The age of General Data Protection Regulation is upon us. But it’s likely that you don’t need us to tell you, unless you’ve been living under a rock or indefinitely unplugged your router, you’ll have probably noticed.

With GDPR came great uncertainty for business owners. Inboxes were filled to the brim with messages from mailing lists asking for consent to continue delivering the same experience from May 25th 2018 as before.

The reason for this is that the EU’s imposed regulation aims to provide internet users with greater control over their personal data. The European Commission defines ‘personal data’ as “any information relating to an individual, whether it relates to his or her private, professional or public life. It can be anything from a name, a home address, a photo, an email address, bank details, posts on social networking websites, medical information, or a computer’s IP address.”

Under the regulation, websites must ask for consent before processing or collecting a user’s personal data. This applies to all sites that are accessible for Europeans based in the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA).

There is also a small list of exceptions where consent isn’t required, which make the collection of data acceptable if it’s in the public interest, or compliant with a data controller’s legal obligations, or to fulfil contractual obligations with a data subject and so on.

While GDPR has been seen as something of a liberating act for citizens that have been at risk of falling victim to businesses with sinister intentions for selling off or abusing said data, it’s posed a mammoth problem for marketers that are intent on delivering a great, personal, user experience for their visitors and customers.

Management consulting company, Accenture, has reported that 75% of consumers are more likely to buy from a retailer that offers them a personalized service. This is a sizeable figure, and many marketers have been aware of the power of personalization for a long time now – so much so that plenty of businesses had based their outreach heavily on this approach.

This means that GDPR represents a big problem for businesses. Especially those that rely on the aforementioned 75% being charmed into their store through personable user experience. But how exactly has GDPR undermined their strategies? And how can they recover?

Lost Subscribers

One of the biggest dilemmas that GDPR caused for companies that have either been in existence for some years with a healthy mailing list or just made effective use of organically encouraging customers to exchange their email address for regular newsletters, is the exodus in subscribers that the regulation created.

Email Subscribers

Overnight, businesses lost thousands of Europeans from their mailing lists, and following a 2015 data breach in the customer data at UK pub chain JD Wetherspoons, the company CEO, John Hutson, was so spooked by the size of the new fines in place under GDPR that he deleted the company’s mailing list entirely.

On the 25th of May 2018, GDPR made it essential for customers to give their consent before having their email address retained by companies for marketing purposes.

This led to a spike in marketing emails throughout the month from companies asking their subscribers to provide permission to keep them on their mailing list.

The subjects and email content varied in desperation as it became apparent that this was a lose-lose situation for businesses. GDPR would only contribute to the loss of subscribers, either through disinterest, or being unable to find an email to give consent in an inbox flooded by likeminded appeals for permission.

Emails are a key way of adding a personalized customer experience to visitors who have already given a business their personal information in good faith in the past. Companies are aware of the power a personal touch brings to customer interactions – Experian has reported that personalized messages can increase a customer transaction rate by up to six times – and emails are perfect for delivering offers and new products in an unmissable manner to interested parties.

While allowing audiences to give permission for a company to continue emailing them helps to pave the way for a future of responsible personalized marketing, the lost customer base that failed to consent for future emails has put GDPR between business owners and potentially countless conversions.

The search for approval

Marketing magazine, Campaign, ominously foresaw that GDPR would render 75% of the UK’s marketing data obsolete, and as businesses woke up to this fact, they began to push harder to retain their existing customers through compliant consent campaigns.

As the 25th of May passed, the emphasis turned to rebuilding customer data models.

Now, most websites will make sure that it has a visitor’s permission to use their data in order to give a personalized experience that maximizes the potential for user engagement and involvement.

Dealing with the prospect of customers declining the option to be tracked by websites deals a big blow to business owners. If a customer returns to an e-commerce site one month after browsing and making a purchase, they could become frustrated by the lack of personalization in the experience that GDPR has rendered impossible to deliver, which in turn could lead to a drop in revenue.

User experience is undermined further by the need of gaining consent for cookies. Even if a visitor plans to accept the use of cookies on a website, the homepage will have already needed to load of its own accord with nothing embedded to help speed the process up. An unresponsive webpage leads to bouncebacks and dissatisfaction before a personalized service can even be provided.

The act of requiring permission to gather enough data to offer a service that’s personally suited to the customer invariably makes it harder for businesses to adapt their service to suit a user’s wants and needs – prompting a big rethink on how e-commerce stores can engage with customers effectively online.

The Right to be Forgotten

Another way that GDPR undermines personalization and user experience is through customers’ ‘right to be forgotten.’

This deals a major blow in approaches to retargeting customers. By exercising their right to be forgotten, shoppers can have the security of making sure businesses wipe their data from its systems. It’s undoubtedly a great way of preventing the threat of intrusive companies that look to exploit their customers, but it punishes ethical businesses that rely on re-approaching old visitors with fresh and tailor-suited offers to maximize their conversions. Hence, when getting your records in order, it’s vital to ensure that if your business is using any 3rd party applications or payment processors, they’re all GDPR friendly.

Embracing Change

So, we’ve established that GDPR is a hindrance for businesses everywhere that’s keen on delivering an engaging user experience for its visitors, but is there any way of overcoming this fundamental change in the way we approach our marketing campaigns?

DataBoxer believes that the answer lies in optimizing transactional emails for personalization along with re-targeting campaigns that offer higher levels of interaction.

Transactional emails are usually automated purchase receipts but can be molded into so much more. Experian estimates that the open-rate of a transactional email is nearly eight times higher than that of a typical bulk email, so you can really offer some quality content safe in the knowledge that it’s likely to be read.

Here, you can add value to your email by including links to the customer’s account and by addressing them personally. You’re able to invite them to leave feedback and ask if they would like to share your business on social media – thus manufacturing a personal-feeling endorsement to a likeminded potential audience.

You can also retarget based on the information you have of a customer’s last purchase – by sending an email that tells someone who bought a product from your store a year ago that you miss them, you can bring a highly personable level of content without the need to absorb scores of data.

Finally, a loss of subscribers doesn’t necessarily mean a loss of customers – be sure to rebuild your user base with a strong offer and an appealing Call-to-Action, and you’ll be taking a big step in the right direction for maximizing your conversions in a post-GDPR marketplace.

Failing to comply with General Data Protection Regulation is potentially too damaging to your company image if you get caught out. Just remember to keep building and stay friendly, and your subscriber list will be all the healthier for it.