GDPR Is A Gilded Opportunity To Innovate And Find New Global Customers -- Just Ask The DMA

GDPR isn't only inevitable, it's a force that will push innovation in the UK and put the country at the heart of an European data landscape that can be extended beyond the EU via the UK.

That's the new positive spin put on the incoming law by the DMA. It has blogged today to point out that it welcomes GDPR but considers the new ePrivacy Legislation -- which is under consultation -- as unnecessary, given the privacy and data protection provision built around informed consent that are already enshrined within the GDPR.

To be honest, it's something I have felt for quite a long time. We already have a law, which is about to be backed up by huge fines in May 2018, that stipulates you can only market to someone who gives their free, informed consent. It seems the DMA, then, is starting off 2017 in a positive frame of mind, as summed up by its referring to the twelve months ahead as the year when British business have to get GDPR right.

The idea of innovation is an interesting angle because it clearly has two applications for email marketers. The first is pretty obvious -- and, let's face it, mandatory. In a little over a year, there will be massive fines for anyone abusing customer data to send them offers and information they have not explicitly and freely signed up for. So the new permissioning regime this brings in isn't exactly voluntary, but it can be used to marketers' advantage. At the same time, with this done, it can be used to make the UK even more of a hub for email marketing once we are not in the EU, but still a springboard into the single market through retaining "adequacy" status on data privacy.

So, first the innovation. It doesn't take a genius to realise that email marketers will have to up their game. At the moment, b2b is a free-for-all, and b2c relies on people giving you an email address when they place an order which somewhere states you will blast offers at them from every division of the company -- and unless they're eagle-eyed and tick or untick the right box, you will allow partners to do the same.

Consumers don't like this, so please don't shed a single tear from it being taken away. Instead, email marketers will be at the centre of data discussions this year, which can only be a good thing. For me, the clear way forward is to form some kind of a VIP club, if you haven't already.

People need a reason to sign up and a voucher of offer of free delivery for VIP customers should do the trick. Under GDPR people are going to be made more aware of what happens with their data because so many brands will be repermissioning their lists and everyone trying to get a new address on their database will have to explain why they want it and what they'll use it for.

Unless there is something in it for the shopper, you might as well pack up and go home. And don't think a one-off limited offer cuts it because these plans have to be long term. The key word in GDPR legislation is "freely" given informed consent. Thus, you can't punish those who don't sign up by withdrawing an offer. If there's 10% off your next gadget, it can't suddenly be withdrawn when someone doesn't sign up for email. Customers will need longer-term pampering, hence the need for a club, not just a voucher code.

So make them feel good. Offer a pass through the golden door to your best early-bird deals, free shipping offers and top tips on getting the most out of whatever it is you're selling all year round. Just look at the alcohol brands which are launching drinks clubs and cocktail lounges online where you can order booze via a retailer but also find out what the latest cocktail of the month is.

Email marketers will have to think long and hard about what they can do to earn their lists all over again. DIY brands may want to have a club where top tips are passed on, leisure clubs may offer a free soft drink each month for VIP list members and computer games retailers may want to let members in on those "cheats" or ways of getting round the big ogre on the final level. If you're thinking you already do this through regular offers, remember that the customer has no way of knowing this, so why not frame it as VIP monthly money-off deals?

Once you have gone that extra mile, however, just think how you will have tailored a new offering around what customers find truly useful. Then you're ready for the next bit. When the UK leaves the EU we will, it is expected, have "adequacy" status for email marketing to EU citizens. Just think of the markets that could open up to your own brands, or maybe those owned by your clients. Sitting on the edge of the EU, hopefully with every right to conduct campaigns across the entire continent -- this will be an enviable position as UK delegates travel the globe looking to set up trade deals.

Get GDPR right and you not only avoid massive fines, but can innovate a new customer offering, built around their wants and needs rather than your assumptions. Then, once in place, the new trade deals that will emerge post-Brexit could open up new avenues for email marketers keen to sign up global partners who want to deal with the EU through the UK.

You can see why the DMA is starting off the new year with a positive frame of mind. We all should.

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