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Why 25 May isn’t the cliff-edge everyone fears

By Megan Thompson

Data planning director Megan Thompson explains why GDPR is really good news for data marketing.


Over the last two-and-a-half years, I’ve been involved in almost every GDPR related project within Proximity.


I’m not saying it hasn’t been hard work (I may have used the words ‘total nightmare’ a few times). But I also happen to think that GDPR is one of the best things that could have happened to our industry.


As everyone scrambles to hit the deadline of 25 May – more than two years after the General Data Protection Regulation was adopted – there’s more than a whiff of panic in the air. But for brands that have embraced this change from the start, there are some huge benefits. What we may lose in reach, we should gain in engagement.


That grace period of two years should have allowed everyone to look at their infrastructure, processes, and evidence, and truly get their houses in order. Once we reach May 25, if compliance is met, data is gathered and connected, fresh consents captured, and consumer relationships reset, GDPR can finally begin.


Which means we can start to do the great work we’ve always wanted to.


You may at this point be thinking: who is she trying to convince? Well, if I sound like an over-excited cheerleader, that’s because I genuinely think that GDPR will allow us to tackle lingering issues of consumer trust on one hand and inconsistent datasets on the other.


This new regulation represents today’s society and technology in a way that its predecessor was never equipped to. So the marketing we do must live up to the promises it puts in place, and the concerns of the contemporary consumer.


Above all, that means better data capture, not just more. Instead of rushing to grab as much useless data as possible, just because we can, we will be forced to consider why the consumer should share with us, and what they expect us to do with their data.


This will help us build more natural customer journeys, with better targeting, more relevant content, channels and timing, and ultimately much stronger, more consistent engagement from happier consumers.


And if we don’t get it right, the business consequences could be catastrophic. In fact, the value that brands can lose in opt-outs, reputation and goodwill will make those GDPR fines look like pocket change.


Of course, we’ve talked for a long time about this “value exchange”, but it always seems to happen under the radar, a deal in which we were all grudgingly complicit when downloading a brochure or accessing a discount.


Now it’s going to be upfront. Because one of the greatest pieces of evidence in our GDPR successes has been this: consumers want to discuss the topic of data sharing and usage and to see their favourite brands being totally open about it.


They want to learn about data and how it all works (which means data planners everywhere may finally be able to explain to our friends and family what we do).


They’re not scared of it when it’s explained. Quite the opposite: there’s endless research showing that consumers expect the frictionless experiences and great recommendations that data brings them.


They just want us to stop treating it like a dirty little secret, start acknowledging the magic behind the scenes, and have a genuine and open relationship. It’s not just about consumers letting us dip into their worlds, but about us giving them a glimpse into ours.


If consumers aren’t scared of it, then neither should we be.