 100% false open rate for all customers using Apple Mail. Understandably, this will challenge all email marketers, and a shift to other metrics like clicks will be essential to measure performance accurately. Media and entertainment brands may also consider prioritizing metrics further down the funnel, like streaming engagement, to meaningfully understand the impact and rely on alternative data points for creating relevant personalization.
With Apple Mail holding nearly 38% of all email client market share, it’s no surprise that this update can be intimidating, especially while media and entertainment brands focus on retention as out-of-home activities gradually resume. After a boom in streaming subscriptions, growth is beginning to slow, and marketers now need to focus on retaining current customers. But these new privacy measures do not mean marketers need to sacrifice their personalization strategies; if anything, now is the time to supercharge them. Utilizing zero and first-party data like on-file zip codes, user preferences, or streaming history can help brands maintain highly personalized campaigns that encourage users to continue streaming or carry out high-value actions. This shift offers a good reason to collect valuable zero-party data from customers and creates new opportunities for marketers to build the case for rich first-party data access that may not have been previously available.
Overall, both consumers and brands can benefit from greater privacy protection measures. As the media and entertainment industry becomes more saturated with new streaming platforms and excessive content, developing strong ties to consumers through trust and relevancy can make or break a subscription cycle or return behavior. Here’s how media and entertainment marketers can evolve their strategies to deliver best-in-class customer experiences and drive performance as the industry shifts to increased privacy protection.
Personalize Experiences to Drive New Content Discovery & Engagement
As the world reopens, new user acquisition is slowing down. New competition has created an oversaturated market where everyone is fighting for a piece of wallet share. The average household currently subscribes to four streaming services, and 64% of customers say they’d downgrade a service or cancel it to pick up another. New content is now the leading factor that sets streaming services apart to attract and retain audiences– but new content is only valuable if it’s in front of the right viewer. High volumes of content can create negative experiences if users find it impossible to pick out what they want to watch. Half of customers note they’d cancel service if it were overwhelming and challenging to discover new content.
Personalized experiences can help customers cut through the noise, navigate large content catalogs, and land on new content they want that piques their interest. That’s where a personalized pre-release email, as seen in the Inkredible Media example below, comes in. Rather than sending out a generic “coming soon” messaging, the email is hyper-personalized to the customers’ affinities and account data to make it as relevant as possible.
The hero image speaks to the customer directly by referencing their first name and targeting the image based on actor affinity gathered from first-party data to highlight actors from their favorite shows or movies. The campaign counts down to the release date to drive awareness on when this content will become available. Knowing that, on average, 80% of email opens occur in the first seven hours, the campaign counts down the number of days until the content is released. With Apple caching images between delivery and open, referencing days rather than a real-time countdown ensures a relevant user experience while still building the same anticipation. The campaign also targets by zip code to guarantee the time referenced, and timezones called out in the creative are personalized to the recipient.
Using first-party data, the Inkredible Media example sets the stage for an omnichannel experience for those who opted-in to mobile push notifications. The campaign prompts users to add new content to their watchlist, opening the door for users to continue the customer journey on the brand’s mobile app. Once added and the new content is released, a push notification can be triggered to subscribers letting them know the content is available to stream, maximizing opportunities for engagement and retention outside the email channel. Lastly, brands can utilize an automated evergreen module that taps into a ‘Now Trending” API. This module can be scaled and used across multiple programs and will automatically display recently trending content.
Increase Awareness with First & Zero Party Data
The reality is, consumers expect digital services to know who they are and personalize relevant content to them. While finding content is already a struggle for many, live programming schedules can complicate things even more. Personalization is critical moving forward. Given that images will cache before Apple Mail users open, marketers will no longer provide live programming schedules with real-time updates in email. By tapping into first and zero-party data, the Inkredible Media example below can personalize schedules to only show programming of interest by displaying the upcoming schedule for the next coming days, ensuring that the customer experience is as up to date and relevant as possible when the customer engages. The email only displays the customer’s favorite team’s schedule based on previous behavior and given preferences to personalize on a 1:1 level.
There’s a push notification reminder CTA for each game to encourage users to opt-in to game-time alerts. Like the previous example, mobile notifications encourage customers to watch within the mobile app and prompt them to engage when the game is live. For low engagement segments, the bottom content block offers an opportunity to collect fresh, rich zero-party data with a clear value exchange. The block asks users to identify their favorite teams to receive personalized emails to enhance their fan experience.
Personalized Cross-Channel Programming Schedules
Nearly a third of all U.S. media time will be spent on mobile in 2021. As the industry shifts, media and entertainment brands will need to evolve, ensuring cross-channel strategies are front and center to meet customers with relevant experiences where they’re spending their time most. Today, some of the world’s leading streaming brands are turning to automation and quickly extending techniques used in email to mobile.
Below, DAZN, one of the fastest-growing sports streaming apps globally, is tapping into an API already used in email to power a rich push notification. The rich push notification dynamically delivers a personalized schedule. With a generated image of upcoming streaming events, the rich push notification displays an event schedule that personalizes to the user’s region and team preferences based on first-party data.
Email has traveled a long and winding road of change since its inception 50 years ago. If the channel has proven anything, it’s that it can withstand the test of time and continue to mature with innovation. While Apple’s challenges may have caused an initial shock, media and entertainment brands don’t need to be bogged down with worry. This is a moment for evolution, a moment to enhance experiences with meaningful first and zero-party data, and a period to find new opportunities to personalize marketing efforts in ways that deliver true value for customers. Now is the time for brands to seize the data already in their arsenal or make a case for more to create meaningful cross-channel personalization.
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