Companies have been able to glean unparalleled insights into their user’s data. But that unencumbered look into customer’s purchasing habits is being severely curtailed as privacy steps up — front and center.

You may have noticed a torrent of companies modifying their privacy policies lately. Most recently, Apple announced a new policy aimed at curbing data collection by implementing sweeping email privacy changes.

These updates usher in big changes to businesses that rely on collecting data from a third party to shape their marketing strategies. Businesses like your wine brand.
While it will take some shifting in your strategy and retooling of your data-gathering tactics, plenty of methods remain to collect nuanced intel. Simply put — you need to go back to basics.

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Key changes to Apple’s new email privacy policy

The biggest changes to Apple’s recent email privacy updates place the choice of sharing data in the hands of the user.

Anyone with Mac Mail or email through iOS now has the ability to switch the Protect Mail Activity button on. When your customer swipes that button on, here’s what will happen.

1. Invisible pixels will be blocked. These invisible pixels currently collect information about the user and send them to you. This will mostly affect the open rate and any other information about the email being opened, like what they clicked on and how much time they spent reading your email.

2. IP addresses will be hidden. When you track an IP address, you get a peek into some key user info, particularly their location and online activity. Not being able to see a customer’s IP address will make it harder to target them for ads and segmented emails.

3. All remote content will be privately loaded. Before, images were loaded along with the IP address. Now, remote content will be loaded behind a scrim, offering no intel on the IP address whatsoever.

Third-party data collectors have nothing on your ability to connect with your customers, talk to them, and ask them questions.

What these changes mean for your wine brand’s marketing metrics

These specific privacy developments will affect some of the most important metrics you depend on to inform your strategies. There are some changes that we’re still learning the implications of, but here’s what we do know.

First off, open rates will actually skew higher. This isn’t necessarily a good thing. Apple Mail privacy protection is expected to “prefetch” images before a user opens an email, meaning that your open rates might look good initially, but those numbers won’t be accurate. You won’t know whether the email was opened by the actual recipient or just pre-checked by the privacy feature.

Furthermore, your click-to-open rate (or CTOR) will potentially decrease. You won’t be able to get an accurate picture of the percentage of people who open your email as well as click on a link or image within the email. This will make it difficult to determine what content is resonating with your customers — and how to adjust accordingly.

Lastly, location data is going to suffer. Some zip code-based segmentation will be unavailable due to IP addresses being hidden.

Here’s what you can do about it

Breathe a sigh of relief — there is some good news.

First is that this applies to customers with an email address through Apple. Look at your customer base and see how many people use Apple Mail email addresses. In doing so, you’ll be able to gauge whether a portion of your stats may be affected. Keep in mind that other email providers opened from the Apple Mail app will be affected. So, if your customers view their Gmail account through the Apple Mail app, they will not be as easy to identify.

Second, there is zero indication that these privacy changes will affect Google Analytics. And absent is the possibility that “query-string parameters” are being removed from URLs.

Finally, remember that open rates aren’t the goal of any marketing campaign. The end goal is the sale.

Emails are important, but they’re just one drip in the long sequence of your brand’s strategy to shepherd a customer through the purchasing funnel. It doesn’t matter if the email was opened and read all the way through. It matters if the email compelled the customer to act on your message, whether it be to visit your website, make a purchase, or read about an upcoming allocation offering.

Third-party data is obsolete when your wine brand goes back to basics

Without “big brother” helping you out, it makes sense if you’re worried about how to move forward with certain marketing and sales strategies. But there’s one thing the wine industry has always done well and will get you through these challenges — building relationships with your customers.

Third-party data collectors have nothing on your ability to connect with your customers, talk to them, and ask them questions. They can’t learn what’s important to them the way you can. Just make sure that you are logging this valuable information into your CRM and leverage it to create unique segments for targeted marketing campaigns.

And sure, you may have to adjust to gathering more qualitative information over quantitative. But ultimately, wouldn’t you rather preserve that human connection, decrease your reliance on Big tech, and still run a successful business?

If you really want to know what your customers think of your emails, why not ask them directly? It is easier than ever to send out a survey to get the feedback you need by using online tools such as Survey Monkey or Google Forms. Surveys should always be brief and tailored to specific groups. If you are having trouble with participation, consider offering an incentive for feedback.

Many of these email privacy changes seem scarier than they really are for the wine industry. Think about other hospitality and luxury brands that have stood the test of Big Tech because of their unique position in developing authentic human connections.

In a research study conducted by Campaign Monitor, 83% of people are willing to provide personal data if it means a more personalized experience. Because when you’re getting a personalized experience, it means you’re inherently building trust. It’s hard to willingly give your personal information to someone you don’t trust, isn’t it?

There are some bits of data that can’t be culled from an email campaign. Data such as the time and place where a customer’s first sip of your wine convinced them to sign up to be part of your wine club. Or data like how a bride and groom decided to serve your wine at their wedding after their amazing visit to your winery.

It’s data points like those that can mean the most.

So don’t despair. Though Big Tech has changed many things, it hasn’t negated the fact that your wine brand excels at building enduring relationships. And that’s something no privacy policy can ever erase.