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Analysis / Ecommerce

3 Ways GDPR Will Affect Email Marketing: How To Stay Compliant

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Many marketers are concerned about how GDPR will impact their marketing activities – particularly as it relates to email. This is totally understandable; marketers are becoming more meta-driven all the time. They’re collecting, storing and processing huge amounts of data at an unprecedented rate – often without even realising it. GDPR will challenge them to do things differently. While the reality may not be nearly as prohibitive as they expect, compliance is essential.

The new regulations will affect the following three critical areas:

1. Opt-Ins & Opt-Outs

Obtaining consent to send marketing communications is crucial. The GDPR act stipulates that all prospects and customers must agree to being contacted via their personal information. What’s more, this consent must be ‘freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous’. A pre-ticked box is not good enough, nor does a lack of response qualify as tacit consent. Agreement needs to be demonstrated through ‘clear affirmative action’.

2. The Right To Be Forgotten

The right to be forgotten is a hot topic. GDPR helps individuals retain control by enabling them to request for their data to be removed in situations where there is no legitimate reason for their information to be used, if it’s being used illegally, or if it has been used in violation of the original terms of use.

3. Data Processing

The GDPR act demands that marketers process personal data according to a revised set of legal requirements. This calls for better data management. Marketers will have to pay close attention to not only how they collect, store and use the data they gather – but also monitor what data they gather in the first place. This will push marketers to focus more on the quality of data they collect, rather than the quantity. Processing unnecessary data for frivolous means will cause issues and likely result in a penalty or fine.

The Impact On Email Marketing

GDPR will have a considerable effect on email marketing activities, particularly those powered by marketing automation platforms. One way to support compliance at all times is to implement an email preference centre. This gives prospects and customers a greater deal of control; they can choose what content they receive and when, and can unsubscribe from mailing lists whenever they want.

A preference centre doesn’t disrupt business operations. It’s designed to meet the company’s requirements and integrate with its existing marketing technology infrastructure. It considers a customer’s preferred content, preferred channels of communication, and preferred frequency of communication. An email preference centre will also give customers the ability to restrict how their data is processed. They can opt-out of profiling exercises and ask for their information to be deleted.

The Key Benefits Of Complying With GDPR

Cyber-attacks occur more often than many businesses think. The 2017 Cyber Security Breaches Survey reveals a staggering 70% of large UK firms have all suffered some form of security breach. By maintaining compliance with GDPR, a company can boost its reputation with potential customers as a secure provider.

Compliance also enables businesses to focus on customers. Better data management encourages inter-departmental collaboration. Siloed information is unlocked and made easily accessible throughout the company, unifying data in a Single Customer View (SCV). This makes data easy to locate, keep clean, and use for relevant marketing activities. It also means that marketers and salespeople can respond more efficiently to customer requests, engage with them according to their communication preferences and go to market with new products faster.

GDPR compliance reduces security breaches caused by employee errors of judgement. Its stringent role-based and department level security settings ensure that customer information is kept up-to-date and secure.

As the GDPR deadline looms, companies are becoming increasingly anxious about how it will impact their operations. Adhering to the new regulations will require a number of changes, but the benefits are well worth the effort. Compliance in all marketing activities will help businesses avoid hefty penalties for unlawful communication with customers, and empower organisations to stay innovative and agile in a competitive world.

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Jason Lark is managing director of Celerity, a data, marketing, and technology consultancy. He co-founded Celerity in 2002, and continues to lead the company's vision, strategy and operational performance.