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GDPR: an opportunity for better customer engagement

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Wright Studio)

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) May 25, 2018 effective date has come and gone. We’re over a month in and by all accounts, the earth is still rotating, birds still visit my bird feeder, the sky remains blue, and the internet still appears to be working in the EU.  That’s not to say that the impact hasn’t been felt deeply by businesses and people across the globe. In particular, the advertising and marketing sector still has a lot to figure out. Scores of global businesses sent out mass-emails seeking re-consent of their email databases, where in many cases this was not needed. Websites and services continue to collect and use personal data, and make visitors’ use of their sites or services contingent on such consent. This key consent for service/content issue forms the basis of lawsuits against Facebook and Google which were filed on the day the GDPR went live. We will need to see how those suits play out over time to really understand the impact on advertising and marketing use cases. Additionally, California just passed a sweeping privacy law which includes many of the same GDPR rights and requirements. That law will have a powerful national and global impact as well given the breadth of the legislation - but will face a round of amendments before implementation. 

These situations of course create uncertainty, especially for business-to-business technology companies who provide products and services to these affected global brands. The GDPR and new California law focus deeply on the collection and use of personal data, and marketers have always sought out two things in crafting messaging/engagement: personalization and return on investment. 

The GDPR has created significant protections for citizens in how companies can collect and utilize personal data. In many cases, like the use of cookies or mobile device IDs for advertising, the GDPR’s rules have made life more challenging for marketers to attain consent or other utilize bases for processing personal data. However, data collected by marketers about known customers is different. This 1st party data is spawned by a direct, engaged, purposeful interaction with a brand. This translates to consent, a customer relationship – making marketing to that end user much more viable in this new privacy-forward world. Additionally, the rights granted to citizens via the GDPR have created an environment where customer data platforms (CDPs) can develop features and reporting for compliance which actually improve the marketer’s toolset overall. So, the perhaps unexpected conclusion is: GDPR is good for global brands interested in deeper, personalized, real-time engagement with known customers. 

Here’s how and why:    

Impact: Ability to Leverage the 360 Customer View

To abide by the GDPR’s enhanced data subject rights, like the right to access personal data and the right to data rectification, brands need to be able to quickly view an accurate, real-time, consolidated profile of each customer. In order to deliver data in a common, machine-readable format, customer data needs to be unified from various sources into a centralized location, pooled and provided in a timely fashion. This unified customer profile significantly helps brands comply with GDPR, but it also affords marketers a powerful tool for customer engagement and loyalty. A CDP which has integrated across a brand’s marketing stack can unify 1st party data into a unique, golden record which can be used to drive new, highly targeted customer experiences based on previous purchases, activity or behavior. Additionally, CDPs which are leveraging the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning can help prove customer value over time using the golden record as valuable seed data. This record becomes a single place for a holistic view of data that the customer has provided themselves, behavior that the brand has observed as the customer engages with the brand, and predictive metrics based on the customer’s historic behavior. 

Impact: Prioritizing Thoughtful Engagement

Given the GDPR’s powerful “right to be forgotten”, brands need to prioritize thoughtful, personalized customer engagement practices to keep their customers engaged and avoid the need to exercise the right to be forgotten or the rights to restrict processing. One way to do this is to develop a focused customer lifecycle management strategy that progressively guides consumers through an ongoing engagement and purchase journey. In addition to tactics like calendarized campaigns centered around holidays or product launches, brands can design and deliver highly targeted experiences throughout a customer’s lifecycle that are based on his or her unique behaviors, preferences, and relationship with the brand.  For instance, if a CDP knows that a particular customer has purchased coffee each day of the week at 9:00 am, a coffee offer or incentive makes sense during the week, in the morning. This bolsters engagement on both sides, brand and customer. Engaged customers make for better relationships and clearer data use expectations. Where the customer sees value in exchange for data use permission, the sky is the limit.

GDPR = Chance to Seize the Moment

The GDPR is a watershed piece of legislation and here in the US we’re already seeing reverberation – notably in the California privacy law which aims to provide enhanced data rights to citizens, like rights to object to certain data uses or the sale of personal data. Legislation is coming to the U.S. in some form or format. Now is the moment for brands to engage, explain what data is used for, provide value to their customers and drive better outcomes.  

The benefits of a CDP with powerful GDPR/privacy sensitive tools are just the tip of the iceberg.  At my company, SessionM, we view the GDPR as an opportunity to help brands more effectively deploy a data strategy like those described above which will strengthen engagement. We’ve developed features which allow brands to comply quickly when needed. But, the hope is that if the CDP is helping brand marketers fuel a successful customer journey, the data rights will be infrequently exercised.

Because companies like us see the GDPR as a key factor, we will continue to see businesses keep iterating and improving their related feature sets. Accomplishing leading GDPR tools will not only help brands comply with the regulation moving forward, but ultimately enable them to drive ahead.   

Andy Dale, General Counsel and VP of Global Privacy at SessionM 

Image Credit: Wright Studio / Shutterstock

Andy Dale
Andy Dale is General Counsel and VP of Global Privacy at SessionM, a customer data and engagement platform. Andy manages all legal affairs for the company and leads global data privacy and compliance.