In May 2018, Europe implemented the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which standardises data protection law across all 28 EU countries and imposes new rules on controlling and processing personally identifiable information (PII). Six months on, companies are looking at how implementation has progressed and what impact it has had on businesses. According to Deloitte, 61 per cent of organisations said they believe GDPR has benefits beyond just implementation. Of those, 21 per cent expect significant benefits, including competitive advantage, improved reputation and business enablement.
What most can agree on, is for any organisation there will be both challenges and opportunities from the regulations. These range from the time-commitment required to successfully maintain GDPR, to the ways companies can increase value and consumer trust. While the implementation of GDPR falls heavily on all aspects of business, key pieces will need direct input from marketing teams, as they have first-hand knowledge of, and interaction with, customers.
GDPR is a full-time commitment
The assumption from many businesses was that the ‘heavy lifting’ to comply with the new regulations took place in the lead up to its introduction in May 2018. While the initial compliance setup was time consuming, as many companies had to implement changes to comply with GDPR’s notice and consent requirements, businesses have also begun to realise how the regulations affect their day-to-day operations. In order to ensure compliance, companies may have to hire compliance officers, add assessment processes when developing new tactics and remain vigilant about updates in regulation.
Lack of awareness into post-Brexit GDPR
Once the UK leaves the EU, it will present uncertainty on GDPR in the UK. Whether or not the UK decides to keep GDPR as is, or develop its own version, the original regulations still apply to any organisation processing the personal data of any EU citizen or resident — for example, customers, prospects, employees and individuals who visit the website. With this, organisations will have to determine whether or not they want to adopt GDPR standards globally or apply it specifically for EU countries.
In short, professionals who heavily relied on data collection have realised equirements have shifted and will continue to shift. In fact, email marketers had to navigate new opt-in permission rules, proof of consent storing systems and the reality that consumers might ask to have their personal information removed. Ultimately, strategies across organisations will continue to change.
Driving more value from marketing efforts
While individuals may believe GDPR takes away from email marketing’s ROI, it can actually improve it by taking individuals off marketing lists who didn’t want to be there in the first place.
Email continues to be one of the top investments businesses can make. In fact, 59 per cent of marketers cite it as the top ROI-generating marketing method for their organisations. Perhaps this is why we expect to see email marketing spend rise from £1.62 billion in 2014 to £2.4 billion in 2019.
However, in order for email marketing to be a sustained success, companies must actively engage subscribers with relevant content. If businesses are sending non-relevant information, then they will see a decrease in engagement from their subscribers, which can result in wasted time and money.
When an organisation is thoughtful in the content they create, email can maximise the reach of that content while offering a proven consent-driven marketing channel. Given email marketing lists have slimmed down post-GDPR, the consumers on these lists have proactively given consent and opted-in to receive information. Therefore, they are more engaged and likely to convert their interest into action.
Earning trust among consumers
While initially, direct and email marketing took a hit, GDPR has provided a platform for brands to be more value-based and sincere in their approaches. Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of the UK population believe a company’s values, actions and corporate reputation are just as important as its product attributes and features. This means organisations who use, or want to use, personal data need to earn the trust and respect of potential or existing customers by exuding a strong value. Brands whose communications earn and respect the trust of their consumers are the ones who will succeed in this new era. In fact, if consumers feel they can trust the brand, 75 per cent say they willing to share personal data for valuable benefits and products. Brands that do not engage in a trusted relationship with their customers will risk seeing them opt out of email marketing, declining cookie permissions, etc., potentially losing both them and their data. A customer lost is hard to win back, especially if companies can no longer use up-to-date first-party data. Moving forward, we will see much more insights- and value-driven strategies and engagement.
The power of GDPR: For brands and consumers
At its core, GDPR called for a massive overhaul of data collection with a simple purpose: to give people greater control of their information. These new regulations elevated the level at which organisations can understand and communicate with their audience. GDPR may be intimidating, but ultimately, it is far from Armageddon, especially for companies who value quality user experience. What most may not realise is that GDPR will strengthen the quality and engagement of an organisation's consumer, providing more value to the bottom line.
Now, people may have more power over their information. However, it does not mean email marketing has lost its appeal. If anything, email marketers have an even greater opportunity to improve the lives of consumers. By listening to users, we can easily evolve with email marketing. Perhaps this is why email marketing is still more valuable than almost any other form of marketing—its success is largely based on trust and building relationships with clients. In the end, GDPR will provide far more benefits for organisations, particularly in marketing efforts.
Shane Phair, CMO, Campaign Monitor
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