How a human approach to GDPR will benefit brands
The marketing industry debate about readiness for GDPR has focused mainly on the business perspective, rather than viewing the implications from a consumer point of view. Questions concentrating on whether businesses have the necessary infrastructure in place, the need to re-permission or not, how to deal with the increased number of subject access requests, and, inevitably, the potential costs associated with the change.
However, at its heart GDPR is about the interaction between a person and an organisation. Much hangs on the quality of that interaction. Businesses will need to invest time and effort to ensure the best possible outcome for both parties.
The current standard of passive consumer consent and permissions buried in lengthy unintelligible T&Cs will no longer be acceptable. Not only will this put a company in breach of the new regulation, but is likely to undermine consumer trust.
Transparency is the biggest issue facing brands and marketers, in terms of ensuring that a consumer can clearly understand how their data will be used, what they are consenting it to be used for, and how long that consent will last. If businesses get this right they are less likely to have to prove consent or respond to an avalanche of subject access requests.
Getting consumers onside
Consumer awareness and understanding of GDPR is currently low, 38% of people haven’t heard anything at all about the legislation, according to recent research from Data IQ. This means the burden is on businesses to take an active role in educating people or facing the prospect that they choose the path of least resistance and opt out.
The benefits of opting in need to be more clearly defined, made to feel more tangible and, frankly, valuable, to consumers. The current research shows that consumers are pretty underwhelmed by 1-2-1 communications. 40% believe the information they receive is irrelevant, an increase of 28% from 2016. Duplication is also still an issue, with 35% saying they get the same information on a regular basis, according to the Data IQ research. And they’re quite clear that they dislike online tracking, poor retargeting experiences and stories of platforms using real mobile conversations for ad targeting potentially run the risk of undermining the real benefits of personalisation.
With this in mind, what are the approaches available to brands to overcome these challenges?
1. Embrace, don’t fight GDPR
Businesses need to focus on achieving outcomes that are good for both them and consumers. Being honest and transparent builds trust, which is of long-term value – don’t squander it for a short-term gain. Show how you will use collected data – make it meaningful for the customer, don’t just waffle on about ‘tailoring your experience’. Give specific examples of what ‘consent’ or ‘profiling’ refer to in the context of your business. For example, “we want to access your location so that when you’re near your local store we can send you offers and discounts for that store via push notification or SMS (depending on which you prefer)”.
2. Consent needs to be part of the everyday customer experience
It’s an ongoing activity, not a one-off. Not only are there more types of consent for a customer to give, but that consent now has an expiry date. By adopting a continuous ‘data creep’ approach, businesses can maintain both elements without overloading consumers in one go.
3. Engage to educate customers
Use simple, human language. Don’t hide behind legalese – if people don’t understand something they are more likely to simply opt-out to reduce any potential risk they suspect is lurking there. Develop a consistent approach across all your touchpoints.
The BBC and Channel 4 are already doing this well. The BBC uses simple language to explain the data it collects and how it is used. It also focuses on the benefits of this data usage – such as being able to pick up where you left off with programmes, see local weather updates, and receive recommendations based on preference. C4 produced a video using Alan Carr to bring to life, in its own particular brand voice, why they are asking for specific information and what they will do with it. The broadcaster has the confidence to clearly articulate the value exchange: if we know more about you we can secure more advertisers, which means we can make more of the programmes you love.
4. Provide tangible reassurance about information security
Data security will always be front of mind for consumers, especially given that 21% of UK companies have suffered a security breach in the last two years. Again, simplicity is key. Explain how you ensure the safety of a consumer’s data, mentioning elements like data backup, what you do if there is a data breach, and how you train your staff. This will remove the mystery and fear around consent, data storage, and collection.
5. Understand that the consumer will expect more control
The winners will be those brands which let consumers make simple, well-informed choices and easily update their preferences. The level of choice needs to be sensible – not too much, not too little. Companies then need to use this data to deliver the experience customers want. This will demand more sophisticated software and users to manage more complex rules around campaign set up and selections.
6. Test and learn
Keep reviewing your approach and the language you use to address consumers. Just because GDPR is wrapped up in legal tape doesn’t mean it’s time to abandon the usual marketing principles of test and learn. Develop simple, scalable ways to test different options before putting these into practice.
And, above all, remember that the approach that will help you keep your consumers on side and opted-in to marketing is simplicity. Simplicity of consent, simplicity of language and simplicity of value exchange. The brands which crack this are the ones which will flourish with GDPR.