How will GDPR change the face of digital marketing?

Data privacy regulations will change the face of online marketing

You will almost certainly need to rethink your inbound marketing in the light of GDPR.

For many years e-mail marketing was the poor relation compared to other web promotional tools. Heavy spamming gave email a bad name and marketers put it on the shelf for quite a while.

A few years ago, it began to enjoy a renaissance as marketers sharpened up their CRMs. They realized that the analytics available allowed high levels of targeting and fine tuning of offers to specific targets. Inbound marketing became one of the favoured tools.

One of the drawbacks however was the restrictions placed on permission requirements and opt-ins. However, it was not too onerous and most marketers were able to come to sensible solutions. The benefits businesses could accrue from well structured inbound campaigns far outweighed the difficulties and inconvenience.

All that could be about to change. GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) look likely to put far more restrictions on companies in terms of securing and qualifying potential recipients. GDPR will touch many aspects of email marketing, especially how businesses seek, collect, and record consent. Marketers will have to seek affirmative consent "freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous".

This will not only apply to collection of new data but also to pre-existing data in mailing lists and CRMs. If businesses are not able to provide sufficient evidence of specific consent they may not be allowed to send mail to them, and if they do, they may be liable for substantial penalties.

Large, well-organized brands will undoubtedly be taking the (often very costly) steps to comply, but for smaller businesses the task may be just too difficult.

How will marketers respond?

So, does this mean that GDPR is likely to change the digital brandscape? It may certainly mean that inbound marketing slides down the list of favoured techniques. For smaller businesses the rewards may just not justify the hassle and cost.

We might see brands move more into using social media for targeting, perhaps an increasing use of closed groups. Recruiting followers could be more productive than qualifying email prospects.

For most inbound marketing the transaction point is the website, so traffic building by other means may grow in importance. Promotional techniques may move more to broadcasting rather than narrow-casting. High-value prospects and customers are likely to become more important and worth the effort securing consent. Targeting, triaging and filtering is likely to be a key activity.

We have just over a year until the proposed introduction of GDPR in May 2018.  Businesses will be checking their requirements and considering tactics to deal with their current and future email processes. Smart marketers are likely to also be assessing cost/benefits and considering more effective strategies.