Talking ‘Bout my Regulation: What Does the GDPR Mean for Marketers?

Talking ‘Bout my Regulation: What Does the GDPR Mean for Marketers?

Data is an incredibly useful tool which marketing professionals can employ to make sure their efforts are directed in the most productive ways possible. However, the immediate implementation of the GDPR is set to (literally) rewrite the rules.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new EU directive which is due to replace the existing 1995 EU Data Protection Directive in May 2018. The GDPR is touted as the biggest revolution to data protection in 20 years, and is designed to update the existing laws to be more relevant to the internet- and data-centric world which has developed since 1995.

Just 36% heard of GDPR

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Surprisingly, however, a relatively small proportion of business leaders and marketers have even heard of GDPR. Compared to 87% who have heard of Britain’s impending exit from the EU, only 36% are aware of GDPR.

Expected consequences of GDPR

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The marketers who are up-to-speed on the new regulations are understandably apprehensive as to the potential impact of GDPR, with high percentages expecting it to have a significant and/or negative impact on the way they carry out their work.

As a highly data-driven industry, the GDPR obviously has the potential to be quite disruptive to marketing. Whether it’s through existing email lists, big data-driven marketing, targeted advertising, or more, marketers use customer data in many ways, and it’s essential to have a firm grasp of how the new regulations will change how marketing business is carried out.

The Key Changes

The GDPR carries with it several changes to the way data protection will work in the European Union. The ones which are most relevant to marketing are as follows:

Increased Territorial Scope (extra-territorial applicability) – This element removes the ambiguity as to whether the rules are determined by the resident country of the holder of the information, or the subject of that information. GDPR states unambiguously that the rules apply to all companies who hold data on a resident of the EU. This also means British companies will still have to abide by the rules if they hold data on EU citizens post-Brexit.

Consent – Terms and conditions must be clear and written in plain language. Consent must be as simple to withdraw as it is to give.

Right to Access – In a dramatic shift to current rules, data subjects will have the right to obtain from the data controller confirmation as to whether personal data concerning them is being processed, where and for what purpose. Further, the controller will be obliged to provide a copy of the personal data, free of charge, in an electronic format.

Right to be Forgotten – This entitles the data subject to have their data erased, cease further dissemination of the data, and potentially have third parties halt processing of the data. The conditions for this also include whether the data is no longer being relevant to original purposes for processing, or a data subject’s withdrawing consent.

Data Portability – The right for a data subject to receive the personal data concerning them, which they have previously provided in a ‘commonly used and machine-readable format‘ and have the right to transmit that data to another controller.

Privacy by Design – Privacy by design is now becoming part of a legal requirement with the GDPR. It calls for the inclusion of data protection as a key component at the design stage of systems, rather than an addition. More specifically: ‘The controller shall implement appropriate technical and organisational measures in an effective way to meet the requirements of this Regulation and protect the rights of data subjects’. Article 23 calls for controllers to hold and process only the data necessary for the completion of its duties, as well as limiting the access to personal data to those needing to act out the processing.

Data Protection Officers – Controllers are presently required to notify their data processing activities with local DPAs, which can pose problems for multinationals, as most Member States have different notification requirements. This will be replaced with internal record keeping requirements, and DPO appointment will be mandatory only for those controllers and processors whose core activities consist of processing operations which require regular and systematic monitoring of data subjects on a large scale, or of special categories of data or data relating to criminal convictions and offences. In addition, DPOs:

  • Must be appointed based on professional qualities and expert knowledge on data protection law and practices
  • May be a staff member or an external service provider
  • Contact details must be provided to the relevant DPA
  • Must be provided with appropriate resources to carry out their tasks and maintain their expert knowledge
  • Must report directly to the highest level of management
  • Must not carry out any other tasks that could result in a conflict of interest.

It should be clear from the above points why it’s essential for business people and marketers to make sure they are informed on the key elements of GDPR, and have a plan in place to adapt to the changes.

Public Perception

Public perception to the new rules is a key factor to establishing the changes marketers will need to make in the wake of GDPR.

Consumers and communications.

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84% of consumers agree that companies should not be able to contact them without their expressed permission, and 71% would refuse to do business with a company who did not comply with GDPR. These figures are hardly surprising, but they tell us consumers are generally in favour of the new regulations, and they will take a dim view of non-compliant businesses.

The other two statistics above should be of greater concern to marketers. While they don’t deal with the regulations directly, they do paint a damning picture of how data use is perceived by consumers. With such high proportions stating they disagree with companies storing their data, and expressing a desire to opt out of all communications, marketers should take this as a call to action.

Consumers are clearly unhappy about how their data is used and, when the GDPR gives them more control over information which is stored about them by companies, marketers are going to need to have a rethink. It’s going to be important to explore what has led to consumers feeling this way, as it seems unlikely that the actions of marketers have nothing to do with it.

European consumers value transparency.

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Some clues can be found as to the source of these concerns when we look at the factors consumers value when it comes to how businesses use their data. 92% of consumers expect complete transparency from companies about how and when their data is used. Compare this to the three-quarters who do not trust that their data is presently being handled in a safe way.

Embracing the Change

Once the GDPR grants consumers increased power to dictate how and if their data is stored and used by businesses, the onus will be on marketers to convince them their data is safe with them, and will be used responsibly. And the best way to achieve this will be with a new outlook on transparency.

European consumers trust transparent companies

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From the above figures, it’s clear that consumers value transparency. 72% of respondents stated they would be more likely to consider a company trustworthy if they were 100% transparent. Therefore, improvements to data transparency will give marketers the best chance to retain the consent of consumers to hold and use their information.

This will mean less ambiguous terms and conditions, and could involve adding bullet points detailing specifically how information will be used on the screen where consent is first requested.

Companies content and SEO focus

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GDPR will also encourage marketers to think about how they use other channels of communication which don’t rely on retained data. SEO, social media, and content marketing are all expected to see increased proliferation throughout 2018. In contrast, targeted (data-driven) advertising is likely to be reduced, and a new focus established on adding more value to consumers who hand over their data via expanded services for registered users.

Final Thoughts on GDPR

The Data clearly shows that consumers view the GDPR very positively. The net impact of the GDPR will strongly depend on the effectiveness of companies to adapt, and how they communicate with their audiences. Companies who place transparency and increased value, along with leveraging the power of non-data-driven channels, have the best chance of continuing to engage with online consumers based in Europe.

Please head to the comments section and let us know your thoughts on the impending GDPR, and if you need a responsible and forward-thinking marketing solution for your business, markITwrite is here to help.

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