Opinion

GDPR is a great thing for Aussie marketers

Despite many marketers calling doom and gloom on Europe's new GDPR rules, Guy Hanson believes the new laws are actually a good thing for Aussie marketers.

As we emerge blinking from the GDPR apocalypse, we have to wonder whether the aggravation that many of us felt towards the literally hundreds of re-permissioning and privacy policy update emails that flooded our inboxes resulted in a worldwide flurry of deletes, opt-outs and unsubscribes. And is this bad or good news for marketers?

There’s been a lot of angst both in Europe and abroad about the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into effect on May 25. And with good reason. Breaking the rules could see a company fined up to 4% of its global turnover, regardless of where it’s headquartered.

What savvy marketers have come to realise, however, is that the GDPR is actually great news for them and their organisations. Marketo found that 55% of businesses are using GDPR compliance as an opportunity to strengthen bonds with customers. If used correctly, it can furnish marketers with more information about those customers.

And because the rules are explicitly opt-in, the data customers are sharing with you is information they want you to have about them. That means better-targeted communications, more robust sales leads, and a more loyal customer.

So what does this have to do with marketers in Australia? As it turns out, any business that has an office in the EU, has customers that are EU residents, or whose website targets or tracks customers in the EU falls under the jurisdiction of the new regulation.

But the raw fact is that adhering to the GDPR isn’t just a handkerchief to cover those customers you have in the EU; it’s also good practice for the Australian customers who make up the majority of your database.

For Australian businesses that want to better serve their customers, the GDPR signals the end of activities that marketers should have abandoned long ago. This means that it’s no longer good enough to buy a mailing list, nor is it appropriate to send cold-call emails or, heaven forbid, actually send spam.

Under the new rules, customers have to explicitly opt-in to getting your communications. In the old days, it was fine to pre-tick boxes on a web form allowing you to send a customer marketing emails. Now you can’t do that. Instead, customers have to give consent to you communicating with them, and that consent needs to be clear, in plain English, as well as informed, specific, unambiguous and revocable.

We’ll come back to revocability in a moment. Where the GDPR really works for marketers is in the fact that communicating with customers requires consent. This means that you’re really going to have to focus on giving the customer what they want, not what you think they need. You’ll have to work harder to attract customers, and equally as hard to keep them.

The pay-off is that 60% of consumers are likely to share their information if they think it’ll result in relevant, tailored offers. The attention that customers give our organisations is valuable, and needs to be treated as such.

Marketers can also benefit because the GDPR mandates that we’re extremely transparent with the way that we use a customer’s data. This transparency means that you’ll need to provide value to the customer to encourage them to share their data with you.

One of the most interesting aspects of the GDPR for marketers is that it enshrines the right to be forgotten in law. In other words, customers can revoke your right to communicate with them, or to hold their data.

The right to be forgotten means that you’re going to need a robust way of allowing customers to inform you that they want you to remove their data from your systems and that they don’t want to hear from you anymore.

Too often in business, customer data is siloed. Different departments (including marketing) have their own stores of customer data, and it’s not treated in a homogenous, easy to access way. By getting compliant with the GDPR’s right to be forgotten, you’ll ideally be storing all your customer data from across the organisation in a single CRM system. This will allow you to easily remove customer data, but, more significantly, it will also allow customers to switch on and off consent for a variety of activities in a much finer-grained manner.

The benefit of allowing customers this degree of control? You will be able to learn a lot more about your customers, and if they’re opting in, you can target them with campaigns that are more relevant to their interests and needs. In turn, this will increase trust levels between brands and their consumers, meaning they will provide better quality personal data (e.g. primary rather than secondary email addresses).

The reality is that the GDPR will force marketers to lift their game, regardless of where in the world they are located. Best practice for the EU is best practice for Australia and other places – and local privacy bodies are already taking note.

There are benefits to improving the way your business communicates with its customers. You’ll gain trust, your customers will be more loyal because they actually want to hear from you, and you’ll be able to target them better, potentially leading to increased sales.

If you were worried about GDPR, don’t be – it’s truly a win for marketers everywhere.

Guy Hanson is senior director, international consulting, at Return Path.

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