Apple’s blanket ban on so-called email tracking pixels – a invisible device which tracks whether email marketing campaigns have been opened – could backfire on the company with nearly three-quarters (71%) of consumers wanting personal control over who tracks them.
That is the stark conclusion of a new study by data science company Profusion, carried out in association with Alligator Digital, which ultimately reveals that data privacy is no longer black and white; there are subtle differences between how consumers feel about certain activities.
Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection feature, to be launched this autumn for iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, prevents senders from learning whether an email has been opened via the tracking pixels, and hides IP addresses so senders cannot learn a user’s location or use it to build a profile on them.
But Profusion reckons the fact that most people do not want this is in line with a general trend towards people exercising greater control over their online privacy. A significant majority of people surveyed reported an understanding of GDPR, reading cookie notifications and modifying their access according to preference and unsubscribing from emails.
The research also highlighted the complex relationship people have with privacy in email communications. When asked to rank what they disliked about emails, the number one complaint was that they were ‘too frequent’ (58%) followed by ‘not personalised’ (39%) and generic (27%).
However, when asked if they would accept more generic emails to protect their privacy, 63% said definitely yes. In relation to tracking pixels – 61% of respondents understood their purpose in personalisation and monitoring open rates – and 54% reported having no issue with them being used.
Profusion believes these results indicate consumers accept limited monitoring if they are in control and if it is in the context of a clearly understood value exchange. In this instance, exchanging data on email behaviour for personalised offers and content.
Worryingly for marketers, 41% respondents say they believe they have never received an immediately relevant personalised offer in an email, while 48% believe they have never received dynamic content and 41% rarely or never engage with marketing emails. More than two-thirds (67%) reported a dislike for retargeting ads and 43% believe social listening is a violation of their privacy.
Profusion chief executive Natalie Cramp said: “Our research shows that the online privacy debate is becoming more nuanced. It is not as simple as saying more privacy is always popular. What people want is greater control. They want to better choose who they give their data to if it means a better service.
“Apple’s tracking pixel ban showcases this position. Many consumers love personalised emails and understand the trade off in giving some data to companies to make this happen. As a result, they don’t want a blanket ban but instead want to be able to tailor access on a case by case basis.
“This preference for personalisation does not extend to online advertising – a significant majority of people are put off by retargeting. The lesson for marketers is that context and consent are crucial elements in how you personalise your messages.
“Giving your customers a clear and informed choice will get the best results. This means educating them on how their data is used and showcasing the benefits. Our results also highlight not only how important email as a channel is, but how much work marketers still have to do on getting this right – perhaps if we were we wouldn’t be facing blanket bans.”
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