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Focus on the merits of GDPR – rebuilding consumer trust

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For most marketers, 2018 will be a milestone year – the year when their data comes under scrutiny by both regulators and consumers themselves, who are increasingly aware of the value of their personal details and concerned about how they are used. Is your company ready to comply with the changing GDPR? Are your data policies in order? Marketers need to focus on the merits of GDPR and how it will rebuild consumer trust. Here’s what you should be aware of and why you should be preparing now, before the new regulation becomes law in May 2018.
merits of GDPR

This article, discussing the positives and the merits of GDPR, is co-authored by Dan Marsh, digital director (pictured right) and Keith Carlton (below), senior data planner, who both work at bigdog.merits of GDPR

Brand stalking

We’ve all been there. Casually browsing web pages without a care in the world. Checking the latest news, the weather or football results – and persistently being served a display banner advertising that product you looked at briefly and decided against buying. Who knows, you might even have clicked on it. As digital marketers, we hope so – it shows that targeted media works.

But how clued up is the average consumer on how their data is being used to dictate what they encounter online? Do most people realise that their behaviours are anonymously tracked when they visit sites so that brands can use their consented data to profile, target and even re-target them? More importantly – do they care?

Merits of GDPR: trust and attitudes to data collection

To answer that question, we must first look at attitudes to personal data. The valuable and sensitive data like names, email addresses, postal addresses and financial information. Experian-DataIQ research from 2016 showed that nearly half of us prefer not to share our data unless we absolutely have to, and only a third are happy to share when they are given a reason why.

Consumers recognise data’s importance but, as brands, we seem to be jeopardising the way we are perceived to collect it, manage it and use it.

For many marketers, their biggest consideration as we head into 2018 is GDPR. This new EU General Data Protection Regulation will come into effect on 25th May 2018 and its stated aim is to rebuild consumers’ confidence and trust when sharing personal data, by giving them a sense of control which they do not currently enjoy. Brexit will not shield British organisations from its impact – the GDPR will be implemented in the UK, too.

With the government doing its bit to guarantee the responsible collection, storage, processing and use of data, it is easy for businesses to assume that the problem is being solved for them. According to a survey by the Institute of Company Directors, 30% of the 869 members questioned had never even heard of GDPR.

That’s nearly a third of influential decision-makers completely in the dark about GDPR and what it will provide, ie. the framework and regulation for organisations to responsibly get their data policies in order. Future success will depend on its implementation and, more importantly, on the reassurance and protection it will offer to customers.

The exponential growth in ad-blocking over recent years offers a big clue as to how consumers feel about the misuse of their data. And at its core, the GDPR offers the ‘right to be forgotten’ which is much more than the current right to stop direct marketing. This is a mechanism which will give any individual the right to have all data held about them deleted. If marketers continue to misuse or neglect personal data, rest assured that many, many consumers will insist they delete it. The industry needs to get ready for this – right now.

The science bit

We need to look past the numbers – and focus on individuals. Many organisations still rely on broadcast approaches to their consumers, approaches which become increasingly intrusive and irritating as consumers navigate the digital world. Of course, many of us have implemented CRM programmes, but all too often these still operate from a business perspective, not a customer one.

Modern programmatic techniques, data science and analytics and integrated digital systems can do a lot more than simple targeting and segmentation; they can help craft truly personalised communications to customers. Unsurprisingly, such strategies are not only effective, but improve customer confidence. For example, research into attitudes to financial services (one of the least trusted sectors globally since 2008) found that 64% of global banking customers wanted more personalised communications from their bank. Contrast this with 83% of UK banking customers who feel that their bank does not know or understand them.

There is consumer desire for brands to use personal data effectively and yet the majority of businesses do not live up to expectations. Is it any wonder consumers are sceptical about data use when it adds so little genuine value to their experience?

Confidence comes from believing that we can talk to fewer customers or prospects than before, but still achieve our aims because we are talking in the right way to the right people, through relevant and informed targeting. Batch and blast needs to become a thing of the past and not the ‘norm’ it is now.

Rethink your communications

We specify three sets of behaviours for organisations that want to ensure effective use of personal data and communications:

  1. End batch and blast. Listen to what consumers have said they want to receive. Start to use long-established but underused techniques to segment consumers on the basis of behavioural, attitudinal and motivational metrics in the data. Use modelling and propensity targeting tools to re-align what we send out with what consumers want, or are likely to want.
  2. Learn dynamically from the consumer. Examine browsing behaviours and, by reviewing open, click and engagement metrics, stop the wasteful and irritating practice of sending out unopened email after unopened email.
  3. Place the consumer at the centre of the model. Ensure that the biggest chunk of what we do is driven by consumer triggers, rather than the traditional marketing cycle.

The implementation of GDPR will enhance consumer rights of protection, access and permissions as to how their data is used. The onus on organisations to ensure they do not fall foul of savvy consumers who know their right is now even greater. And that’s exactly as it should be.

But the real focus must be on providing the customer with value and positive experiences. If personal data brings brands and customers closer together for a shared benefit and a more harmonious relationship, then who wouldn’t buy into that?

Have an opinion on this article? Please join in the discussion: the GMA is a community of data driven marketers and YOUR opinion counts.

Keith Carlton
Author: Keith Carlton
Senior data planner at bigdog |

Keith Carlton (pictured left) has more than 20 years’ experience as a data strategist, and has worked with names such as HSBC, Vodafone, Fortnum and Mason and Virgin. His focus is on the optimal use of data to connect clients and brands, in a way which maximises engagement and trust. Dan Marsh has worked in integrated marketing agencies for more than ten years with clients including Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Quorn Foods, NEFF and Sky Bet & Gaming. Specialising in digital marketing strategy, he is responsible for bigdog’s digital strategy and channel planning output.

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