The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) caused a big stir on its introduction in May 2018, with businesses highly concerned about non-compliance and data handling. While the legislation was intended to replace the former Data Protection Act that businesses had to follow, the concern for many related to the penalties for non-compliance, which have already seen fines of around £200m for British Airways and £100m for Marriott Hotels.
While the legislation is now quite established, there are some businesses still working on fully implementing their data handling processes to cope with the stricter requirements of GDPR.
The first year
Many companies of all sizes were very concerned about balancing the requirements of the new legislation with their usual business practices. While previous laws had requirements about storage, accuracy and encryption of data sent outside the EU, for lots of companies it affected their ability to market their products and services to existing and new customers.
One of the big problems for marketing teams in particular was the idea of ‘explicit consent’ for communications. While many contact forms previously collected email addresses and included small print to say that their email address would be added to a mailing list, the ‘auto opt-in’ method was now outlawed and customers had to specifically choose to be included.
Another area that attracted criticism in the GDPR is known as Article (d), and states that data must be accurate, up to date and every reasonable step must be taken to either delete or erase inaccurate information. For some companies, this represented a severe departure from their previous handling policies, potentially requiring huge IT investment and a significant amount of staff-hours expenses.
From the perspective of both IT and marketing, GDPR is never a completed task; with every new technology, upgrade or implementation, the requirements of GDPR must be aligned and reassessed to ensure the requisite level of compliance.
Are marketers jobs now more difficult?
Marketing teams across Europe had to change their focus when it came to handling customer data, as the requirement for customer data to only be used for purposes that were strictly relevant came into play. This was initially seen as negative by marketers, as those using email marketing, for instance, relied on casting a wide net to reach as many people as possible. Over time, once the legislation has settled, however, it could be that GDPR is a challenge that has resulted in stronger and more robust business practices. One Deloitte study showed nearly half of those surveyed believed companies now care more about customer privacy. Some marketers may even find that those who actively give consent for marketing messages are now ‘warm leads’ and respond better to company messaging.
While some business have seen very little impact from GDPR and others have had to invest heavily in both technology and personnel to ensure compliance, the regulations aren’t’ going away and ensuring compliance must be among the skills of many marketers.
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