The Death of the Open Metric (and other freak outs)

Are you freaking out about how Apple’s recent announcement regarding new privacy functionality of the upcoming iOS 15 might impact your email strategy? I was too! But then I took some deep yogic breaths and thought about it. We already know what to do about this and have the tools to do it. Hear me out.

What is email engagement really? It is responding amicably to a message that was sent to me. I engage fully with messages sent to me by my mom (and I usually reply back to her). I typically like what I see from Bon Appetit Magazine. I completely ignore Zappos messaging after a pretty solemn Kon Mari session with my shoe storage.

Mostly, I open lots of messages with which I don’t truly engage. I glaze over at light speed and move on or delete. In our current engagement tracking, we tend to rely very heavily on opens as confirmation our message was enjoyed and appreciated, but I think we all know that’s not really an accurate tracking mechanism. What is more accurate is a click or, even better, an action (survey submission, ticket purchase, gift, etc). When someone actually reads and feels compelled to click an email, we know we’ve made genuine impact.

And don’t forget about those corporate email protection systems such as Barracuda which affect open tracking. Tracking opens as the sole metric for engagement is no longer accurate.

So, how to we reframe around new privacy policies and technology? We did it before when Gmail said they wanted us to suppress readers that did not open. We can adapt again and stay competitive in the email marketing field.

Come September, your more accurate engagement tracking mechanism, at least for Apple users, will be clicks and actions, which you can track in Blackbaud Luminate Online. Yes, that may dramatically reduce your target audiences. But there are actions you can take to increase clicks and actions within your emails – and now is the time to start testing what works best for you. Perhaps we allow for click/action engagement for a full 365 days? Perhaps we adopt a stricter adherence to offering short teaser content with a link to “read more”? (This has always been a best practice, btw. If you’ve been putting the whole story in your email, your time may be up.) Perhaps we strive to use more messaging by video so the reader must click to view? Perhaps our onboarding strategy needs a refresh so we’re solidifying that readership right off the bat? Perhaps we ask our constituents to reply back to my email with an answer or comment? Sure, that’s a bit old school but it is also PERSONAL and highly engaging. I’m still brainstorming and would love to hear your ideas in the comments section below

There are a lot of things left to consider (such as Apple’s “Hide My Email” functionality).  And the team at Blackbaud, myself included, are monitoring this carefully. We plan to have some great upcoming webinars and resources available for you. My biggest takeaway is that you already have everything you need available to you. Hit me up if you want to talk about this. I’ll be sure to share what I know as I myself get more clarity.

One thing that has always remained true is that the email industry changes, sometimes rapidly and without warning. To be successful, we have to change with it. This might not be easy, but it is unavoidable. I know you can do it! You’re non-profits, after all.

Here’s some good reading on the Apple changes:

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If you are a Blackbaud Luminate Online user, you can get more insight at our Q3 town hall.