Is it time that we began to think of the GDPR as an opportunity?

Written by on November 22, 2017 in Opinion with 0 Comments


Mention the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation – GDPR – and people generally throw their hands in the air. The established view is that it is overly restrictive, burdensome, and anyway no-one will be ready in time. And how are we meant to do business in that kind of environment?

Oddly, individuals seem more prepared than companies. 77% of respondents to a recent survey by the DMA believed they had a ‘good awareness’ of GDPR rules and 74% believed they were prepared. The bad news is that almost a third of respondents believe that their organisations are unprepared.

Restrictive as the regulation may be, the good news is that it must be good for customers. And because you can’t just blanket bombard people with offers any more (from May 2018), then relationships must be based, more and more, on trust. Chris Combemale, the CEO of the Direct Marketing Association, instead of being critical, believes that the GDPR provides an opportunity for marketers (and all that follows marketing). It is, he believes, a watershed moment to put customers at the heart of the organisation. “We should use the new laws as a catalyst to transform the way we speak to customers”, says Combemale. Do this, he says, and it “will enable organisations to build trusted, authentic and transparent relationships with their customers”.

While the majority of respondents believe that GDPR will affect their business, one in four believe their ability to meet customers’ demands will improve after GDPR and over a third said the benefits would outweigh the cost.

The other good news is that such restriction is always good for creativity, and the majority of marketers believe that it will produce more, not less creativity in the marketing arena. Even more good news is that 84% of marketers believe that data should be used to inform, rather than supplant creativity and three quarters say that machines can never be more creative than humans.

Hurrah for that.

The serious point here is that, in this case in particular, the regulation will help remove the laziness that is endemic in many marketing campaigns. No longer will people be bombarded with irrelevant offers. No longer can we pretend that personalised offers can be, well, offered without a proper, intelligent relationship with the customer. One that the customer wants to be part of.

The communications world is beginning to get this idea. There is a rise in the number and quality of ‘membership’ marketing campaigns. There is an acceptance that the relationship is ‘give and take’, an acceptance that customer data has a value to both customer and service provider.

There are, of course, huge barriers to this trust being embraced quickly. Data breaches (in some cases covered up by paying hackers to hide the breach), fraud and inappropriate use of customer data will continue to dent that trust for a while.

But let us hope that customers will begin to understand and embrace the idea that data helps them too and sharing it intelligently can provide a virtuous, not vicious, cycle.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .


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