How GDPR will affect digital marketing

laptop representing how GDPR will affect digital marketingOtherwise known as the General Data Protection Regulation, GDPR will affect digital marketing and change how companies manage data.

But, is this new EU regulation as big a deal as some people think?

In this blog, we’ll take a quick look at GDPR and when it’s set to come into force. Then, we’ll discuss how GDPR will affect digital marketing specifically – and, our take might just surprise you!

What is GDPR?

GDPR is an EU regulation designed to give consumers and the wider public more say over how their personal data is gathered and used.

In the online world, people regularly give up personal info in return for services they think of as free, or as part of another service (such as using social media platforms or subscribing to email updates).

However, as was shown by the recent Cambridge Analytica situation, many people don’t really understand what they’ve agreed to, or how their data might be used for commercial gain.

GDPR sets out four key criteria for companies to follow. Customers’ personal data must be:

  • Processed lawfully
  • Processed transparently
  • Acquired for a specific purpose
  • Deleted once no longer required for this purpose

The regulation will apply to the ‘controllers’ and ‘processors’ of data at companies in all EU member states, as well as any company that handles data belonging to EU residents.

Penalties for non-compliance can be pretty drastic, too:

  • Data breach: up to 2% of your annual global revenue, or €10 million (whichever is higher)
  • Data misuse: up to 4% of your annual global revenue, or €20 million (whichever is higher)

With these kinds of figures on the table, it’s no wonder companies are tying themselves up in knots about GDPR.

When will GDPR be introduced?

GDPR is actually in place already and has been since May 2016 (when EU member states first signed it off).

However, companies were given until 25 May 2018 to make sure they’re compliant. And, that deadline’s almost up!

How GDPR will affect digital marketing

In theory, GDPR will be a bit of a game-changer.

However, some rules were already in place (under the Data Protection Act 1998), and the hard truth is that companies risk over-hyping it.

Much of the conversation these days smacks of the ‘Millennium Bug’ era. Sure, it’s worth planning for, but adapting to GDPR shouldn’t be your only priority today.

For most digital marketers, the obvious drawback is the belief that you’ll need to ask for new permission from the people on your mailing lists to continue using their data.

What’s the truth about how GDPR will affect digital marketing?

Truth is, you’ll only need to do this if you can’t prove it was obtained lawfully and in a manner that’s compliant with GDPR.

For ethical small businesses, our email lists conform to that precisely; they’re ‘opt-in’ lists where consent has been freely given.

This means you’re already compliant under Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR). And, most experts believe these regs will overrule GDPR immediately if not eventually (especially as they’re tweaked in the years to come).

So, what do you need to do about GDPR?

If you ask all your subscribers to provide fresh consent, the reality is that most people won’t respond.

This seemingly leaves you in a bit of a pickle. Should you keep using their information (risking complaints and big fines), or delete it from your database altogether?

However, GDPR – like any change to best-practice regulations – isn’t about punishing small businesses. No matter what the lawyers and experts say, you shouldn’t panic and delete everything (we’ve seen some huge overreactions lately).

Your customers clearly aren’t so annoyed by your messages that they want to unsubscribe (you’ve already given them that ‘out’).

But, they might not be so enthusiastic about receiving an email discussing EU regulations that they’re willing to open it and re-subscribe.

You’ve told them about their revised rights and given them an easy way out. So, you’ve done the ethical thing.

Instead of panicking, look at GDPR as an opportunity to do the right thing. Clean up your data, delete old or unused addresses, merge all those lists you’ve had kicking around for years and simplify things overall.

Yes, ask customers to provide fresh consent if you’re able to (using any decent email system such as MailChimp or Campaign Monitor). However, you only need ask people you might’ve added manually, or people who’ve been imported from a trade show list etc.

Also, ‘non-personal’ emails aren’t covered by the scope of GDPR at all. So, if you’re a B2B organisation emailing lots of ‘sales@’ or ‘info@’ addresses, then keep emailing them.

To wrap things up…

Think of this upcoming change as a prime opportunity to re-engage with your audience using exciting new content.

Make sure you’re fully prepped and ready for the ways GDPR will affect digital marketing. But, don’t forget about all those other crucial elements of your overall digital strategy in the meantime.

If you want to hear more of my thoughts on GDPR, you can take a listen here (starting from seven minutes in). Or, check out all this excellent info on the ICO Website. Lastly, you can go right ahead and pinch anything from our own website Privacy Policy, which we’ve updated with everything needed to satisfy GDPR requirements.

Still worried about how GDPR will affect your digital marketing? Or, just want to refocus your efforts? Then, talk to our experts today!