Is GDPR the end of data-driven marketing?


Traditionally, marketing is a data-heavy industry. When the new regulations were announced, there was collective panic. How will we know what our customers want if we can’t use the data we’ve collected about them?

But the Data Protection Act was introduced in 1998 when just 10% of households had access to the internet. The current data protection laws are no longer fit for purpose, and in order for marketers to form stronger, more trusting relationships with consumers, we need to work on consent.

And trust us – this is a good thing. Collecting data in the hope that it will one day become useful isn’t productive anyway. You’re both damaging your relationship with your customers and wasting your time.

This ‘collect now, process later’ mentality has given marketing — particularly email marketing — a bad reputation. Customers worry that we collect data indiscriminately to bombard them with things they just don’t care about.

57% of consumers don’t trust how brands use their data. — CIM Study

By embracing GDPR and the closely related Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to turn this around.

Here’s how:

Take the chance to stand out

We should see the new privacy regulations as an opportunity to stand out from our competitors. All organisations must be compliant by May 2018 — but there will be few organisations confident enough to shout about their compliance for a while.

Until GDPR compliance becomes a given, you have an opportunity to stand out from your competitors. If you’re going that extra mile to ensure your customers’ data is safe, communicate it clearly.

Embrace human engagement

The regulations are a positive move from over-dependence on impersonal, automated marketing. The changes bring opportunities for more personalised engagement, based on freely given information.

According to a study by PWC: 94% of senior level executives believe that delivering personalisation is critical to reaching and retaining customers.

GDPR gives us the push to approach marketing with an engagement-first mindset. By collecting granular consent online, we have a better understanding of what users want to hear about. Which means we can better target and personalise our communications.

Remember — if you’re collecting information to personalise your campaigns or for segmentation and targeting, be careful. You’ll need to gain explicit consent to say that a customer’s data can be used in this way. Alternatively, you’ll need to argue that there are grounds for legitimate interest.

Build better relationships

Through consent, you can gain insight into each individual’s interests to provide them with information they want to receive. This will also stop your customers feeling annoyed at receiving loads of emails or communications they have absolutely no interest in.

Users will need to ‘opt-in’ to communications. No more tricking customers with pre-ticked boxes. More detailed opt-ins and more granular consent improves transparency.

terms and conditions

Both you and your customers will have a better understanding of how and why data is collected and used — which builds more honest, open relationships.

Improve trust & transparency

93% of online shoppers cite the security of their personal data as a concern.

GDPR and privacy by design gives us a real opportunity to build trust with our customers or clients. This comes through projecting transparency.

Be clear about what you’re using your customers’ data for and reassuring them that it’s stored securely. If you can show that you have your customer’s best interests at heart, you will both strengthen trust and encourage engagement with your customers.

By focusing your efforts on customers who actively wish to interact and engage with your brand, you will naturally foster greater brand loyalty. Rather than wasting time trying to reach an uninterested audience.

All of this means improved focus. The big question you need to ask, is: “do I really need to know all of this information about someone before they can perform this action — is it even relevant?”

If you’ve been collecting data ‘just in case’, the answer is, probably not.

What this means is that you need to focus on the data you need, and stop asking for the “nice to haves.” Consumers who opt-in and provide their specific details want to actively engage with brands.

“If we can’t easily explain what we’re doing with personal data then we shouldn’t be doing it.” — Tom Parsley, Commercial Director, Selesti

When you’re collecting data, think about:

GDPR questions to ask

Ultimately, you need to explain:

  • why you have the data you have
  • what you’re going to use it for
  • and show that you have permission to use it this way

If you can’t easily explain why you hold this data, you shouldn’t have it or use it.

Think carefully about copy

Copywriting may feel like a formality, but actually it’s an opportunity to communicate with your customers in a much more transparent way. By taking the time to sharpen your copy, you’ll building a more open relationship with your customers.


Highlight the benefits of using their information. Does knowing about your customer make their experience better? Does it save them time or money? If so, say it.

Make it easy for people to opt-out of your communications. People will give consent more freely if they know it’s not forever. Make it clear through your copy and design that your visitors can change their mind at anytime.

Get creative

Last but not least, the new regulations are forcing marketers to be more creative. Digital marketers are often so focused on what the data says, that creativity comes second to standardised processes. It should never be this way, and it doesn’t have to be.

Personal information will be more difficult to acquire. So, marketers will need to be more creative in ways they incentivise consumers to provide the details — and make the data they do have go further.

You will have to bring your best ideas to the table in order to get people to part with their valuable information — and stay creative to keep it.

Marketers should be excited

The processes and procedures involved in becoming compliant may seem laborious, but marketers should be excited. GDPR has given us the opportunity to approach marketing in a more focused and transparent way. Making marketing less creepy and more creative.