The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into effect on 25 May this year.
While many business to business (B2B) companies have been concerned about what this means and what risks there might be, very few have seen it as an opportunity.
GDPR in a nutshell
It has taken four years to develop and agree GDPR to revise data protection throughout Europe. Its purpose is to take into account the new ways in which our personal data is used.
GDPR will replace the 20-year-old Data Protection Act in the UK. It will introduce some very stringent fines for businesses that don’t comply with the requirements to keep personal information secure and to use it appropriately. Importantly, it will also give people more control over how their personal data is used.
Customers must opt-in
Once GDPR is implemented, businesses will need to focus on gaining their customers’ agreement to use information about them – they must ‘opt-in’. Customers must be told very clearly what records will be held and how they will be used. Businesses should only keep the information for as long as it’s needed for that purpose.
There must also be a clear and easy way for customers to withdraw their consent – or to ‘opt out’. They also have the right to see all the information held about them and to ask for all their records to be completely removed – to ‘be forgotten’.
B2B marketers will only be able to use customer details for the specific purposes they have agreed, although GDPR does recognise that direct marketing is a ‘legitimate interest’ for businesses.
GDPR made easy with integrated systems
One of the biggest challenges will be to knowing what information you hold, where it is and what you have permission to use it for.
Integrating your ecommerce and customer relationship management (CRM) with enterprise resource systems will streamline the process. You will be able to control who has access to personal data and what they can use it for.
This will improve your processes and customer service. It will also give you a straightforward way to demonstrate you are complying with the requirements of GDPR. It will also boost your customer’s confidence that you are keeping their important information safe.
GDPR and customer-centric businesses
This new regulation will add value to your marketing efforts because your customers will have signed up to receive your messages. As a result, your response rates are likely to improve and your cost per lead will come down.
Because you will have to tell your customers exactly why you are asking for their details and what information you will hold, your marketing will have to be very carefully considered. This will improve the quality of your campaigns and promotions by ensuring that you are focussed on really well defined objectives.
Even better, your integrated systems can notify you when a record is due for deletion. Then you will have an opportunity to ask your customers to opt-in again to continue receiving your high value content. If done well, you will then know that the people who continue to subscribe are genuinely interested in your business. Equally, if someone unsubscribes from your contact list you can be confident that they are actually saving you money, time and effort because they are no longer in your market.
However, as GDPR will have many legal implications, you should ensure to consult a professional legal team on all aspects of your business that will be affected in order to develop the best strategy for your business.