Why marketers that view GDPR as more than a compliance exercise will truly prosper

For marketers, the clock is ticking. It’s now less than a year until the biggest shake-up to data law in a generation, comes into force. When the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect in May 2018 it will change the way customer data is collected and used forever.

The GDPR’s far-reaching effects seek to improve and simplify data protection for EU citizens and give them more power over their data. Every European citizen will have the right to know which of their personal data is being stored, what it is being used for, as of next year. Focusing on accumulating and processing important, useful, and the legally compliant information is a necessity – and if the GDPR provides some incentive for that, then both marketers and the relationships with their customers will benefit. As an industry, we marketers have done a pretty bad job at self-regulating, being systematically lazy with data – as such we should view GDPR as a much-needed catalyst for positive change.

It’s time marketers to take charge

It is the optimum time for marketers to take charge, connect disjointed journeys and experiences, and begin a revolution in terms of data-culture. Consistency is key in creating compliant marketing that delights the consumer. Teams must be aligned on campaigns and priorities. All of which, will create new ways of reporting, measuring ROI and – not to be forgotten – new ways of working. What underpins most digital marketing teams these days is a) access to data and b) the tools used to get the job done. If your marketing team is using separate tools for each channel; the CRM team has access to different data than the social team or customer service team – there is something severely wrong. Consumers are channel agnostic and are mindful of their holistic relationship with a brand. If your own infrastructure and set-up doesn’t reflect this, you will never create consistency in your teams, your culture or your customer journeys.

Context is key

GDPR will also mean that marketers will no longer be able to go to market with a channel-first approach, pushing self-serving messages to a segment of consumers. Marketers will have to “take off their marketing hats” to disseminate consumer data to contextually engage consumers, in ways that are compelling and add value.

However, there will be some resistance to this as according to research recently carried out by Selligent, which involved canvassing the views of 108 senior marketing executives, 67% of CMOs admitted to not taking advantage of contextual data and the technologies available. Furthermore, 81% revealed that they would increase their use of situational data only if their competitors started first. Failing to use contextual data results in poorly executed marketing communications – at a time where consumer attention is the most precious commodity. These ‘entitled consumers’ are digital natives with the highest expectations of marketing – they want brands to deliver relevance across everything that they do. In other words, marketers need to earn the right to gain consumers’ precious attention.

The key lies in using customer needs and expectations as a lens in which to see how your brand can engage in a given moment with contextual relevance. Whenever your brand is able to exceed those consumer expectations and still accomplish its own goals is a win-win. Such an approach empowers marketing teams to simplify and focus on the most important programs. Furthermore, embracing the right technology can help marketers to reach higher levels of 1:1 engagement at scale. Data and technology are undoubtedly important but, a consumer-first approach is critical for success.

Addressing the ‘consumer trust’ issue

GDPR represents an easy win for organisations that want to develop a more transparent relationship with their customers. GDPR will also offer marketers the perfect opportunity to address the ‘consumer trust’ issue that has plagued the industry for far too long. The hallmark of a truly trustworthy brand is to go beyond the minimum requirements to ensure that customers can easily download their data – and request that it be removed – will be and will only strengthen customer loyalty. Also, as already touched upon consumers today are entitled and are happy to hand over their data and personal information in return for a more personal and relevant engagement with a brand.

Marketers can’t avoid GDPR, and if they embrace it they can actually reap the benefits, using it to deliver greater consumer engagement and ultimately strengthen customer loyalty. Consumers are creating increasing levels of data, so marketing efficiently, which GDPR will require, represents a huge opportunity for marketers. By utilising data more smartly and using it to bring greater relevance, value and context to their consumer relationships will only strengthen customer trust and loyalty in the long-term.

By Christopher Baldwin, head of marketing for Northern Europe at Selligent

Originally published on Digital Marketing Magazine.

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