March 28, 2018 by Jacqueline Baxter

Seize the Day: Marketers, Brands and GDPR

Editor's Note: the following is for information purposes only. Individual companies should seek legal counsel for guidance on their specific situation. 

“Oh, the GDPR wagon is a’comin down the street” has been my slightly panicked theme song the last few months.

Saturday Night Live Wells Fargo Wagon

As of May 25, 2018, any business within the European Union and any business that intends to operate within the EU in any way will have to adhere to new standards regarding data collection, storage, and use. If the thought of it doesn’t make you blink, it should – penalties of up to 20 million euros will be levied against offenders. So, now’s as good a time as any to start thinking about GDPR. I’m personally of the opinion that smart brands will see this as an opportunity to improve practices, embrace transparency and build customer trust.

photo of bob dylan LP

First things first:

Get Rid of Third Party Data

GDPR means marketing departments will need to reduce their reliance on third-party data, which is user or behavioral information that companies buy. It’s usually pulled from multiple websites and segmented based on interests, demographics, shopping patterns, etc. Ever ended up on a mailing list you didn’t subscribe to, or gotten an out of the blue email from a company you’ve never heard of (bonus points if they’ve got read receipts turned on)?

That’s a perfect example of data pulled from multiple (and sometimes unknown to the recipient) sources. The collection of that data is often collected with questionable consent and shared without explicit permission from the consumer, because usually that customer just wanted a single issue of a webzine or information about an upcoming conference. It’s been a grey area for years – not explicitly illegal but not classy either – but those days are over with the arrival of GDPR. Tossing out this semi-shady practice will build consumer trust, and that’s always a plus.

Be Honest

There’s no time like the present to dust off the old ‘honesty is the best policy’ maxim.

Word art honesty made up of the word honesty

Ideally, you’ll be using the data you collect to improve the customer experience. That’s a good thing, and it’s what customers are expecting. Be sure to explain to your visitors why you’re collecting their data. There are lots of ways to do this; for user experience to stay clean and streamlined, a visible and easily accessible link to your Data Collection Policy is a solid option.

Activate First Party Data Collection

This part is critical, because it’s tied directly to personalization. Personalization is something that web customers increasingly expect – according to Salesforce, half of customers are likely to switch brands if their needs are not anticipated, and by 2020, 75% of business buyers expect companies to anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions. So if you have to personalize (you do) and you have to comply with GDPR (you REALLY do), how can you do that without violating customer trust and GDPR? The simplest answer to that is first party data collection.

There are many advantages to collecting your own data. For one, it’s more accurate - first party data measures how YOUR visitors interact with YOUR assets. As such, it provides much more valuable insights into the wants and needs of your customer. From marketing automation to social media networks to CRM systems, there are several ways to up your first-party data collection game, and now is the perfect time to consider those.

Side note: first party data collection is the major reason you’re starting to see those cookie warnings all over the internet – cookies are finite and not 100% accurate, but GDPR regulations require that websites let you know that they are using them. There are way to make that experience a little (or a lot) more user friendly as my colleague Andy explains in his blog post.

 So....what next? 

Before anything else, TALK TO A LAWYER (full and clear disclaimer: I'm not one, and neither are any of my team mates), and then get to work shaping a strategy! GDPR is the largest step in what is sure to be an ongoing set of regulations and improvements aimed at protecting users and their data, and recent news has shown that this is not only necessary but widely applauded by the public. This stuff is much more likely to become a constant consideration than it is to go quiet into that good night; take this as the opportunity that it is to embrace transparency and better serve your visitors. 

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