• Opinion

GDPR is an opportunity for brands and agencies alike.

The introduction of GDPR has undoubtedly been one of the hottest topics in marketing in 2018. Unless you’ve been on Mars, you will have seen news about the new data rules – not least from the mountain of GDPR-related emails sent out by the brands you subscribe to. The regulations, which came into effect on 25th May, amount to the biggest shake-up of European data protection rules for two decades. They also present a massive opportunity for brands to renew their relationships with customers.

For over 18 months, BJL has been keeping a close eye on the development of the GDPR legal framework. Given that CRM is one of our specialisms, we’ve identified an opportunity to support clients through the GDPR transition – not by providing definitive legal advice, but by helping brands to continue building and nurturing their customer relationships in the new regulatory environment.

GDPR, heralds a fundamental change in the way businesses are legally obliged to process and handle customer data. It includes giving customers greater access to the data that companies hold on them, and new obligations for businesses to act transparently and obtain the consent of people they collect information about.

The rules also bring into force a much harsher fines regime for companies that are found to have misused personal data. The most serious breaches could command fines of up to €20 million or 4% of a firm’s global turnover (whichever is greater) – a significant increase on the £500,000 penalty the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office could previously implement.

In many cases there has been a challenge for businesses in not just digesting and understanding all the new rules and reams of information, but in knowing how those rules should apply to their specific brand behaviours. We’ve had several brands come to us who have already employed lawyers and consultants to advise on GDPR, but who have wanted clarification and advice from a pure marketing perspective.

At the heart of this is our planning team, which takes a deep-dive into a brand’s strategy in order to find its best route through the GDPR minefield. We’ve done everything from complete audits of clients’ data policies, to crafting and designing emails which explain the implications of GDPR to their customers. Our work here is always informed by the legal advice of the DMA.

With brands now required to get the explicit consent of people who wish to continue receiving marketing communications, customer databases face an overhaul as lapsed and unresponsive subscribers are removed from marketing lists. As a result, another key aspect of our work has been to advise clients on how to identify the priority customers they most want to keep, and their strategy for securing those customers’ opt-ins in a post-GDPR world.

It shows that we’re a true partner with our clients during a period of major change in the design and implementation of their CRM programmes. We’ve looked to share GDPR knowledge across the agency at all times too, such as by holding sessions with copywriters to ensure their work is fully informed by the most up-to-date legal requirements.

Despite the challenges it brings, all brands should see GDPR as a big opportunity too. Yes, databases may shrink and marketing volumes may drop, but the result should also be to leave brands with cleansed data that helps them target the most engaged customers.

The GDPR overhaul didn’t end on 25th May, either. Even with the implementation of a new, compliant data policy, brands will have to prove on an ongoing basis that their communications are relevant to consumers.

That opens up opportunities for deeper, more valuable relationships with customers, facilitated by better targeted communications. Indeed one area we’re already looking at for clients is the development of preference centres, that not only capture the customer preferences around contact, channels & product ranges, but also start to build a much richer, deeper understanding of customers’ attitudes and motivations, through the use of more “conversational” data capture, through the use of surveys and polls, making data capture more intuitive for the customer and enabling us to have much more engaging conversations with customers.

It’s a brave new world for brands and agencies alike, and we’re glad to play our part in it.

Despite the challenges it brings, all brands should see GDPR as a big opportunity too. Yes, databases may shrink, but the result should also be to leave brands with a cleansed data that helps them target the most engaged customers.