How to encourage consumers to part with their data now GDPR is here

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The long wait is over. GDPR is here. And while many organisations may consider the new regulation to be a shotgun wedding — where one is forced into a serious long-term commitment or face a seriously expensive consequence for misbehaving — consumers are heralding the new dawn of fewer cold calls and a cleaner inbox without unwanted marketing emails.

Which is a huge problem for brands. Yes, GDPR is an opportunity to build a positive trusting relationship with customers, but it’s a headache. Getting consumers’ permission to keep in touch is one thing, what with the barrage of emails we saw in two weeks prior to the 25th May, but building trust with consumers is an entirely different kettle of fish. Especially when companies like Cambridge Analytica taint the whole notion of data collection thanks to (alleged) scheming to manipulate elections.

Now GDPR has kicked in, brands are in the most uncertain point in their digital history. Data is the lifeblood of marketing, yet consumers are threatening to take it away. Only a third of people trust the brands they buy from — and when you compare that with the proportion of the public that trust their doctor (78%), the police (59%), and even solicitors (44%), clearly brands have a lot of work to do to build up trust with consumers once again.

So, what can brands do to turn the tide back in their favour again? Here are five key pieces of advice:

Give consumers something tangible in return for their data

Everyone loves a freebie and research shows that people value offers and discounts enough to part with their personal data. Around two thirds (65%) of consumers are willing to give more data to brands in return for a freebie or a discount. If you market to younger generations, you’re in an even better position because a huge 91% of 16–24-year-olds would give you more data if you incentivise them to do so. The promise of a “personalised online experience” isn’t enough — consumers want something tangible. 

Prove you’re not “a git”

Demonstrating the fact that you’re responsible with sensitive data should be one of the easiest things to do. Are you being underhand in the way that you collect data? Are you controversial with what you’re doing with that data? If the answer is (hopefully) no to both of those, then all you need to do is simply demonstrate that publicly. Consider a page on your website dedicated to easing fears around data collection, outlining the benefits to consumers in a simple way and telling them what processes and procedures you have in place to ensure the safety of their data. One data protection officer, when talking about data collection and improper use at an ICO conference a few weeks ago, put it in simple terms — “just don’t be a git”. 

Communicate what data collection means for consumers

Organisations are really missing a trick here — 30% of consumers believe that they will become a target for unwanted marketing rubbish if they share their personal information online. Therefore, consumers either divulge as little information as possible, or just make it up. Either way, you’re not getting the data you really need to get an insight into your customers, so you end up making decisions based on inaccurate information. Clearly, brands need to communicate why they collect data and for what purposes. Openness and honesty with consumers is key to establishing an honest, communications-led relationship for the future. 

Be patient

Trust doesn’t happen overnight, so if you ask a new customer to divulge all their information at once they’re likely to view you with suspicion. Build up your data collection slowly over time, little by little, so customers don’t feel they’re giving everything away at once. Start with their name and then further down the line, encourage them to sign up to an online account with you, where you can capture information such as their date of birth and email address. Then offer up an incentive to encourage customers to fill out an online profile in full, including their gender and preferences for products and services.  

Give customers an easy way out

And not just because you have to. While GDPR forces you to delete whatever information you have on a particular customer should that customer ask you to, the act of deleting that information often isn’t as easy as clicking the “delete” button. Usually, different bits of customer data are stored in different systems, making it difficult to see what information you have on one particular person. But by unifying your customer data in one place, and handling permissions via a simple tool, you can put consumers in the position of power — and they can revoke their own permissions easily with a couple of clicks when they visit your website. 

Trust in the new GDPR era

Collecting consumer data has been going on for as long as companies have been trying to sell to consumers. In 1841, Dun & Bradstreet collected credit information on prospective credit seekers. In the 1970s, list brokers offered magnetic tapes with data on a strange variety of groups, including holders of fishing licences, magazine subscribers and people likely to inherit wealth.

But in the digital age, only 50% of the data that brands have on people is accurate, according to notable Forrester analyst Susan Bidel. It’s an indication that consumers really do not trust brands with their information. Scandals like Cambridge Analytica don’t help matters, but if GDPR forces organisations to open up and demonstrate a responsible approach to personal data, that can’t be a bad thing — and trust will slowly rebuild. 

Tim Haynes is co-founder, Databoxer