Nicola Watts
The GDPR Represents A Gold Ticket For Brands

With less than 80 days to go before the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force, the world has divided into three camps; the ostriches who believe that it won’t impact them, the rabbits who are caught in the headlights of what they see as an impending crisis, and those who see it as winning Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket, the pass that allows its owner to enter into a true trust-based relationship with their customers.

Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship. The stronger the trust, the stronger the relationship — but trust needs to be earned. The process of building trust is delicate and takes time. Some people are slow to develop trust, others trust on sight. But, if trust is lost, all is lost; it shatters very easily. Some people lose trust instantaneously while others seemingly turn a blind eye until a defining moment impels them to see what lies before them. When trust gone, it’s extremely difficult if nigh impossible to restore. A distance pervades the relationship either in the guise of coldness or more often in the avoidance of any meaningful engagement. A loss of trust can bring with it feelings of embarrassment or even humiliation at our own naivety and foolishness for ever having trusted in the first place, which is why repairing trust is both challenging and complex.

Headline after headline has proclaimed that public trust in traditional and digital media, in governments and businesses, is at an all-time low across the globe. A recent study by a UK research company into data protection and data privacy asked over two thousand adults who they trusted to keep their personal data safe. The results were ugly. The only organisations that were trusted by more than half the population were the government (60%), the NHS and private healthcare providers (60%) and financial services (59%). Only 11% claimed to trust social media organisations, 10% retailers and brands, and a miserly 2% marketing and advertising companies1. A damning indictment if there ever was one on how far our industry has fallen.

While this research is limited to the UK, there’s no reason to believe that things are any different anywhere else. The fact is that brands are not regarded as trustworthy when it comes to our personal data.

This is where the GDPR comes in. It’s the Golden Ticket that provides a fundamental and much needed first step in regaining trust with our customers, while providing the catalyst for unlocking the true value of data. It takes time to rebuild trust, but once you do, it can be stronger than ever.

The GDPR is a new EU regulation that governs how organisations manage and structure their customer and employee data. It aims to unify the EU data protection legislations, and to strengthen data protection to meet the new privacy challenges generated by the development of digital technologies. It prescribes how companies should process, store and protect their customer data, while providing customers with the ability to decide what information can be held on them, as well as the right to access this information.

At its simplest, the new law is about providing greater transparency, enhanced rights for all EU citizens, and increased accountability for all businesses that collect or use data from EU citizens, even if the company itself doesn’t have a European presence.

In 2016, the total trade with the EU by 210 non EU countries was €3,456 billion, of which the US accounted for 17.8% and China for 14.9%2. There is no doubt that it will have a significant impact on any business that targets the European market and will reshape digital advertising across the entire world.

The introduction of the GDPR on May 25th means that every organisation has been provided with the opportunity to review what personal data they hold, and whether and how they use it. This is the ideal time for businesses to overhaul and improve their data governance, which ultimately will drive more positive customer experiences.

How will it do this? What opportunities for change does the GDPR present?

1. Improved data quality

Prior to the GDPR being enforced, organisations have the opportunity to clean their current database, and build a new opted-in database by gaining specific consent from their existing customers. This will no doubt give you a leaner database, but the quality will be much higher as customers have actively said yes! After the GDPR comes into force, you won’t have consent to contact them.

The GDPR requires data holders to regularly review and delete data that’s not needed. This will ensure that only data that is important and can add real value is invested in; anything else is removed. An effective data strategy will be about quality, not quantity, with a focus only on those meaningful datasets that can drive actionable insight and impact.

2. A single easily accessible data platform

There’s been exponential growth in the sheer amount of customer data, both structured and unstructured, that’s stored across the different parts of a business. Supporting the customer data requests, deletion, anonymisation and reporting necessitated by the GDPR requires one easily accessible data platform. The technologies now exist that enable you to integrate your disparate data sets and legacy systems into one harmonised data set that in turn enables you to extract more value from the data while also optimising time and costs. The added bonus is that you may discover data that you didn’t know you had!

3. Transparency as a competitive advantage

Brands will need to demonstrate transparency about how they collect, store and process personal data, and actively demonstrate how they will meet the GDPR principles of consent, data privacy and data protection. Those that meet this head on rather than just the minimum requirements will have a potential competitive advantage, as customers will choose brands who make their life easy and uncomplicated!

4. Streamlined business and data processes

To ensure compliance, you will need to review and map your existing business and data processes. This will enable you to analyse your current effectiveness, and restructure where required, which will improve business efficiency, and is the foundation of successful data-driven businesses.

5. Increased data security

A whopping 85% of UK adults claim that they’d boycott a company that repeatedly showed a disregard for protecting their personal data2. 61% were aware of at least one brand data breach, 66% said they would be less likely to use a company’s products or services if they have mishandled data, and 74% said they would blame the company for the data breach and not the actual criminal responsible. All of which should send shivers down a brand’s spine.

The GDPR will require enhanced levels of security. This will be good for your customers, as you prove how you safeguard their details, and in turn, good for your business too.

6. Greater customer engagement

Post-GDPR, your customers will be required to opt into any communication from you. This should mean only those who are significantly engaged will choose to do so, making them more valuable to you, as you have a greater understanding of them. Your customers will have a choice on who, when, how and what to engage with, which should strengthen any relationships with those brands that develop a relevant proposition and offer.

Embrace the GDPR; far from being a burden, it’s the Golden Ticket; a catalyst for positive change. If you put all six opportunities together – better quality data, one easily accessible data platform, increased transparency, streamlined processes, improved data security and greater customer engagement, then you will go a long way in creating and building customer trust. What’s not to love about that?

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