The pub chain Wetherspoons recently surprised its customers with the decision to delete its email marketing database. The company informed customers that their details would be safely discarded, meaning they would no longer receive monthly newsletters or any other type of promotional material. Instead, Wetherspoons updates will be posted on the company’s website and social media pages. Wetherspoons insists email marketing is ‘too intrusive’ for its customers, but this drastic decision shouldn’t set an example for other companies.
The imminent arrival of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) next May means that businesses are increasingly aware of changes to consent and the potential fines for non-compliance; but essentially, not what those final consent guidelines will be. The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has already fined the likes of Flybe and Morrisons for contacting customers without consent, highlighting that the regulator is prepared to take action when companies do not play by the rules.
Other businesses that are worried about their data should not feel that such an overhaul is the only option, as there is still time to act. Most cannot afford to delete their customer databases and therefore must find an alternative solution. Completing a full data audit would be a well advised first step, understanding the what, where and who scenario. Transparency of every record is a major conformity of the GDPR. Every organisation should understand what data they have, how they have collected it, how that data is processed, if it’s compliant now and if it will be post-May 2018. The findings should then help set out an information strategy moving towards May 2018.
Wetherspoons also benefits from the fact that its business model isn’t reliant on customer data, but rather, customer footfall. Yet other organisations don’t have this benefit.
For less well-known businesses, or those who rely on online sales, email marketing is crucial. In such a competitive market, brands need to use data to provide a service which stands out from their competitors. Highly targeted marketing has been shown to resonate with consumers, who recognise the value in sharing their personal information in return for a personalised service.
At a time when trust is at an all-time low, customers appreciate honesty, openness and transparency about how their data is stored, managed and used. As a result of these preparations, it’s likely that businesses will also build on relationships with existing customers. Earning and retaining trust will ultimately drive loyalty and repeat business.
Consumer data is the most valuable tool available to marketers and they should not feel pressured to part with it. Today, many customers are happy to be contacted by email, provided the content is tailored to them and they understand that they will receive marketing content. Building trust and using information wisely will result in a profitable future.
By Andrew Bridges, data quality and governance manager at REaD Group
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