While there is much concern about how companies can prepare for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), what will be interesting to see is how it will impact marketers in both the immediate aftermath and the long-term future.
GDPR isn’t something that the marketing division should be afraid of. In fact, it should be something that organisations should take advantage of. It can be a catalyst to build stronger data sharing, and use the data insights to improve the relationship between brand and consumer. Marketing can leverage deeper consumer knowledge and relationships to improve the consumer’s buying experience.
The real value of the consumer
Good business is about good customer relations - without a loyal consumer base, companies will cease to exist. It therefore follows that understanding consumer data and listening to the customer are intrinsic to successful business.
As a result, many industries are now using data analytics to personalise their customer journey, improve the quality of their consumer communications and refocus their brand offering. This means putting a high value on personal data and placing the customer at the centre of the business strategy.
The key to maximising the end-user experience and empowering consumers is to invite them to participate in data-infused business processes that deliver external value to the consumer and organisations alike. For example, as organisations become increasingly digital, they are starting to create intelligent assistants to listen to and learn from our every move. They can then use that data to improve their services.
The role of technology
Technology is crucial to achieving a business centred around the consumer. Using technology to listen to and learn from our every move, to truly understand us, whilst adopting a culture of transparency that harnesses trust, will be pivotal in reconstructing brands from the inside out.
As sceptical consumers wait in the wings to have their data deleted from history, businesses will need to lean on marketers to draw value from the changing landscape.
Building trust with consumers by becoming transparent in data usage will help to establish a dialogue between end-user and the brand. If the consumer understands that by giving their data to a brand they will achieve a certain benefit, whether it’s personalised offerings or discounts, then they’re more likely to be open and willing to share their data in the future.
When GDPR comes into effect from 2018, every European citizen will have the right to know what personal data is being stored and what it is being used for. They will have the right to access their data, request their data as an export, or for it to be erased.
As sceptical consumers wait in the wings to have their data deleted from history, businesses will need to lean on marketers to draw value from the changing landscape. A trustworthy business will be more likely to keep its consumer data assets, and a strong consumer-facing communications programme is key to establishing that trust.
GDPR works in the marketing department’s favour
GDPR poses many challenges. From May 2018, organisations will be required to have consumers knowingly and voluntarily consent to the use of their personal data. If marketers do nothing, they risk losing their key asset during this process. However, GDPR also has the potential to result in opportunities for the use of data in an organisation.
This is where the GDPR begins to work in marketing’s favour. A consumer request about their data could become an opportunity to build trust and loyalty and improve overall data quality and richness. However, if brands open dialogue with individuals by providing them with more information and choice and highlighting the benefits on offer, they will be able to encourage them to contribute directly and provide accurate personal information.
As a consumer puts in a GDPR request - whether that’s ‘what do you know about me’ or exercising the right to be forgotten – the minimum requirement is for the IT function to either provide that information or remove information from the system.
However, there is a huge opportunity for marketing to gain insight into why that consumer has put in that request. While this can either be done online or verbally, the overall aim is to gain an understanding as to what and why that customer put in that initial data query, and engage with them to ensure they understand the benefits (of data sharing). By involving the marketing function, knowledge can be gathered and exchanged. This means that businesses can better understand consumer sentiment around data sharing, and what actions therefore need to be taken in order to increase data sharing and engagement.
A consumer request regarding personal data could therefore be an opportunity for marketers to build trust and loyalty through interaction, as well as improve overall data quality and richness. In the hands of marketers, and not the IT department, consumers can both exercise their data rights and directly contribute to the quality of their data. If organisations are transparent about what information they gather, how they use it, and what choices consumers have, then they are likely to be more receptive to marketing, which will ultimately help organisations focus on their needs.
Changing consumer attitudes drives a more sustainable engagement model
We are experiencing a change in consumer attitudes with the emergence of a younger, more data-savvy generation, who are intrigued by what their data can do for them.
Consumer benefits so far have primarily been focused on financial gain - with personal data exchanged for discounts or money. Yet this is not a sustainable model, given the rapid increase in the types of data that are being used in marketing analytics and the right to be forgotten at any time. Keeping consumers informed of the benefits of data sharing is a far more cost-effective way to encourage data sharing over an extended period.
Consumers want to know what their personal data will be used for and how the privacy of that information will be upheld. Therefore, the trust issue over data could be addressed through better communication.
GDPR will undoubtably increase consumer’s understanding of their data rights. Left to the IT department, consumers who exercise their rights could be treated without consideration of the total value of the consumer to the brand. However, by placing the responsibility for data rights within the marketing department, all actions and decisions made during the processes can be done within the context of the knowledge of that consumer. Data requests such as right to be forgotten, request for data transfer or how data is being used should become new marketing touchpoints. Touchpoints can help build strength in consumer relationships by understanding which circumstances lead to more data engagement.
The timing of GDPR allows marketing teams to request investment to strengthen their customer data toolset and skills at the time when consumers are increasingly willing to contribute to a well-managed set of data that returns value to them. Marketers should embrace this opportunity with open arms – with the ability to deliver business value beyond simply avoiding the fines and bad publicity associated with non-compliance to GDPR.
Monica McDonnell is strategic business development for Europe, at Informatica.