The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has been getting a lot of air time for a while now. Some marketers may already be clued up on the regulation and what it means for their departments. Others, however, may not even know where to begin.

The requirements under GDPR govern how businesses used consumer data and this will have a big impact on marketers. Under the new rule, marketers will now have to gain explicit, informed consent for all uses of personal data. That means that you’re going to have to get permission from your customers to send any marketing communications or undertake any data analysis. Furthermore, you’re also going to have to explain in simple terms exactly what you plan to do with your customers’ data, and that includes the algorithms you intend to use.

There are high stakes for marketers who fail to comply with the regulation by the May 2018 deadline – a potential €20 million or 4% of global revenue fine, whichever is greater.

To complicate things further, marketers will not only have to explain complex subjects like data science and algorithms to adults but, when using their data, children and their parents/guardians too.

Gaining trust

So how do you begin to broach this subject with your customers? As any marketer worth their salt knows, you cannot explain something clearly enough if you don’t understand it fully yourself. You don’t have to become a data scientist overnight, but having a basic grasp of how algorithms work and what data scientists are doing to your consumers’ data is a good starting point.

You also need to understand your audience and ensure everyone is catered for. One good way to do this is to keep using examples so those with slightly less technical knowledge can keep up with what you’re saying. You’re also not restricted to just explaining things through words, as the saying goes, a picture paints a thousand words and videos can help make an otherwise dry subject more palatable.

It also goes without saying that you should avoid industry-specific jargon, buzzwords and acronyms as much as possible. It can also be tempting to only focus in on the technical stuff, but some people may not be interested in that. Explain to them why you need to use their data and what they get out of it. Every marketer needs to use data, at the very least to help personalise and target campaigns. Explaining to a customer that without their data they’re more likely to receive irrelevant messages could go some way in gaining their consent.

Safety first

Data security is also at the forefront of many consumers’ minds thanks to the spate of data leaks and hacks we’ve experienced lately. It’s essential that you keep your customers’ data secure and let them know the steps you’ve taken to keep their information safe. Ensuring they know their data is protected and that a limited number of people have access to it can help build their trust in you.

Once you have understood what you’re going to speak to your customers about, get your message out there. I recommend using several different channels and planning an entire marketing campaign around GDPR. You should take a two-pronged approach, increasing general knowledge about GDPR and the importance of using data through social media, banner ads etc. and targeting individuals with personalised requests for them to fill in their consent through emails.

It’s worth noting that many people will need several reminders before they fill in their consent and under GDPR you cannot take their silence or inaction as a sign of consent. Because of this, you need to start your preparations now, to give yourself enough time and resources before the May 2018 deadline hits.

Big changes

As mentioned previously, you’ll need to obtain consent for each and every use of personal data. It’s therefore worth setting up a central point – a consent hub – for your customers to manage all their consent for different activities. This makes it easier and therefore more likely that your customers will fill their consent in.

Likewise, you can look at incentivising your customers to log into their consent hubs through vouchers, prize draws or exclusive discount codes. One important note here, however, you need to incentivise the activity of logging into the hub itself, not your customers handing over their consent to you.

After your customers have filled in their consent and the May 2018 deadline passes, it could be tempting to put your feet up and relax. However, consent will need to be reviewed and updated regularly. After obtaining initial consent, you’ll need to schedule in regular emails to be sent to remind people to keep their consent up to date or to provide consent for additional activities.

GDPR signals a big change in the way marketers can manage and use consumer data. It’s going to take a while to get used to and even longer to prepare for. Don’t underestimate the time and resources you will need to inform your customers effectively and to get their consent. Don’t leave it until next year to get ready for GDPR or it may cost you dearly.