GDPR – the marketing opportunity

GDPR – the marketing opportunity

Before the introduction of the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018, talk in marketing circles has centred around the threats and challenges it poses

With potential fines for non-compliance amounting to €20 million or 4% of global annual turnover, GDPR needs to be responded to quickly and with diligence, but marketers should also recognise the positive side of the new legislation. This takes the form of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to wipe the slate clean and radically overhaul the way customer data is collected and used.

To recap, GDPR is being introduced to enhance the data protection available to EU citizens. It has a wide-ranging scope but its essential premise is that businesses cannot use someone’s personal data without their specific consent. Also among its provisions is the power for people to access any data held on them (free of charge) and demand its erasure; while the relevant authorities must be notified of any data breaches within 72 hours of their discovery.

In readiness for this, businesses are now scrambling to organise their customer data so that everything is more secure, but also more readily accessible in the event that a customer demands to see the data held on them, or makes a ‘right to be forgotten’ request.

Time to invest in data analytics

Here is where GDPR offers the potential to eradicate lax and inefficient marketing practices. In survey after survey, marketers continually say that a lack of good quality data hampers lead generation and conversion. In many cases the mouth of the sales funnel is clogged with dead links, duplications and out-of-date information, since there’s previously been little impetus for giving everything a damn good spring clean.

Now though, is the ideal time for marketers to persuade their organisation’s bean-counters to invest in new data analytics tools – perhaps even those with predictive analysis and artificial intelligence (AI). By populating these tools with only the most important, useful and legally compliant data, organisations will be able to operate in a far smarter manner than anything that has gone before, helping marketing budgets stretch further.

For example, data rationalisation should mean an end to customers getting multiple mailshots because they appear more than once on a database (or are duplicated across legacy databases). Furthermore, having a single, consolidated view of the customer should also facilitate more informed responses when that customer engages with a call centre or other service point.

A chance to build greater trust and engagement

By enforcing a change to the relationship a business has with its customers, GDPR should allow both sides to become more engaged. It should also mean customers developing greater trust in the companies they do business with, since their relationship and the data it generates will no longer disappear into a ‘black hole’.

Companies therefore need to shout about their GDPR compliance (once they’ve achieved it) and use it as a selling point, by pointing out to customers that the communications they receive in future will be more relevant and better targeted. This matters in a world where customers have ever-higher aspirations in terms of speed, simplicity and personalisation of marketing communications.

Get customer consent now, not later

One of the most significant changes due to be ushered in by GDPR is a complete realignment of the way customer consent to data usage is handled. After May 2018, businesses will no longer be able to include a pre-ticked box, which the customer must untick in order to opt out of consent. Instead, the customer must actively choose to opt in, giving their consent freely and of their own accord, without coercion, undue incentives or penalties. As such, gaining this GDPR-compliant consent should be among your organisation’s top priorities in the run-up to the legislation’s launch.

Businesses must keep records that show the date on which consent was given, what was consented to and how it was obtained. Among the most effective ways to achieve this is by using the ‘double opt-in’ method, whereby a customer tick on the initial form triggers a follow-up email to them, incorporating a hyperlink that they can use to confirm all the details are correct. The returning email confirmation from the subscriber provides suitable evidence of consent under GDPR.

While the fine detail and full implications of GDPR – and the UK government’s response to it in the Data Protection Bill – are still being assessed, marketing has an opportunity to get ahead by encouraging businesses to invest in its data protection management, and in building a culture of compliance. Accept the opportunity GDPR offers and you will soon see the dividends reflected in your bottom line.

To learn more about GDPR, attend CIM's specialist training course, Essential Guide to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and ePR for Marketers, or the new GDPR e-learning course from CIM, in collaboration with MeLearning.

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