Hidden Opportunities in the Age of GDPR

. September 10, 2018

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is now a fact of life. What will the impact on marketing analytics be long-term?

Is this the end of people-based marketing and the dawn of a new, more stringent data privacy world?

While most of the focus has been on the scramble for GDRP compliance, much less attension has been on subtle new opportunities that will emerge from GDPR for organizations that see and leverage them.

How GDPR Is Playing Out

Europeans are exercising their rights under GDPR at a faster rate than expected. In a recent SAS survey of almost 2,000 U.K. and Irish Internet users, 27 percent said they have already activated their GDPR rights over personal data, and 56 percent plan to do so within the next year.

Respondents also reacted strongly when asked about their data being shared with third parties. More than half (54 percent) reported that doing so would cause them to take steps to protect their information.

The Facebook/Cambridge Analytica data debacle has motivated many people to reexamine the use of their personal data. The study reports that social media companies will be hit the hardest, with 44 percent of survey participants saying they have or will exercise their right to have their data removed from social media sites.

The numbers are smaller – but still telling – when asked about other industries:

  • 34 percent said they would do so with retailers,
  • 30 percent for banks, and
  • 30 percent for insurance companies

The advent of GDPR seems to have actually accelerated webpage load times, and the difference is dramatic. Catchpoint reported in July that the U.S. version of USA Today was loading in 10.22 seconds versus the European versions at an average of .57 seconds. The difference, experts say, is most likely due to the removal of third-party features, such as ad servers, Google services and analytics and social media plugins.

Brian Byer, vice president and content and commerce practice lead at Blue Fountain Media, says that some companies are taking this opportunity to do some much needed website housekeeping. “We have clients who are amazed at the quantity of tags that have been built up over the years and are presently unused. As a result, our GDPR clients are taking a hard look at these and removing the speed bumps.”

A Trust-Building Opportunity

It’s easy to look at GDPR as an obstacle. But many savvy marketers are also seeing it as an opportunity to build trust with customers. By respecting their privacy concerns, brands have the chance to strengthen loyalty and obtain the most useful data. In the SAS survey, respondents said they are most trusting of organizations that promise they will not share data with third parties (38 percent) or misuse their data (37 percent).

Implementing GDPR consent requirements is also an opportunity to acquire flexible rights to use and share data.

“Don’t lose sight of the fact that implementing GDPR consent requirements is an opportunity for an organization to acquire flexible rights to use and share data,” says Lydia Clougherty Jones, research director at Gartner. If data and analytics leaders involve themselves in the right way, Jones says, they can use GDPR to gain greater access to data and create new uses for that data.

Organizations can also realize cost savings from GDPR compliance. It’s a chance to clean house, streamline your data collection processes and obtain higher quality information. By removing old records, or records of unengaged customers, time is better spent on the real customer.

GDPR’s data portability feature creates another opportunity for some companies. Individuals can obtain and use their personal data for their own purposes across different services and request that their data be transferred to a new controller. This could create more parity in the marketplace, benefiting smaller or newer companies, as new customers are able to switch services more easily.

Strategies for a New Era

Go lean. Identify which data points are most important to your marketing analytics strategy. Then, says Gerry Widmer, partner and CEO at Zesty.io, “really focus on the 10 or 15 pieces of data that actually contribute to improving the customer experience. Once you know what data you need — and what you need it for — it suddenly becomes a lot easier to inform the end user about why you’re collecting their data.”

Pare back. Determine if you are inadvertently collecting data that 1) you don’t need and 2) could you put you out of compliance. For instance, you might be capturing things such as IP addresses, location data and images of a person – all of which is protected data under GDPR. If you don’t need this information, jettison it.

Dive into your toolbox. It’s often easier to focus on what’s lost rather than the opportunities that remain. One outcome of GDPR is that more marketers are turning to contextual advertising. Research from ad tech firm Sizmek found that 87 percent of marketers said they plan to increase contextual targeting in the next 12 months, while maintaining personalized advertising where possible.

Hone stories. Robert Rose of the Content Marketing Institute, sees GDPR as “the biggest opportunity in more than a decade for content marketers to become strategic.” The key, he says, isn’t to give up on using personal data to optimize content and marketing strategies, but to gather better information. “Data given, rather than scraped or gathered unwillingly, is simply more valuable as a marketing asset,” he emphasizes. “Providing valuable content-driven experiences where the data is given willingly, trustingly, and actively is the way to not only comply but to thrive in this new business environment.”

Empower users. Generational differences create opportunities too. The SAS survey found that younger users (18- to 24-year-olds) are more willing to exchange personal data for incentives. These users reported that they are less likely to activate their data rights if they can receive a satisfactory incentive. They are willing to exchange data permission for financial rewards (35 percent), free merchandise (24 percent) or more personalized services (17 percent) – all much higher than in other age groups.

What the Future Holds

Concerns about data privacy aren’t going away. GDPR may be leading the way, but Rashmi Vittal, vice president of marketing for SAP Customer Data Cloud, says it’s just the beginning.

“Enforcement is only getting started, and we’re already seeing new privacy mandates such as California’s AB 375 (California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA) and the European Union’s (EU) ePrivacy Directive push the issue of using data with integrity to the forefront,” Vittal says.

Bottom line? Data transparency is here to stay. But it’s an opportunity for marketers and marketing analytics professionals to hone their strategies, create stronger, more trusting relationships with customers, and cull the most useful data from users.

Diane S. Thieke covers the intersection of marketing, data and technology. She previously led marketing and public relations teams at Dow Jones, where she was responsible for promoting the company’s business information, media analytics, and sales and marketing products.

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Category: Articles, Customer Experience, Data, Privacy, Trends

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