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What is Apple’s New "Hide My Email" Feature?

As part of Apple's continued push into driving consumer privacy through their devices and services, the Cupertino company has announced an upcoming feature called "Hide My Email". This is part of a trio of new privacy-focused services for iCloud users under iCloud Plus.

Hide My Email enables users to sign up for digital services or accounts that require an email address without disclosing their actual email address. Instead, you create a fake email address linked to your real one – but only you and Apple know the linkage. This allows you to use your fake email addresses to create digital accounts without ever having to provide your real email.

This sounds confusing, right? 

I have an idea - let’s look at an animated gif to see a visual of the process!

That was fun (and hopefully helpful)!

So, How Does It Work?

Under the new iOS 15 release, Apple users will have the option to enable the Hide My Email setting. Enabling this setting allows users to create new private email addresses or what marketers refer to as “burner” emails. Apple lets users do this in three steps:

1. Create a random email address @icloud.com

2. Add a label/note for detailing where this might be used

3. Connect it to a real forwarding email address

Once this feature is enabled, the user will be able to insert the “burner” email address into online forms or into the “from” field when sending an email from the Apple Mail app. Users will be prompted when an email address field is detected to drop in a “Hide My Email” address or create a new one. For example, let’s say a user is signing up for a company’s newsletter. They can use the “Hide My Email” option and submit it. Apple then forwards any messages to their real inbox. 

Apple hide my email display

But What Does This Mean for Marketers?

As the digital privacy landscape has been rapidly evolving with ITP3, Google’s announcement of the third-party cookie’s deprecation, and now Apple’s forthcoming slew of additional privacy services including Hide My Email, the marketer’s job will only continue to become more difficult. 

As the third-party cookie fades into history, the adtech industry has started working toward leveraging alternative individual-level identifiers at scale such as the universal unique identifier (UUID). However, this solution and others like it are often dependent on hashing processes centered around the user’s email address. If brands aren’t receiving a user’s actual email address ([email protected] in the GIF above) then they can’t use those actual emails to onboard email-driven hashed IDs into the adtech ecosystem. This will result in a proliferation of different IDs for users in the ecosystem and will decrease match rates across publisher networks and adtech solutions. 

Confusing again? I know. But let’s look at another GIF to walk through the steps.

Ultimately, this results in continued consolidation of targeting capabilities for marketers in walled gardens such as Facebook and Google and further highlights a crucial need for organizations to own their own first-party identity graph. 

Considerations for User Adoption

While data privacy is a prominent motivator for consumers, there are several additional considerations that might impact user adoption of Hide My Email. Below are some pros and cons for consumers thinking about enabling this new capability:

PROs:

Control and Privacy This feature will limit spam in the customer’s inbox, restrict organizations from selling users’ data, and control who can utilize real email addresses.

Unlimited Email Addresses In addition to creating pseudo email addresses, Hide My Email also allows users the scalability to create and delete as many emails as needed, giving users more control of which organizations can contact you and how often.

Utilize My Own Provider Even though users will be creating “burner” email addresses that end in @icloud.com, users can still forward messages to any email provider (Google, Yahoo, HotMail).

CONs:

Negative Customer Experience As more consumers expect organizations to know them, utilizing a “burner” email will effectively make a customer unknown to an organization, limiting their ability to provide highly relevant communications. This may cause a poor customer experience in situations like addressing a customer service concern, which requires pulling up your information, or recommending related products based on your past behaviors.

Premium Cost Although Hide My Email will be built directly into Safari, Mail, and iCloud settings, the feature is only accessible to those who subscribe to iCloud+, a premium upgrade that costs anywhere from $1 to $10 per month.

User Expertise Despite growing privacy concerns, users will still need to be technically savvy and knowledgeable to implement and manage their “burner” emails.

How Marketers Should Prepare

It will take some time for marketers to understand the full impact of this new feature, but strategies that organizations can begin implementing now include:

  • Explain benefits for users to give real email addresses (such as better customer service and experiences)
  • Evaluate current email marketing campaign frequency and adjust touchpoints for customers to proactively prevent your messages from becoming noise in the customer’s inbox
  • Create domain benchmarks within current email files and monitor over the iOS 15 release (for example, today we have x% of @icloud.com addresses)
  • Test email performance KPIs, like email deliverability and open rates, pre- and post-iOS 15 release
  • Create different experiences/audience groups for @icloud.com domains
    • These users may be more sensitive to promotional emails vs. transactional emails
  • Ensure you are collecting additional customer identifiers like name, physical address, phone, zip code, etc. and building out your own first-party identity graph
  • Create user profiles and store the Hide My Email address as a unique persistent ID
    • The user interacting with your emails will be consistently recognized in your platforms as the same individual
  • Test onboarding files to different media platforms or with direct publisher connections
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