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Opinion

Are you ready for Europe’s new data laws?

Data is the most valuable resource driving today’s global economy. It’s also an inherent part of modern marketing campaigns and underpins the foundations of e-commerce as we know it.

As such, it’s important to understand how the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will impact Australian retailers and their use of customer data in delivering personalised offers to EU-based shoppers.

When the GDPR comes into effect on May 25, 2018, EU citizens will have a greater level of control over their personal data and will need to give consent for it to be used.

In essence, this means everything from email addresses, names, IP addresses, photos and more will have greater protections within the EU. In turn, this will impact any company in the world that stores or uses the personal information of these citizens.

So, what will GDPR mean for Australian companies with European customers? And what do they need to consider when it comes to using data for marketing personalisation and customer communications?

Three options

As with any new regulation, there are three routes that companies can choose to take:

  1. Ignore it: continue to provide customised offers without consent, ignoring GDPR rules and potential penalties, which can amount to €20 million or four per cent of their global annual turnover.
  2. Avoid it: cease any existing or planned marketing programs and campaigns that may be impacted by GDPR changes, and risk losing overseas sales.
  3. Embrace it: work within the guidelines of GDPR and find better, more effective ways and tools to drive marketing content (e.g. upselling or cross-selling).

It’s worth remembering that data protection is more than a compliance issue. Customers care about their privacy and expect businesses to respect that.

However, the same customers often seek out personalised and tailored customer service experiences. As such, embracing GDPR and working within the guidelines is the key to personalising modern customer service experiences.

By doing so, customers are likely to respond positively to these marketing practices – particularly if there is a level of transparency provided – and make purchases and loyalty decisions based on the level of individualised service they receive.

It is possible to deliver personalisation in the realm of GDPR, provided marketing develops appropriate campaigns and messaging for their target audience (with the EU audience giving the appropriate consent necessary to enable this practice).

How to ensure compliance

To prepare for GDPR, marketers should consider several things that will enable transparency across campaigns. This will ensure compliance with GDPR guidelines and readiness if other regional blocks or countries follow suit and implement similar regulations.

Firstly, opt-in/ opt-out is crucial, as consent must be explicit under GDPR. Companies must be able to provide proof of consent from EU individuals opting-in to receiving marketing communications.

The most effective way to provide this consent (and proof) is following up an opt-in option with a ‘click to confirm’ email. This ensures customers understand what they have signed up for, and are in agreement with the company.

Secondly, as opt-in becomes a mandatory facet of GDPR, marketers need to ensure any on-site forms, both current and future, are in compliance with the new regulations. They must also be hosted and deployed in ways that comply with GDPR.

For opt-in consent that takes place at an event or tradeshow, the most effective way to ensure compliance is providing physical (electronic or paper) forms at a trade booth, and sending a follow-up email post-event.

Finally, marketing should not be an illusion for consumers – there should be transparency in the system for the entire marketing process.

If consumers understand what messaging they opt-in to, and see the value they can gain from such marketing, it is possible to build more trusting relationships and deliver more personalised offers.

GDPR should not be seen as a challenge, but more an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage over others with a winning strategy.

The focus of customer experience should be finding ways to deliver interactions to customers in whichever channel they choose, while also ensuring consistency, accuracy, and ease of effort for the consumer.

Roger Lee is the head of customer experience management at OpenText.

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