The way CiviCRM and all bulk Email tools work is to add this invisible pixel that tells the bulk mailer that you've opened the email when you've download the pictures. Now this stat is already quite a bad indication of how many people are reading your emails as if the end users doesn't download the photo's they don't get counted anyway. Most browsers block this by default and people have to make a conscious effort to click "show images". Which does beg the question why do we spend so much time adding lots of images to newsletters when over half won't even see them?
In June 2021 Apple had their usual Worldwide Developer Conference and made a small announcement about Mail Privacy Protection that is likely to affect everyone. So what is Mail Privacy Protection?
In the Mail app, 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.
Assuming most Apple users just accept this option when their phones, iPads, Macs are updated this will remove the invisible pixels before it reaches the inbox. Now as Apple has a huge market share of people opening emails on their operating systems this will obviously affect your stats.
So what can we do?
In regard to the tracking pixel? Nothing. Google will surely follow suit and that will be the end of that method of seeing if people are actually engaging with your content.
However there are other ways to track your engagement with your newsletter groups. Click Through rates is the main one that is already built in to CiviCRM. This tracks how many times people click on a link within your newsletter, this is useful as this shows what people are finding interesting on newsletters. For example when sending out GMCVO Databases mailings the ones that get the most interactions are Meet-ups and funding opportunities. Not really surprising I know.
The other way to measure engagement is to have more feedback directly from clients, either via the website or with surveys sent out to your stakeholders.
Who knows, but the direction of travel is certainly in the privacy first direction. Apple are making money from other avenues so don't need to track your across the web so will be actively blocking this area. However even Google is going to stop third party cookies next year and their business has revolved around them for the last 15 years. So tracking users on your websites is going to become harder in the future but I am sure there will be tools that allow this
This is all down to stopping people abusing your data online for advertising but this has a knock-on effect for charities, in that it is going to become more difficult to demonstrate the impact and reach of your work going forward.
I am sure that there will be changes within Mailing Systems to try to help this and we will keep you updated on any tools to help support you as always.