With GDPR just months away, the digital marketing world is on the precipice of a dramatic transformation.
On May 18, 2018, brands will have to fall in line with an EU regulation that strictly guards and regulates the usage of EU citizen data. The road to GDPR compliance is potentially arduous, and marketers, in particular, will feel the impact of GDPR in their workdays.
To grasp just how much of an impact GDPR will have on modern marketing techniques, CMSWire reached out to Walter Van Uytven, CEO of Belgium-based Awingu, a digital workplace software vendor.
All Eyes On GDPR Article 4
Marketers need to pay particular attention to article 4 of GDPR in particular. “Article 4 of the GDPR will have a big impact on marketers,” says Van Uytven, before going on to quote article 4 of GDPR which defines how user consent for personal data usage must be given, which is, “by a statement or by a clear affirmative action, [signifying] agreement to personal data relating to them being processed.”
But what does this all mean to marketers in plain English? Well, we kept Awingu’s CEO around to walk us through the five fronts marketers will see changes on thanks to GDPR.
1. Inbound Lead Generation
Inbound marketing is a gigantic slice of the daily routine of a digital marketer, and GDPR is about to regulate it like never before.
For example, if a marketer wants to gather an email list from software trial signups, they will be legally required to get consent from each user to send them email courses or information about an upcoming webinar. “With GDPR [all forms of inbound marketing] will still be possible, but the Data Subjects will need to give ‘explicit’ consent on how their contact data can be used. That means: ‘opt in’ instead of ‘opt out’, and, you will need to clearly describe how this personal information will be used,” said Van Uytven.
So, you can’t send email newsletters to a consumer or give them cookies from your website merely because they signed-up for an online trial account. Clearly, this will also limit outbound email marketing and sales significantly, too.
2. Consent Management
Marketers will also need to find a way to manage user consent — because it’s not a one-time deal.
“Data subjects will have the right to change the consent they have given you at any time. In other words, a platform or process needs to be in place where the data subject can manage how you will reach them,” Van Uytven said.
So, a hot lead of yours may have initially given consent for weekly email newsletters and an online trial account, but he might want to ditch the newsletter after the first week. A system must be in place to facilitate that change in consent.
3. Database Providers
Some marketers pay good money to acquire databases full of potential leads. Email addresses, phone numbers, and sometimes even home addresses are included. But after May 18, 2018, it will be time to wave goodbye to that (potentially shady) practice.
“We’ve all been tempted one time or another to buy a database with contact information. In the era of GDPR, this will be almost a de facto no-go zone. Data subjects will need to give explicit consent to your company to be contacted. You will be responsible for the databases and need to know where the database came from, who gathered it, and, what storage duration period was communicated,” Van Uytven explained.
4. Online Re-targeting
Re-targeting consumers with Facebook or Google ads has rapidly gained traction in the marketing space. It’s an advertising practice that works, but with GDPR on the way, marketers need to get into the habit of being careful with their re-targeting strategies.
“Retargeting has become a best practice. With retargeting, marketers will try to provide relevant advertising to visitors of its website (or social media channels). If data subjects do not give explicit consent, then retargeting can only be used in a very generic way without any profiling,” Van Uytven said.
He went on to warn that “marketing automation as a whole will get a lot more difficult to implement correctly”.
5. Web Analytics
The restrictions on the usage of web analytics tools like Google Analytics is potentially GDPR’s biggest gut punch for marketers.
“At the heart, these tools only provide an aggregated view of data which is fine from a GDPR perspective. However, most of these tools will also provide some degree of profiling and analysis on the profiling,” Van Uytven said.
He went on to explain how, legally speaking, marketers will not be able to use or even store that data in any way without consent.
“In other words, if you’ve lawfully collected data from a certain amount of customers and want to use that data analytically to derive shopping habits and create sales personas, then you need to have consent to do so. And if you haven’t included ‘profiling’ in your original consent statement, then you need to collect a new one,” he said.
The grueling part is, if a customer declines, or changes their minds later on, marketers will need to withdraw those particular sets of data from your analysis.
GDPR Will Force Marketers To Evolve
If there’s one thing we can gather from the listed ways GDPR will impact marketers, it’s that marketers have no choice but to evolve — and that’s a good thing.
Neil Michel, Chief Strategy Officer at Sacramento, Calif.-based digital agency Wire Stone, which was recently purchased by Accenture, concurred.
According to him, GDPR will indeed force marketers to reduce the total number of targetable profiles across web and email, but in turn, that will increase the quality of profiles across digital channels. "This is because GDPR essentially forces laggard marketers to catch up with the rest of us — to focus on more granular segmentation driven by user behavior [such as opting-in and specifying preferences],” says Michel.
“For marketers, the message is pretty simple: evolve beyond bought lists, and only send people information they want. If you're a marketer and you've waited this long to realize that bought lists and shotgun emails are a losing strategy, then your marketing performance metrics are probably already in the toilet,” said Michel.
In essence then, for marketers who rely on outdated practices like database acquisition, GDPR is actually just an excuse (albeit, a forceful one) to improve. And not just to improve for the sake of falling in line with the law either, but also to be in line with industry best practices and to create a bond of trust between themselves and their customers.
So, GDPR isn’t all bad news for marketers after all — but if you still aren’t convinced, come back next week and check out part two of this series: “GDPR Benefits: Why Marketers Should Relish GDPR Compliance”.