How Financial Services Brands can Continue Creating Personalized Experiences After Apple Releases new Privacy Protections

By: Robbie Freeman–Associate Director of Strategy, Financial Services

At Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference in June 2021, CEO Tim Cook announced that “privacy is a human right.” To back up this statement, the world’s largest manufacturer of consumer devices introduced Mail Privacy Protection (MPP), set to launch in September when Apple releases iOS 15 and MacOS Monterey. If opted in, people that open their email on the Apple Mail app through an iPhone, iPad, or Mac will now have an added layer of security. The update includes privacy features such as masking a user’s IP address and making it impossible to track a user’s email open activity.

Some may proclaim that email marketing is dead. But that statement is bandied about year after year, yet email remains a leading return on investment for marketers. Instead it’s best to think about these changes as the next step in the evolution of email convenience and security. It is important to keep in mind that Apple’s protections are in the best interest of the consumer and that it’s up to marketers to adapt. 

The Apple Mail changes will primarily affect financial services brands in three ways: 

  1. Open rate – Because Apple caches images before the recipient opens the email, all messages sent to consumers that opted in to MPP will come back as “read.” That will alter open metrics and force marketers to adopt new key performance indicators to measure campaign success. 
  2. Contextual email marketing Though certainly more challenging for Apple Mail users, contextual personalization is still a viable solution for brands. Personalization based on IP address information such as weather, time, location may require a new strategy that takes into account first-party data such as Zip Code or other known location data instead of information garnered from tracking pixels such as geo location. 
  3. “Real-time” messaging – image personalization will transition from real-time to near real-time as the image is only cached in between the brand sending and the recipient opening the email.

While this may seem jarring when first heard by marketers, most financial services brands were already leveraging known customer data over IP address to fuel contextual personalization and recent-time image personalization is the reality most financial institutions already face because data systems often operate with their own latency. 

Instead of focusing on the negative, it’s helpful to show how email marketing can evolve once Apple launches Mail Privacy Protections and the steps marketers can take today to prepare themselves for the future. 

Using Data to Build Personalized Experiences

The Apple changes come on top of a year in which 43% of consumers revolutionized how, where, and when they bank. More flexibility is now required from marketers, especially given that 60% of consumers now plan to use both mobile and online banking options more than they did prior to COVID-19. Brands are now expected to create consistent customer journeys across email and mobile for a more seamless user experience, one that builds brand loyalty and drives engagement. 

To do so, email and mobile campaigns must rely on the sophisticated first and zero-party data most FinServ brands have at their disposal. In this example, the header is personalized with Jane’s account number and product-type. Jane has already provided zero-party data to their credit card provider, including the brand of her mobile device, so the below image that offers the brand’s on-the-go mobile app is tailored specifically to their information. Marketers that leverage zero- and first-party data create impactful personalization that can increase engagement and build a more knowledgeable customer base. 

The next two sections of the email focus on information that can now be described as “recent-time” personalization. Again, because images are cached on Apple servers before open, Jane’s spend analysis and available interest rates will be updated after the email is deployed but before she opens the message. FinServ marketers can simply update their terms and conditions or time-stamp the image to provide clarity for Jane when she reads the email. 

Building Engagement on High-Value Actions

The email also uses first-party data to gamify the onboarding experience, creating more incentive for Jane to complete high-value actions such as enrolling in autopay or setting up monthly monitoring alerts. The goal here is to continue leaning on information already collected to provide Jane with a more rewarding customer journey, increase satisfaction, and encourage customers to make a habit of logging on or checking their mobile app. 

Cross-channel onboarding is also personalized, this time as a checklist, to show Jane the steps left for her to set up the best mobile experience. Mobile marketing may become even more important after MPP is released; the update has no effect on app-based contextual personalization. Once Jane has downloaded the bank’s app, she receives the same onboarding message in the form of a personalized rich-push notification (below). Because notifications are not cached prior to open, Jane can now receive real-time, 1:1 images that drive sticky mobile behavior. 

Evolving Email Personalization through Data

Change is the only constant in email marketing. Since its rudimentary steps as a batch-and-blast, text-only marketing medium to the highly visual, highly personalized communication platform it is today, email marketing has withstood every obstacle. Though Apple’s privacy initiatives may seem daunting at first, financial services providers that pride themselves on delivering the most savvy 1:1 communications know it’s a possibility to innovate and mature. The data is there. Now’s the time to unlock its power to create stunning personalization across multiple platforms.

For more information on Apple’s iOS 15 privacy updates, watch our webinar, Evolving Your Email Marketing Strategy for Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection, today.