Are marketers able to fully thrive post-GDPR?

Posted by Dan Bradley
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Legal graduate, Dan Bradley, discusses the implications of GDPR post-May. What have been the pitfalls for businesses so far and have marketers been able to sink or swim in this new landscape?

As a recent law graduate taking on temp work at a digital agency, I’d have been forgiven for a lack of insight into the world of marketing and consumer technology at the start of my time here. My experience of business-customer relations extended about as far as having received countless email newsletters and offers from sites I seemed to have only visited once or twice in passing. Since the EU General Date Protection Regulation came into force in May, however, these communications have all but stopped. After a few days of working here at Netcel and seeing their work first-hand, I was intrigued to find out how similar companies have dealt with the new rules on the handling of customer data.

GDPR introduced stricter rules for obtaining customer consent, as well as more secure risk management policies and procedures. Increased transparency was a key goal, with customers knowing more about which data is collected by companies and what they are doing with it.

This, however, caused problems for firms – a recent Imperva survey suggested 28% of firms feel they are still not fully compliant with GDPR’s requirements, nearly 3 months on.

The more stringent requirements put an increased burden on firms in their collection and management of customer information. Marketing firms, so reliant on customer data to provide personalised advertising to their target audiences, were expected to be badly affected by the changes.

Early indications suggest they are rising to the challenge. The increased transparency has in fact had an encouraging impact, leading to more positive engagement with customers and building stronger relationships. Firms are working harder to maintain these relationships and the creativity of digital marketers has improved as a result. The increased protection given to customers has led to a more consumer-focused approach, with firms required to provide incentives for customers to continue sharing their data with them. If they are unhappy with the marketing they are receiving, customers can now control or rescind the data they share much more easily.

This is particularly well illustrated in email marketing. It has long been a key tool for marketers, and Salesforce suggest that email marketing can earn up to 3800% return on investment for companies who use it effectively. But with the new positive opt-in requirement in GDPR, the challenge for marketers is in ensuring communications are engaging enough for customers to want to sign up for them.

A July survey from the Direct Marketing Association suggests that marketers are performing – 73% of a sample of the public still say that email marketing is their preferred advertising channel, ahead of social media, online adverts and phone marketing. The new techniques employed by marketers to ensure high-quality offers and newsletters confirm the ongoing importance of email marketing post-GDPR.

GDPR has also seen changes in the use of programmatic advertising. It involves the use of technology to buy and sell digital advertising and is much quicker and more efficient than a human doing so. However, with its reliance on choosing the right ad to show to the right person, customer data is extremely important. Under GDPR explicit consent is required for use of data by a third party, which is central to the effectiveness of targeted advertising. Marketers therefore must target segments of people, rather than individuals, with this type of advertising, as they are no longer able to target an individual person without their express permission.

Such personalisation, allowing marketers to tailor advertising to an individual based on their data, may seem impossible under GDPR. It is key to building relationships with clients and is central to the work Netcel does for many of theirs. However, since the introduction of GDPR firms have been required to work harder to obtain the data required to create a flexible and personalised experience for customers. Greater transparency has assisted with this, making consumers more aware of what their data is used for in a customer-centric approach. Honesty and openness are effective tools in digital marketing, even more so after GDPR.

While GDPR presents new tests for digital agencies and marketers, it would appear that firms are rising to the challenge. New problems present new solutions, and companies have adapted to the changes positively in order to ensure continuing customer-business relationships in the long run. With more regulation on the use of third party data thought to be on the horizon, the signs suggest that marketers will be able to thrive in the future.                                                                           

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