You’ve likely been hearing the story unfold over the last couple of months involving the data firm, Cambridge Analytica, and the harvesting of millions of users’ data from Facebook to target political ads. Unfortunately, many believe that this breach in data is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to data collection, regulations and how marketers are going to move forward in the online advertising and social media space.

In the wake of yet another leak of consumer information online, it’s time for businesses to tune into the new regulations arising as well as best practices for the future of consumer and client data collection used for marketing purposes. Unfortunately, data breaches are not a new phenomenon. History has shown that keeping personal information stored online is not always a simple feat. Take past data leaks like Equifax, Ebay and even Target as a few of the primary reasons why there are new regulations being created, and how it can affect the future of data led marketing for all businesses.

We believed it would be helpful to share the information that we know, as well as offer our expertise on the best way to move forward with your digital marketing strategies while ensuring that data collected is secure and used with integrity.

general-data-protection-regulationWhat You Need To Know About The GDPR

Well before news of the data breaches mentioned above broke, officials were already working to create stricter regulations in terms of data collection, the most noteworthy right now being the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). While the GDPR has roots in the European Union, its regulations affect ANY company who could potentially have a European citizen leaving their personal information on your website. Essentially, this new regulation requires any company collecting data to strengthen the permissions process and keep the data collected more secure.

There are three main components to the GDPR in terms of online marketing: data permission, data access and data focus.

  1. Data Permission: Your opt-in forms will now need to have a checkbox that asks permission to receive future emails and updates from your company. It’s also smart to have a checkbox confirming that the user has read and agreed to your website terms and privacy policy. Transparency of how data is going to be used is a big part of the permissions process.
  2. Data Access: Anyone who has opted in to receive emails from your company will now also need the ability to access their information and remove consent to use it. This is essentially an upgraded version of an “unsubscribe” button. Many email marketing service providers already have this functionality in place to allow users to access the information they’ve given your company and update their preferences as to which communications they want to receive.
  3. Data Focus: This component of the GDPR is really about making sure that companies are not collecting data that’s not needed (ahem…and then selling it to third-parties perhaps?). For example, if you sell plumbing equipment, you probably don’t need to know a potential customer’s favorite color, shoe size and where they like to eat out. Clearly this is an exaggeration, but the point being, you have to be able to prove the reason for collecting the information you’re requesting.

For more information on the GDPR, visit the Information Commissioner’s Office for a guide.

Marketing With Intention

Perhaps the golden rule in marketing should be to treat user data the way you would want your personal information treated. It’s true that collecting emails, names and even some other personal information can be of great service to the customer experience – the problem is when this information is used wrongfully or without full consent.

Here are a few more considerations as we continue to navigate this more regulated digital age as marketers:

– Check your entire list of online contacts and make sure that everyone on your list(s) has consented to be there. No more spreadsheets of randomly collected emails.

– If you’re still buying email lists…just stop.

– If you have not yet invested in a CRM (customer relationship management) system, now’s the time! You can avoid the stress of making sure that users have access to their personal information and the ability to opt-out.

– Review the privacy policy on your website and make sure you are in compliance with the GDPR. Or, perhaps it’s time to add that privacy policy to your site?

Feeling a little overwhelmed with all these new regulations? Feel free to give us a call at 508-652-0012 to discuss a fresh online marketing strategy that aligns with the current best practices and always puts your customers’ best interests at hand.