GDPR: A threat or an opportunity?

The increased level of control of personal data granted to individuals by the pending General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) looks like a threat to insight-driven companies, but marketers should look at it as an opportunity instead.

Although GDPR was created by the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union (EU) and the European Commission to strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the EU, it affects any business that handles personal data of any European citizen, regardless of geography. In particular, marketers need to note the provision for the “right to be forgotten”—a person can request that you eliminate their information from your system, and organizations of all sizes and industries must comply. Additionally, marketers need to be clear on how they plan to use any personal data and to only use it for that stated purpose.

There is some panic over GDPR, and some studies suggest that companies aren’t ready. But rather than panicking, marketers should embrace GDPR as a chance to be more relevant and build more authentic relationships with customers.

An opportunity to build trust

A key theme of GDPR is transparency around how organizations use personal data and how they collect, store and process related data. Organizations must actively demonstrate how they will meet the GDPR principles of consent, data privacy and data protection.

It takes work, but the required transparency of GDPR presents an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. This is the time for your company to go beyond the minimum standards and really demonstrate to customers that you care and that you are protecting the data they share with you. Exceeding the standards requires the right technology, a sound strategy and a collective effort from different departments, but doing so could help you win the trust—and business—of customers who value data privacy and security.

An opportunity to boost engagement

In a post-GDPR world, your customers will be opting in to any communication with you, rather than opting out of something they didn’t consent to. For marketers, it means consumers who are significantly engaged have chosen to do so, and that makes those consumers more valuable. And because they opted in to get communications from you, these customers are more likely to engage with the content you share with them.

GDPR is really a chance for brands to clearly define what customer relationships mean to them and better understand why customers choose to have a relationship with companies to begin with. This is the time to engage your customers and understand what they expect when opting in to your communication materials.

An opportunity to improve your quality of insight

GDPR requires organizations to have a clear understanding of the data they collect and store. Getting compliant is a chance to do a spring cleaning of their current databases and to build a new, opted-in database by gaining specific consent from their existing customers.

A leaner—but cleaner—database is a good thing. Your database will be more valuable because it will be of higher quality, filled only with customers who have actively chosen to engage with you. GDPR also requires the regular review of your database and deletion of data that’s not needed. That will leave only data that’s important and a list of customers who truly want to hear from you and want to provide ongoing feedback about how you can improve your products and services.

GDPR ultimately spurs quality rather than quantity of data, putting the focus on meaningful datasets that drive actionable insight and impact.

An opportunity to show respect

With recent headlines exposing massive data breaches, customers are likely wary of giving you any more of their personal information. GDPR presents an opportunity for you to demonstrate that you value and respect their data.

In a recent article, Vision Critical CEO Scott Miller said GDPR, together with the many headlines about data breaches, means customers will become increasingly more sensitive about the data they share. That will have a big impact to brands as marketers and researchers will have to justify the existing data they have stored. “Brands will need to prove to their customers that they are only obtaining and using the data necessary to them,” he writes, “but also that they are exploring innovative ways to deliver personalized, valuable experiences to customers in exchange for them sharing their data and their opinions.”

GDPR compliance may be the incentive, but it’s a good idea regardless, as consumers have finite time to engage with brands, and you need to compete for those precious moments. As customers continue to share information, their expectation of personalized experiences in return will increase from “nice to have” to “must have.”

GDPR compliance yields better insight

Although its intent is to safeguard the privacy and personal data of European citizen, GDPR has positive side effects for marketers and insight teams. It may take some work, but in the end, it’s a big opportunity to start building a more respectful and authentic relationship with your customers. In the long term, these authentic customer relationships will deliver higher ROI as they will allow your team to get better insight, accelerate project timelines, improve your efficiency and drive KPIs that matter to your executives.

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