The Impact of GDPR on Digital Marketing Practices. Ever since the General Data Protection Regulation was made law in 2018, we have felt the impact of GDPR on marketing strategies across all industry sectors.
The digital marketing sector has faced considerable challenges since the introduction of GDPR. Data collection has always been at the heart of digital marketing strategy, paving the way for lead generation, sales activities, and improved user experience.
The introduction of GDPR has been effective in allowing individuals to take back ownership of their data and how it gets used. However, the impact on digital marketers has been substantial.
GDPR makes accessing data more difficult and brings additional challenges to marketers. Any organizations that fail to adhere to regulations face fines of up to 20 million euros.
GDPR is a fairly exhaustive set of laws that govern how data is obtained and handled.
It’s used throughout the European Union, adopting a standardized approach to accommodate usage in each EU member state.
To understand the impact of GDPR on marketing, it’s worth getting to grips with the basic principles behind it.
In broad terms, there are seven principles worth focusing on.
1. Lawfulness, Transparency, and Fairness
The lawfulness principle dictates that the processing of personal information should only ever happen for good reason.
This could mean that an individual has consented to their data being processed. It can also apply if data needs to be used to deliver contractual obligations.
Transparency spotlights the need for clarity and honesty with users on how their data might get processed. It also requires that those collecting data are honest about who they are and why they’re processing data.
Fairness is another crucial part of GDPR. In short, fairness dictates that you shouldn’t be withholding any vital information regarding how you might process and use collected data.
2. Data Minimization
Per GDPR guidelines, companies must collect as little data as possible to fulfill their respective objectives.
This can prove particularly problematic for marketing endeavors.
If you only need email addresses to build an online mailing list, avoid asking for additional information like telephone numbers or geographic location.
3. Storage Limitation
You’ll have to consider how long you intend to hold on to collected information thanks to the introduction of GDPR.
If you have yet to establish a clear framework for data retention, make this a priority.
Make sure you’re only holding onto collected information for a set period.
Once this agreed-upon period has elapsed, you’ll need to get rid of any stored data you’re not using.
Alternatively, you can remove certain data sets to make records anonymous.
4. Purpose Limitation
This principle outlines the importance of data only being used for certain purposes.
GDPR requires that companies clearly state their intended purpose for processing data.
Privacy notices should identify purpose, but companies also must monitor data processing to ensure they’re keeping good on their obligations.
If purposes shift over time, consent forms and privacy notices will need to be updated accordingly.
GDPR is heavily regulated, but it’s assumed that not every organization claiming to follow regulatory guidance is doing so.
This is where accountability comes into play.
All organizations should carry out regular audits and maintain consistent records to prove that they are adhering to the key principles of GDPR.
If you’re not yet keeping track of your GDPR compliance, make this an urgent priority.
Regulatory authorities can request documentation at any point.
This GDPR principle is not necessarily limiting for organizations.
It encourages best practice data management that can help you realize your objectives.
Maintaining accurate data will, however, require some effort.
You’ll need to carry out regular audits of your collected data to ensure it’s accurate and dispense of incorrect data when the need arises.
7. Confidentiality and Integrity
Data security is one of the most important things to consider if you’re looking to stay GDPR compliant.
You’ll need to ensure that any data you collect is adequately protected against external threats and breaches.
However, you’re also accountable for things like accidental loss of data and unlawful processing of stored data.
The Impact of GDPR on Marketing Professionals
Collecting data is one of the core components of any marketing strategy. Without rich data sets at your disposal, a marketing exercise can’t take shape.
The impact of GDPR on marketing is considerable. To overcome it and access essential data, you need to be focusing on a few key areas of GDPR.
Legal Bases for Processing
This is the first GDPR challenge you’ll encounter as a marketing professional. GDPR outlines six different legal bases for data processing: consent, contract, legal obligation, public task, vital interests, and legitimate interests.
You’ll need to meet the requirements of at least one of these legal bases to procure and process data from anyone based in the European Union.
In the digital marketing sphere, consent is the most commonly adopted legal base for processing. In other words, you’ll need to request explicit permission to obtain and store information.
If you fail to do this, you can fall foul of GDPR on multiple fronts. Ideally, you should inform users that you are using consent as a legal basis, while also offering an example of this in context.
Obtaining Consent for Data Processing and Marketing Purposes
Long gone are the days when digital marketers could depend on implied consent to obtain data. In the past, many companies readily created mailing lists from information sourced from previous orders and email exchanges.
Nowadays, these once innocuous actions would fall as a violation of GDPR law. If you want to encourage a user to sign up for a new marketing campaign, you’ll need to ensure you’re obtaining express consent.
Furthermore, you’ll need to get consent for every contact method, including email, SMS, and so on. Using checkbox forms can make this fairly effortless.
Making it Easy for Users to Opt-Out
Once you’ve obtained consent from someone to use their data, don’t assume they’re consenting to a life-long commitment. GDPR means that marketers need to make it easy for individuals to easily opt-out of an agreement.
In the past, an individual may have had to contact a marketing agency directly to remove their details from mailing lists and erase any stored data. Nowadays, the burden lies solely with the marketer.
GDPR means that marketers need to consistently obtain consent from individuals, long beyond a simple click of a checkbox. Opt-out and unsubscribe options should be included as a staple part of every exchange.
The Impact of GDPR on Affiliate Marketing
If your main area of focus is affiliate marketing, you’ll be glad to know that GDPR won’t impact your business disproportionately.
However, affiliate marketers still need to consider the basics when working around the impact of GDPR on marketing projects.
When gathering personal data, make sure you’re outlining the legal basis for the collection. You’ll also need to ensure you’re getting explicit consent from users to collect and process their data.
Remember, anyone living within the European Union has the right to ask you to remove them from your contact lists. They can also ask you to remove any data associated with them or enquire about what information you have on them.
You’re required by law to respond to all of these requests. Failure to do so can result in matters escalating to regulatory authorities.
Targeted Ads and GDPR
Although personalized ads were once viewed with suspicion, consumer appetite for them has swelled in recent years.
Because of this, targeted ads are becoming increasingly commonplace. Digital marketers regularly use information like data location to provide tailored ads to specific market demographics.
However, using stored data to deliver targeted ads is becoming increasingly difficult thanks to GDPR. In theory, targeted ads can still be aimed at customers if the information used isn’t tied to any personal data.
Many organizations are overcoming the issues around GDPR and targeted ads by allowing for additional permissions from individuals. Alongside checkboxes for email newsletters, users can often select their preference for targeted ads.
Virtual Help Desks and Bots
More businesses than ever are making use of virtual assistants and chatbots to engage with their customers. With significant cost-savings to be had, this is understandable.
If you’re based in or do business in the European Union, you’ll need to ensure any chatbots you’re using are compliant with GDPR.
Although most chatbots are used to provide frontline customer service support, they’re often used as a data mining tool. However, it can be hard to apply a legal basis to them.
If you’re using chatbots and virtual assistants regularly enough, it’s worth reviewing your privacy policies to ensure you’re fully compliant with GDPR. Chatbots will also need to meet exacting data security standards.
Essential GDPR Steps Every Marketing Agency Should Be Taking
Although GDPR has been around for several years now, many digital marketing agencies are still struggling to manage compliance.
If you’re a newly established organization worried about compliance, or a more experienced operator worried that you’re falling short in some areas, there are some practical tips you can apply.
Audit Existing Data Sets
If you’ve been using mailing lists for many years, there’s a good chance that most data you’ve accumulated won’t be GDPR compliant.
Conducting an audit of customer data is essential. If data hasn’t been obtained with express consent or with an opt-out option, you’ll have to remove the data entirely.
Reconsider How You’re Collecting Information
If you’re providing a very specific service, consider adopting a give-and-take approach to getting new data. Think about creating in-depth guides that users can download from your site in exchange for providing information.
Review Privacy Statements
In addition to fine-tuning your policy to ensure it’s compliant, take the opportunity to redraft it for readability and user-friendliness.
The impact of GDPR on digital marketing has been considerable. As a general rule, digital marketers should adopt a transparent approach to the way they collect data to remain GDPR compliant.
Consent is crucial when it comes to collecting data as a digital marketer. This goes beyond simply asking for consent at the first exchange.
To remain GDPR compliant, you need to ensure consent remains a firm fixture of your interactions with customers.
They need to be alerted to any changes in how their data is used and processed, as well as being able to opt-out at any time.
Author’s bio for this guest post: