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GDPR Two Years Later: An Effective New Era of Email Marketing

It’s been more than two years since the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was implemented, which was aimed at strengthening data protection laws and giving individuals more control over their personal data. From its early stages, and even before it launched, GDPR was a major concern for marketers, who feared the tightening of restrictions would hurt the effectiveness of their email marketing programs.

In many ways, GDPR has encouraged marketers to be much more strategic in handling customer data, which many would argue is a good thing for businesses. While navigating the complexities of this legislation has its challenges, even to this day, here are some of the ways GDPR has shown it can improve email marketing:

GDPR can make marketing more strategic and intentional. While GDPR has likely narrowed prospect lists, it has also forced email marketers to send more targeted, personalized emails to potential customers. Email marketing has shifted away from broadly blasting out generic emails, and instead puts more focus on getting to know specific audiences and marketing to them directly.

GDPR can lower costs. A core principle of GDPR is that personal data should not be maintained longer than is necessary. While determining what the proper retention period is for any given business can be challenging and can vary by location, the underlying benefit is that the less data a company has, the more likely it is to avoid major crises and incur costs. Because data requires storage, maintenance, and security, it benefits a company to shed outdated, useless individual information.

GDPR can build consumer trust. GDPR has directed brands to communicate transparently, and sometimes, creatively with individuals about how their data is used. GDPR mandates that businesses disclose how they respond to data access requests, but it also has challenged brands to use the opportunity for positive brand development and to build user relationships.

GDPR can change the global landscape. Though GDPR was designed for Europe, individuals around the world have benefitted from its privacy protection, largely because companies recognized that it didn’t make sense to have different privacy policies based on the individual’s country of residence. GDPR’s success in Europe has also encouraged other countries and regions to implement their own data protection laws and regulations, many of which share similarities with GDPR. In the US already, the California Consumer Privacy Act has been passed and the New York Privacy Act is currently gaining support in the state assembly. On a national level, the Consumer Data Privacy and Security Act was announced in March.

While the initial response to GDPR was fearful, many companies that have fully embraced these policies have seen vast improvements to their marketing efforts and overall goals. Brands should embrace lessons learned from this legislation as an opportunity to have better data hygiene, enhanced cybersecurity, stronger trust with users, and greater public perception.

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