Marketing teams have long been used to collecting, handling and managing vast amounts of consumer information. Indeed, their very function depends on it.
In a digital world where the difference between success and failure can be decided by the quality of the customer experience, marketers have become central to creating personalised communications that keep customers coming back for more.
Businesses have had to adapt quickly to a time that has widely been referred to as ‘the age of the customer’, and data, of course, has had a key role to play, enabling marketing teams to learn as much as possible about their existing and potential customers in order to tailor unique offers and campaigns.
But things are about to change. Data will still hold the key to unlocking the door to personalisation, but the way marketing departments manage that information is about to take on a whole new level of importance.
Ripe for change
The Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is arguably the biggest ever legislative change related to data protection and is causing businesses in all industries to rethink how they use personal information.
Previous laws have been slow to catch up with the growing role being played by data and, without the threat of serious repercussions, many organisations have become lazy when it comes to compliance and complacent about how data is handled.
As a result, marketers have picked up some bad habits. And everyone knows it. According to a recent study by Kaspersky Lab, IT professionals think their marketing and communications colleagues are some of the least likely to be ready for their GDPR responsibilities (73%).
It’s easy to see why. Data hoarding, for example, has become commonplace among marketers. Teams have become reliant on holding onto a large amount of data about their customers, making databases harder to manage and control.
They have also become more concerned with just collecting information, rather than making sure the data they do collect can be of value. Ultimately, some marketers have been guilty of focusing on the quantity of communications sent out to consumers rather than the quality of their messaging and targeting.
The issue of consent has also been a big talking point. Until now, marketers have been able to get away with using ambiguous opt-out requests and vague terms that often result in customers being placed on marketing lists without their knowledge.
When GDPR becomes enforceable across the European Union in May 2018, marketing teams must be ready to be smarter with the data they collect and take more responsibility for the way they communicate with customers.
There will be much tighter standards relating to customer consent, which will have to be explicitly given rather than assumed. Clear opt-ins will be required before personal data can be processed and specific companies will have to be named when requesting consent for third-party communications.
There will be new rules around how long data can be retained and everything will need to be accurately identified, monitored and fully protected from a security breach.
Are there systems that need to be changed? Processes to be updated? Do we need to carry out internal training?
These are all questions that need to be answered to ensure that marketers are brought up to speed with the latest rules and procedures and are able to effectively get their messages out while ensuring the protection of customer data.
Put simply, from next May, data complacency is a trait marketers simply won’t be able to afford.
Land of Opportunity
Many companies have viewed GDPR as a threat but, from a marketing point of view, it opens the door to several opportunities.
For example, GDPR will give businesses the chance to improve their data hygiene and create cleaner customer databases that, although smaller, are likely to result in higher hit rates and improved responses due to the increased level of personalisation.
This could be a key differentiator in what has quickly become an extremely crowded market. With more companies than ever fighting to gain the attentions of valuable customers, a database spring-clean could help firms stand out from the crowd in the long run.
It will also force marketing teams to think differently and be more creative about how they engage with consumers, which should result in the creation of exciting and innovative campaigns.
Finally, GDPR will help businesses solidify their processes and improve the way data is managed. The opportunity is there to formalise data-related procedures and put in place measures that ensure that the required level of data protection is maintained without impacting how the marketing team operates on a day-to-day basis.
For all businesses, it’s important to not panic about GDPR. As long as marketing teams are able to identify and understand the changes in the new regulations, opportunities will present themselves and compliance will come easily.
Bringing it back to the customer
Ultimately, everything a marketing team does comes back to the customer and that is exactly how the new legislation should be viewed.
Consumers are currently lacking in trust when it comes to data protection. According to a survey by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), only a quarter of people trust businesses with their personal information.
Furthermore, a massive 92% of consumers do not fully understand how businesses and marketers use their personal data, according to the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM).
These figures highlight the disconnect that currently exists between the business and consumer worlds and is something that GDPR can help change by enabling organisations to build up a rapport with their customers by being totally open and transparent.
If the customer wins, the business wins, which is why marketing teams should be embracing GDPR with open arms rather than viewing it as an annoyance.
Improving standards across the business is of course an important factor but, for marketers specifically, the prospect of using GDPR to re-build customer trust, engage with customers in a positive way and reach the right audience at the right time should be an extremely exciting one.
By Adam Maskatiya, UK and Eire General Manager, Kaspersky Lab
GDPR Summit Series is a global series of GDPR events which will help businesses to prepare to meet the requirements of the GDPR ahead of May 2018 and beyond.
Further information and conference details are available at http://www.gdprsummit.london/