GDPR Is Inevitable -- Email Marketers Should Rejoice, Then Repermission

Three months after voting to leave the EU, customer confidence is in the UK back up where it was before it took a Brexit dip. The latest UK government figures also show that the services sector grew by 0.4% in the month after June's historic vote, against a prediction of 0.1%. Yet despite the apparent welcome news for marketers, there still remains a looming question mark over the UK's future relationship with Europe. It has nothing to do with tariffs or immigration, although those issues are important. It's all about data and the new GDPR.

Marketers aren't admitting it, but they're kind of at that position where the head teacher who banned chewing gum in the playground is leaving, so they are wondering whether they will be allowed to blow bubbles any time soon. Do the old rules apply? Well, in data at least, it seems certain that they do. As the Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Dehnam, said in a speech yesterday, the Regulation is already the law. It's a picky point, perhaps, but it's worth noting that the General Data Protection Regulation is law across the EU already -- only enforcement and the big fines don't start until May 2018.

The DMA has largely been making the same point today as well, adding that it actually works in favour of marketers to be GDPR-compliant because the fines will kick in before the UK leaves the EU and, almost certainly, any digital marketing that continues after Brexit will need to see a free flow of data across the region. Dropping out of GDPR is not really an option.

The good news for email marketers is that although it's another regulatory hoop to jump through and to budget for, it can only help them in the long run. How so? Well, repermissioning lists is a good habit to get into anyway. It gets rid of sleepers who are ignoring your messages, or even worse, routinely deleting them without unsubscribing. If these people mount up, they have a detrimental impact on your deliverability rates because the ISP you are sending from will begin to look a little "spammy."

The main thrust of the GDPR is that people have to be demonstrably signed up for each service with full knowledge of what that each form of ensuing communication will be. What's more, they need to be offered the chance to opt out of each type of communication without fear or losing a service. In other words, a guy who says it's OK to hear about your laptop offers cannot be assumed to be interested in tumble dryer deals, they have to be made aware of the options and hone them down themselves without impacting the service they do want to receive. 

This will effectively give repermissioning additional urgency -- and that, to be honest, can only be a good thing. A long email list could be doing you more harm than good if you're hitting the aforementioned consumer who is no longer interested in your messages. Far better to work with people who are engaged in what you're sending than boring a far larger crowd. This is the hidden email marketing problem that GDPR will help with, whether it was its original intent, or not.

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