Background: Traditional email marketing utilizes remote images that load when viewing an email or invisible tracking pixels to track email opens and gather information from the recipient’s device such as IP address.
As announced at the recent MacWorld 2021, Apple is introducing a new Mail Privacy Protection with its iOS 15, iPadOS 15 and macOS Monterey updates coming this fall, which eliminates many of the email tracking and data gathering capabilities from email marketers.
Apple states that its upcoming Mail Privacy Protection “Stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.”
Apple also will introduce a new “Hide My Email” feature, which allows users “to share unique, random email addresses that forward to their personal inbox anytime they wish to keep their personal email address private. The feature also enables users to create and delete as many addresses as needed at any time, helping give users control of who is able to contact them.”
Why is this new development important?
iPhone and iPad accounted for 40.3% of all email users in Q1 2021. More important is the fact, that 43% of all emails are opened on smartphones and Apple’s iPhone controls a whopping 90% of email opens (Litmus).
This is not the first time email marketing has suffered a major blow. Gmail, used by more than 1.5 billion people around the world, algorithmically decides which email sent to your mailbox constitutes a marketing email and automatically brands the email as promotional and directs it to the “Promotions” folder people rarely pay attention to.
What does it all mean for hotel marketers?
With this new privacy update, hotel marketers will not be able to track, target, analyze, optimize and report on several important email marketing benchmarks and capabilities:
- Open Rate: This is an important benchmark, indicating how many of your marketing emails have been opened and read, how enticing and creative your subject line is, how appealing is the promotion, etc.
- Time Email Opened: An important benchmark that helps marketers time their campaigns, especially significant for limited time offers and promotions.
- Geo-targeting by IP address: Since Apple will mask the recipient’s IP address, this will eliminate geo location targeting by user’s IP address, an important capability of email marketers until now.
- Information about the user’s device will also be hidden, depriving marketers from the capability to target by device or dynamically change the email format based on device (mobile, iPad, desktop).
- Dynamic personalization of the subject line: Marketers will no longer be able to personalize the subject line based on pixel-derived data.
So what will email marketers still be able to track?
- Number of emails sent and delivered, provided by the Email Service Provider (ESP)
- Clickthrough Rates and Conversions, naturally, if marketers use analytical tools like Adobe Analytics or Google Analytics.
What should hotel marketers do?
This latest privacy protection move by Apple is not an isolated phenomenon, but part of a privacy protection strategy by all of the technology and Internet giants like Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, etc. For example, recently Apple curtailed and de facto eliminated the identifier for advertisers or IDFA, the only tool advertisers used to precisely target and track users within apps on iOS devices. Google plans to block third-party cookies from its popular browser Chrome by the end of 2021, after Apple’s Safari and Firefox already did this a few years back.
All of these privacy protection development underscore the importance of first-party data, incl. first-party cookies, which allows you to establish direct relationships with your potential, past, present and future customers, personalize and automate your marketing to these customers, and geo-target them based on their physical address, not by IP address which is being increasingly blocked by the recent privacy protection moves.
First-party data in hospitality is the customer data (past customers & guests, website users, opt-in email subscribers, lists of corporate travel managers, meeting planners, wedding and event planners, SMERF group leaders the property has been doing business with or at least in communications with, etc.) that comes from the PMS, CRS, WBE, CRM program, from the property's website, opt-in email sign-ups, even customer lists sitting on laptops of sales and marketing personnel.
First party data allows you to conduct successful email marketing campaigns by geo targeting past and potential customers by their physical address, and personalize your marketing messages, promotions, packages and offers based on your in-depth knowledge of the customer thus boosting clickthroughs, conversions and revenue.
How do you manage your first-party data?
The answer is very simple: by investing in CRM and Customer Data Platform (CDP) technologies.
- A CDP allows any hotel company to collect, store and manage all of the property or hotel company’s first-party customer data – online and offline data - and have it cleansed, de-duped, enriched and appended automatically in real time thus creating “a single source of truth” of the customer. An industry example of CDP technology is Cendyn’s cloud Starling CDP. The CDP data feeds are then used in operations, guest communications, guest services, CRM communications and marketing automation, email marketing, personalization and digital marketing, loyalty marketing initiatives, etc. to improve dramatically the customer experience, efficiency and profitability.
- A CRM program and technology can not only create 360-degree guest profiles, but more importantly categorize past guests based on their RFM value (Recency, Frequency, Monetary), augment guest profiles with preferences, social media ambassadorship, customer engagement data, etc. and conduct marketing automation and drip marketing campaigns in the pre-, during- and post-stay. Industry examples of CRM technology are Cendyn CRM, SHR Maverick CRM, Revinate CRM, etc.
How do you increase the size of your first-party data?
There two main approaches:
- Provide value for customer information.
The goal of these initiatives is to entice potential or existing customers to provide their information voluntarily (opt-in) through incentives or future gains, perks and benefits so they can be marketed to directly. RevTrax, a company empowering retail brands deliver dynamic promotions across channels, has coined the phrase “value exchange” to describe this process.
Incentives like “Sign-up to receive our weekly newsletter and get a coupon for 10% off from your next stay at our hotel” go a long way. Vouchers for spa treatment, suite discounts, free upgrades, F&B incentives, gas reimbursement vouchers, etc. are only some of these value-for-information trade-ins available to hotel marketers at many touch points throughout the Digital Customer Journey.
- Content Marketing
This is an equally powerful channel to increase your first party data. Review and optimize your property’s Content Marketing initiatives, whose role has been highly elevated by the recent privacy protection moves. The objective here is to create unique and relevant content that provides real value to the travel consumers and that can be “gated” i.e. content that is enticing enough so users are willing to provide their information in order to access it or subscribe to receiving it.
Your property’s Expert Knowledge Marketing initiatives provide the perfect “gated” content opportunities, including podcasts, webinars, virtual cooking classes, valuable spa and wellness-related advice, chef recipes, cocktail recipes, wedding and social event how-to guides, etc.
Don’t despair. Email marketing is not going away. Here are few tips:
- Create a first-party data collection and management strategy.
- Invest in CRM and CDP technology to be able to communicate directly with potential, present and future customers and geo-target them by physical addresses vs IP addresses that are being increasingly blocked.
- In-source or outsource the ongoing creation of unique and engaging content worthy of customers to sign up to access it.
- Come up with enticing offers and promotions to increase conversion rates from email marketing, CRM and loyalty marketing, and your digital marketing efforts.
- Adopt a value-for-information incentive program to trade-in customers’ voluntarily provided information for future hotel value adds, perks and benefits.