Well, we knew it would happen. First, we saw enterprise email systems sending back false open signals. Then Apple really upped the ante by rolling out their Mail Privacy Protection to all their users.
Now, Google has joined in.
Gmail’s newly-identified image prefetching is the latest (but probably not the last) improvement to chip away at the reliability of Open data.
To be clear, this is not an issue that will have the same widespread effect as Apple’s MPP. But it will further skew your open data nonetheless.
According to Sparkpost, the prefetching only happens under particular and limited circumstances:
So, for instance, if your contact leaves Gmail open in a background tab on their web browser, the Google image prefetching will automatically send back an Open signal for any messages that arrive while that tab is open.
The same will happen if your contact has the Gmail app open on a mobile device when a message arrives.
Sparkpost estimates that between 1% – 6% of open signal data in your contact database will be impacted by Google’s update, depending on how much your audience uses Gmail.
So, while this is not nearly on the same scale as Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection, these false signals build up. Add in fake data from enterprise email systems, and your Open rates could be off by 50% or more.
We don’t expect this to be the last time an email service provider makes changes that interfere with open data.
If your marketing automation platform is still taking Open signals at face value, then you need to upgrade. You need a platform that looks past increasingly unreliable Open data and finds the real, human interactions.
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