The Impact of GDPR Upon Digital Marketing Practices

The online retail community has faced numerous challenges over the years, and one of the most pertinent involves how proprietary information can be kept safe. 

Because the number of data breaches continues to increase, it only stands to reason that additional regulations have been put into place. 

Some of the most comprehensive involve GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) protocols. 

The primary purpose of the GDPR is to ensure that businesses follow the correct procedures when collecting, storing, and subsequently deleting customer information. 

Considering that there are more than 800,000 online businesses throughout the European Union and the United Kingdom, it is clear that security is a genuine concern.

However, what do these very same regulations mean from a digital marketing standpoint? How have they impacted ongoing strategies? What challenges will organisations face, and are there any ways adopting more targeted techniques can provide businesses with a competitive edge? 

These are some of the topics that we will address immediately below. Regardless of the size of your digital footprint, you cannot take the impact of GDPR lightly. 

What are the Core Tenets of GDPR Guidelines?

Core Gdpr Guidelines

Before delving into how these regulations have affected the world of digital marketing, it is wise to appreciate what issues they are intended to address. Here are the seven fundamental principles:

  • Transparency and fairness.
  • Defining the purposes of data collection to the customer.
  • Minimising the amount of data that is collected.
  • Ensuring superior levels of accuracy.
  • Placing limits upon the amount of time that information can be stored.
  • Accountability.
  • Guaranteeing absolute confidentiality.

We can see that this protocol addresses several areas. This is why remaining fully compliant is always a concern. 

While compliance will help to avoid costly and frustrating audits, it will also serve as a way to redefine digital marketing as a whole. 

After all, limits upon how data is collected will naturally impact when, how, and why potential customers are targeted. This brings us to the main point of the article. 

How have GDPR policies influenced online marketing techniques?

Data Collection

The most apparent impact of GDPR guidelines upon the world of digital marketing involves how data is collected. In the past, marketing specialists would rely heavily upon policies such as:

  • Audience segmentation
  • Geographical location
  • Previous buying habits
  • Personal parameters such as age and gender

Whether building an e-commerce site from scratch or retargeting an existing publicity campaign, this data would have been vital to resonate with the right audience at the appropriate time. 

However, such metrics are now much more challenging to obtain. This is because website visitors have the right to object (at any time) about how their information is being processed. 

If they choose to opt-out completely, the company must delete any data obtained for marketing purposes. 

Consent and the Intrusive Nature of Pop-Up Forms

Popup Demo Example

We have already mentioned that GDPR guidelines require that every visitor must consent to the associated data collection policies. However, we should mention an interesting caveat. 

It is a well-known fact that the most successful digital marketing campaigns are those designed to target a discrete niche audience. 

This naturally signifies that marketers must collect a more significant amount of information. Without such consent, it will become much more challenging to achieve end-user appeal. 

Unfortunately, consent forms can quickly become long and even obtrusive. Many online visitors are no longer willing to wade through such fields to access the content found within a website. 

In other words, they may choose to look elsewhere for similar services and products. This is why marketing experts need to work with in-house compliance officers to ensure that the forms themselves are clear and concise. 

Communication Hurdles

As this article rightfully emphasises, client communications are pivotal in terms of conversion rates. GDPR limitations can often hamper traditional approaches such as:

  • Push notifications
  • Email updates
  • SMS messages

Companies will therefore need to provide customers with opt-out forms to choose how they wish to be contacted. 

Furthermore, an unsubscribe option should be present if an individual no longer wishes to receive any communication. 

The unsubscribe link must be clear and easy to use, offering a simple way to halt future contact. 

Contextual Versus Targeted Marketing

Contextual Offers

It is also prudent to highlight how different forms of digital marketing will be affected in unique ways. Two of the most common approaches include:

  • Contextual marketing
  • Targeted marketing

Contextual marketing is a means to obtain customer data through recent browsing habits. In other words, it does not rely upon personal information. In this case, GDPR is not as strict.

However, the same cannot be said for more targeted techniques requiring discrete details to present relevant products or services. 

This is why many firms are now focusing their efforts upon contextual methods. The only issue is that the information obtained tends to be broader and less discrete. 

Sluggish Page Load Times Due to GDPR Requirements

Recent studies have shown that an average website visitor will wait approximately two seconds for a page to load, particularly those accessing the Internet via a mobile device. This can present yet another hurdle in terms of GDPR regulations. 

As we have already seen, user consent forms are presented as pop-up windows when a site is first accessed. 

If a website is not streamlined in terms of SEO and its technical configuration, these very same pop-ups may cause sluggish load times (known as latency). 

This could lead visitors to close the window and navigate to a portal that presents information more streamlined manner. 

This is why IT professionals and site designers need to keep on top of any technical issues (such as bloatware and redundant HTML) found within the site architecture. 

Remedies: What Steps Can Digital Marketing Specialists Take?

We have now highlighted some of the main challenges associated with GDPR guidelines. 

Although these may appear to be quite formidable at first glance, the good news is that there are many ways in which marketers can remain one step ahead of the curve while remaining in full compliance. 

Let us, therefore, take a look at some powerful suggestions to keep in mind. 

Efficient Data Collection Techniques

In the past, big data was touted as one of the most potent online marketing resources. However, amassing large amounts of information can prove to be challenging from a segmentation perspective. 

This is why marketers have now modified their efforts to target a niche audience. You can use this same policy regarding GDPR data collection. 

Simply stated, the forms should only ask for data that is relevant to a marketing campaign. 

Not only will this help to avoid “fluff” that can stymie the efforts of a specific strategy, but it will streamline the collection process itself. 

In other words, visitors are much more likely to consent if they see that only a certain amount of information is being saved. 

Using GDPR-Compliant Chatbots

Gdpr Compliant Chatbot

This is a relatively new approach, and yet, its benefits are already being appreciated. 

Chatbots are excellent ways to provide clients with a real-time means of engagement, and it is estimated that these clever widgets may save in-house CRM costs by as much as 30 per cent

However, they can also provide a way to obtain much-needed client details.

In this sense, we are referring to bots that have been designed in such a way as to already comply with GDPR stipulations. 

Not only will they provide a decidedly organic edge in terms of customer relations, but businesses can rest assured in the knowledge that any data collected is permitted within the current regulatory framework. 

As chatbots become even more advanced thanks to innovative AI, the chances are high that marketing specialists will rely heavily upon their services. 

Affiliate Marketing

Up until this point, we have discussed how GDPR will affect traditional marketing campaigns. However, what about affiliate strategies? 

Most experts agree that the GDPR framework does not disproportionately target affiliate strategies (such as those offered by Amazon Associates). Still, the same guidelines outlined above will need to apply. These include:

  • Understanding the legal basis of why certain information needs to be collected.
  • Obtaining willing consent.
  • Presenting a clear privacy policy to the customer.

Once again, opt-out clauses are critical so that clients can cease communications at any given time. 

While many affiliate marketing firms have already adapted to GDPR policies, it is wise to perform additional research to ensure that compliance will not become an issue in the future. 

Third-Party Marketing Consent

One of the many reasons why GDPR regulations were first enacted in 2018 was how customer information was provided to third parties (such as strategic business partners). 

At the time, many consumers were unaware that their information was being leveraged in such a fashion. Now, any organisation must make this clear from the onset. 

If any data is sent to a third-party affiliate, it should be made known within the initial consent form. 

Furthermore, as per the guidelines outlined above, users must also opt-out of such practices when desired. 

Active Consent

It is essential to highlight the difference between active and passive consent concerning GDPR consent forms. 

Some businesses may believe that it is permitted to pre-check boxes and automatically fill in specific fields when presenting a customer with a consent form (this is sometimes referred to as “tacit consent”). However, this is no longer the case.

According to Article 7 of the GDPR, users will need to supply a clear affirmation that they agree to the type of data collected. 

Furthermore, the business in question should keep this permission on file to offer superior levels of transparency in the event of an audit. 

This is the best way to legitimise the reasons why personal information is being collated. Let's also remember that visitors will also understand how and why this data needs to be collected.

Email Marketing

Email Marketing Roi

Twenty-nine per cent of all digital marketing specialists consider email campaigns to represent their most effective tools

While there are no issues when referring to individuals who previously opted in for such communications, the same cannot be said for rather unscrupulous policies such as scraping (the process of copying a list of emails from an unaffiliated website). 

These practices are no longer permitted within the GDPR framework. 

Therefore, you must provide consent before email communications (such as sales updates or product promotions) are sent to the end-user. 

While this may indeed put a damper upon one of the most powerful marketing strategies, we also need to keep in mind that those who prefer to receive these details are much more likely to purchase a product or service in the future. 

In other words, opt-in email consent forms are great ways to pre-qualify a prospect during the initial engagement process. 

Putting it All Together: All About Transparency

The bottom line is that current GDPR regulations are not going to disappear soon. If anything, they may become even more comprehensive as concerns about data collection mount. 

Although digital marketing specialists will have to adapt their strategies accordingly, there is still plenty of room for growth within this paradigm shift. 

By embracing transparency and communicating how data is being processed, businesses can remain confident they fully comply. 

Furthermore, customers will appreciate the fact that their privacy is being taken seriously. We are indeed living in a brave new world, and with a bit of foresight, adhering to GDPR rules is much easier than it may initially appear. 

Author Bio: Milica Vojnic is an experienced senior marketing associate at Wisetek who specialises in ensuring businesses are GDPR-compliant. 

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