The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) can be broad and far reaching but looking at it from a digital marketing perspective – what are the new rules of storing personal data? And more importantly, how is it going to affect marketers.

The definition of personal data is being extended beyond just names, addresses, dates of birth to include new digital identifiers like email addresses, social media channels and cookies. GDPR will extend consumer protection around corporate use of people’s information. Essentially, consumers will own their personal information and have the right to have it changed or even deleted.

In the post GDPR world, personal data must be stored safely and only for as long as it needs to be. Information must be minimised to the minimum requirement for the intended purpose. All information should be accurate and accessible. If an individual asks a business what information they have on them, that business needs to comply. So where do you start?

Three is the magic number

 From an organisational point of view, the key for brands is to understand the three core elements of the legislation, which pertain to the rights, access and consent of consumer data. Consumers have the right to know how their information is being processed and how it will be stored, amongst other processes. In the event of a data breach, or in fact, at any point, individuals have the right to complain and seek judicial remedies. Therefore, it is especially crucial that individuals’ rights are protected to avoid any costly penalties, reputation damage and further unsubscribes from other consumers.

The rebalance of power between brand and consumer also allows consumers to access any data being handled by brands, whenever it is required. At this point, brands must be able, and willing, to provide the individual with a copy of any personal data undergoing processes. The GDPR is an opportunity for businesses to organise the way they store and use personal data, so that they are in a much stronger place to deliver best practice and valuable marketing campaigns. The ultimate goal is to hold all data in one place, the place where it is processed.

The third element, and arguably where the biggest changes apply, is the consent of data. And the greatest fear here is asking for reconsent – because brands don’t want to lose their hard-won customer base. But it has to be done as it poses meaningful risk to brand reputation and revenue. GDPR is all about the protection of personal data and businesses need to take this seriously. But brands need to see this as an opportunity to build stronger, more trusted relationships with their customers, which will contribute to their long-term strategy for success and growth. It is also an opportunity for brands to gain a competitive edge by showing that they are trustworthy and deserve their customers’ business.

Let’s get practical – what does this mean for marketers?

 Once those core focus areas have been digested and accommodated for within marketing strategies and data management, marketers must take an active approach to clean their databases. In the brave new GDPR world, holding and handling data of disengaged consumers should be discouraged. If you don’t need it, get rid of it.

The big question is where do you start? As of now, your data is decreasing in value every day to the point where it will actually become a business risk – a liability of up to four per cent of your global turnover. If a marketer cannot prove that informed consent to store and act on personal data has not been freely given, it’s time to clean and recommission databases, and that time is now.

The GDPR regulations are not something that could have been predicted, so this action needs to a priority. If you start the clean and recommissioning process now, you will be able to build back value quickly, as well as gaining an all-important competitive advantage over other brands. Essentially, you will be able to focus your energy, time and efforts on more engaged and valuable individuals, but also ensure that your databases are working to optimum impact. This will generate greater ROI which ultimately meets your digital marketing objectives.

Getting closer to customers

 There are many advantages to spring cleaning your data, and brands must see the brighter side to this as it is mutually beneficial to brand and consumer. Personalisation is becoming second nature to marketing strategies, and countless amounts of time and money are being put into creating bespoke and tailored messaging for consumers. However, too often this is being disregarded or ignored by customers who are uninterested in your products and services.

Come May this year, brands will need to instil a new sense of brand confidence with their customers, so that they feel secure in sharing their data. By filtering through your data, you will be able to contact those who want to hear from you, and consumers will appreciate the relevance in the emails they receive from you. It’s an ideal situation, which will not only lead to more valuable connections, but also more confidence and trust built between brand and consumer.

This is the future of digital marketing

In today’s digital world, there is an abundance of data at the hands of marketers. However, these reservoirs of data are not necessarily an asset to marketers, as many consumers are not interested in what brands are sending them. The GDPR is an opportunity for marketers to take a pause, reflect and find new innovative way of engaging their customers.

Consumer data will be owned and controlled by the consumer, and so the importance of a single customer view within your marketing world has never been more urgent. Use their data to better and greater effect. Find ways to gain the maximum value from anonymised audience data, produce advance segments and activate these within marketing programmes.

Businesses who take the time to establish this will reap huge rewards of a higher quality of marketing and a greater ROI. This should prove and provide marketers with an incentive – if the risk and liability was not enough. Take GDPR as an opportunity to connect with your customer during the recommission process and beyond.

Sarah Taylor

Sarah Taylor