Our 28th episode of Expert Diaries focuses on two topics email marketers worldwide have been frequently discussing: Apple MPP (Apple Mail Privacy Protection) and BIMI (Brand Indicators for Message Identification). To enlighten us about these topics and validate their relevance in the world of email marketing, we turn to our expert of the day.
Sarah Connolly has more than 11 years of experience providing email marketing and email deliverability expertise.
Susmit Sen: There is this recent buzz around Apple MPP. People are saying the open rate is the most basic metric to understand someone’s interest or preference regarding the products or services on offer, however Apple MPP messes up the open rates, leaving clickthrough rates as the only viable factor. Do you think it stifles email marketing? What is your take on this?
Sarah Connelly: We shouldn’t rely heavily only on open rates—it’s just the easiest metric. That’s why we all rely upon it. When you have a brand and you are doing everything right, like…
- Providing engaging content
- Sending emails via an email service provider that does the right things at the back end
- Leaning on your lists
- Having a sunset policy and having a great experience altogether
…you’ll rely less on open rates because you’ll have this idea that people will open the emails because they have signed up for your marketing content and are interested.
You see your customers doing this and that, making purchases from your firm, your firm is sending them content… When you really get good at that, you can ease back on some of the metrics, especially when you have no choice as they are going to be less reliable, and there will be changes in that.
People sending out marketing emails will have to take this evolution into account and be on board with it, because there is really no choice.
Vivek S: Sarah, let’s look at a scenario. Say I create a workflow and configure it to progress based on how the contacts engage with my email. When I send out the first email, Apple MMP will fire the open tracking, and the email will be marked as open even when the contact might not have read it. The workflow will progress and the follow-up email will be sent to the contact. Now, let’s assume that in a list of 100 people, around 40 click on the CTA and are confirmed as interested customers. The other 60 are shown as customers who have opened the email, but it’s tough to gauge whether it’s them or the system that has opened the email for them. So, can you please share your insights on how we can overcome the impact that Apple MPP has on workflows and how we can configure workflows going forward?
Sarah Connolly: There should be some purpose other than creating and delivering good content. You have to begin with some CTAs and consider the end result.
You have to be thoughtful about your end goal and think if it’s just sending out content.
So, you see, you have to include an element to click on, something that can function as an indicator, or deliver content by being sceptic about open rates. Use time- and date-based triggers and then add some polls, quizzes, or surveys where someone can interact or maybe sign up for a product.
Then you can use these as indicators for success and a way to move your contact through the workflow and let the emails go out. Then again, sending out regularly or on a daily basis for the 30-day series is different than sending out well-curated content in seven emails. Again, it comes back to being a lot more thoughtful about the audience you’re delivering your messages to.
Vivek S: So we have to design and send campaigns that will allow contacts to interact with the elements more so that we get to know who all are really interested in receiving our emails, right?
Sarah Connolly: Yes, that’s the way forward, and I often see clients come up with interesting things like moving the landscape or something, I sometimes think, if it’s even possible to do something like that. It depends on your industry and your audience. I know some people who actually have relationships with some of their contacts, like actually talking to them, so, you see, there’s an element of communication there, where it’s all specific to your business and how you want to approach it.
Again, having the right focus, using the right provider, creating engaging content, and making sure that you are clear about the outcome and goal of your campaign is much more than just sending emails.
Susmit Sen: Sarah, I was thinking about what happens when I manually collect the names of 100 people from a certain event and all of them have opted to receive emails from me. Let’s say 90 of them use Apple devices to open their emails. Now, all these people might not opt to click on the CTA button initially—they might wait for the second or the third email to see if the content is completely aligned with their tastes and preferences.
There are certain contacts who we need to send out emails consistently to ascertain if they are interested in subscribing or opting out. What do we do with those tricky numbers where the very first sign of engagement can be open rates?
Sarah Connolly: Well, there’s one good thing about an inflated email delivery number. If you see that your emails are in their inboxes, they’re delivered. Again, it goes back to the concept of expectation—what are they expecting from you? If you’re using a service to check whether all the emails in the workflow are delivered, you should forgo the aspect of open rates because your emails are at least delivered.
If it’s an inbox placement issue specific to a particular ISP, you need to be a little more crafty there and consider the indicators that are available. Then again, as you move through time, try to engage in another way. If it’s not the clickthrough or any other metric taken into account in the very beginning, I guess you should plan keeping in mind that your ultimate outcome is to provide the customer what they were expecting. And, if that’s not happening, you need to see historically what your conversion rate is, and that should be the way to make up for that initial open rate.
Arun Kumar: From the backend, how exactly will it affect the filtering system? For example, now that Apple MPP is active and people have started enabling it? Will mailbox service providers like Gmail and Yahoo feed this data to Apple systems or will there be any changes in the filtering system while classifying the emails and placing them in the inbox, spam folder, or junk folder? I’m concerned that this data can be sent to the mailbox service providers regarding the recipients actually opening the email or not opening the email.
Sarah Connolly: The whole aspect of deliverability versus inbox placement is really interesting. The key is where the emails are going. Are they going to the inbox or the junk folder? As the industry changes, the consumer or the recipient has a lot more to say regarding where their mail goes. So, the filters coming now are more advanced. The algorithms being used are getting better in defining what it is for me versus what it is for you, the story of wanted vs unwanted emails. So, with these recent changes coming into play, that is just one indication right there that this is here to stay and we have to deliver that content. We have to ensure that these people are engaged and we have to find other metrics to understand contact engagement.
Arun Kumar: So, there won’t be any changes in the filtering system?
Sarah Connolly: There will always be changes in the filtering system. It’s always changing, and the fact that the recipient has more control makes it apparent that the change is happening on a daily basis—not only from the side of the provider but also at the individual subscriber level.
Susmit Sen: BIMI looks into two aspects of email marketing—one, it looks into safeguarding the sender domain, and the other is the engagement factor. Today, BIMI is considered a good choice as not many people have practiced it. Anyone who provides the brand logo in the inbox becomes a standout example. Tomorrow, when many people start practicing it, will it remain special, or do you see BIMI undergoing some changes before that? What is your take on the future of BIMI?
Sarah Connolly: BIMI is just another indicator, because out there, a lot of bad stuff is coming in. With SPF, DKIM, DMARC, and BIMI, there will be another acronym in the future. There will be another new indicator that might use all four of these until we come up with some better way to do this.
There needs to be a thing like internet of standards for email. These things will keep on progressing—they will snowball and evolve because there is just so much malicious activity out there. I hope more people adopt it as it forces people to think about what this is, and there are email service providers who will handle these things for them and make sure all is okay.
I think it is an indicator that everyone should adopt it, and once it’s done, the malicious actors will find ways to work around these. Once it happens, we’ll again create another acronym to combat those problems or mitigate them.
Vivek S: Before BIMI was implemented, people used to open an email reading the sender name and subject line. What does BIMI do better than these two to persuade people to open emails?
Sarah Connolly: Any little thing to help people distinguish something from a sea of emails is welcome. So, there’s something that hopefully grabs everyone’s attention over another email. We aren’t talking about bad vs good but brand vs brand.
Will it be a huge factor in reliable open rates? Maybe, but I think the whole point is that you have all these tools, you have all these little nuanced things you can try to show that your mail is not only legitimate and safe but that it also has content that’s provided at the right time. So, I don’t think it replaces anything—it’s just another signal out there. BIMI may be a logo, but it also indicates from a technical standpoint, from a safety standpoint, telling the subscriber that you have DMARC, SPF, and DKIM.
Arun Kumar: Some inbox service providers will show the BIMI logo only for senders they classify as bulk senders. This means they calculate the number of emails and classify a sender as a bulk sender and not as an individual sender. Is there any specific volume mentioned? Because there are senders who want to opt for BIMI but their volume is quite less. Can you please tell us what can be suggested to them?
Sarah Connolly: I don’t have an exact number for this, however I will say that a company should send mail according to the number of subscribers. I mean, don’t force, don’t send more emails so that you get this logo to show. That might lead you to the spam folder.
It should be done as per a reasonable amount—if you have a small business, you might probably not need BIMI just because you are niche and you are getting to the inbox. I think if you’re a super high volume sender and you have all these things in place, that’s a different conversation. If you think there are experts involved to analyze the volume of emails you’re sending and why the numbers aren’t showing up, it might be an issue. However, for most senders, you should send what you send and not worry about the logo. Use your other metrics—not open rates, but the other things.
Arun Kumar: Are only marketing emails taken into consideration? Or are transactional emails and notifications also considered by ISPs when it comes to the matter of sending volume?
Sarah Connolly: It should be a collective of all types of emails, although transactional emails give really positive signals to the ISPs. I think it mainly focuses on the sending volume of your marketing emails.