GDPR – the chance for marketers to close the gap between consumer expectation and reality

By Simon Coughlin, Senior Account Director

It is less than two months until the introduction of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

A number of our clients at Whiteoaks are helping B2B organisations prepare for the regulation, which is set to radically change the way that businesses collect, store and use data belonging to individuals.

In summary, the regulation standardises data protection law across 28 EU countries and imposes strict new rules on controlling and processing personal information. Organisations found to breach the regulation can be fined up to 4% of annual global turnover for breaching GDPR, or €20m.

GDPR comes into force on 25th May and is designed to strengthen data protection for consumers, making it easier for EU citizens to understand how their data is being used, and also raise any complaints.

Recent research suggests that attitudes amongst consumers are already changing when it comes to how their personal data is used.

Almost two-thirds (61%) of consumers are already happy with the amount of personal information they share, according to the ‘Data privacy: What the consumer really thinks’ report from our client the DMA, in partnership with Acxiom.

This change in attitudes has been greatest among 55-64 year-olds who have historically been more cautious; 63% said they are happy with the amount of data they share today, compared to 47% in 2012.

So if consumers are increasingly happy with the data that businesses hold about them and the way they use it, is there really a need for further regulation?

Critically, 88% of those surveyed for the report cited transparency as one of the keys to further increasing trust in how their data is collected. One of the benefits of GDPR is that it establishes a level of honesty about how data is used, which is essential to build and maintain trust between businesses and consumers.

As we edge ever closer to 25th May, the good news for B2B marketers is that – according to DMA research – they are more prepared for GDPR than their B2C counterparts.

However, the same research found that while B2B marketers are feeling more prepared (+4%) than marketers in B2C organisations, they’re less likely (-6%) to possess a detailed understanding of how GDPR will affect their company.

While many of the headlines have been about the fines that organisations may face as a result of breaching the regulation, marketers recognise the potential that the regulation has to enhance business performance and marketing activities. The DMA found that 71% of marketers believe GDPR represents a unique opportunity to implement more creative campaigns.

We believe that GDPR presents businesses with a rare opportunity to enhance processes around how data is collected, stored and used, which in turn will enable marketers to continue along the path of building trust with consumers.