There’s a fine line when it comes to collecting data between intensely creepy, and convenient. Consumers want to receive a tailored and personalised experience, but if you go too far it makes them feel like they have someone or something lurking in the shadows, following them around, tracking their every move. And no one likes that.

If I purchase a new vacuum cleaner online, it doesn’t mean that I am in the market to purchase all the vacuum cleaners in the world, despite what some online advertisers would have you believe with certain forms of retargeting.

An article in The Times highlighted this week that a number of major retailers had been using tracking on their websites and then passing the data onto online advertisers. No surprise there – for people within the performance marketing space. But what we need to remember, is that consumers aren’t necessarily aware that this data is being collected, who it is shared with, or where it is going. If their data is used wrongly, they won’t stand for it.

For better or worse, the introduction of GDPR later this year has the potential to grind these practices to a halt. These are the reasons why I think this is a great thing for digital marketing.

Focussing on the customer

Digital advertising should be customer-centric. We all know this, but instead, as an industry, we have been focussed on collecting data and creating what we consider to be ‘targeted’ advertising audiences.

Consumers don’t like to feel like the user experience is disrupted, either through poorly targeted advertising or intrusive pop-ups. The rise of ad blocker usage was a stark reminder of this to the industry, but we need to make sure we have learnt from our mistakes, and strive to create a better experience for consumers.

By taking all of this into consideration, we can create a seamless advertising offering that will benefit both the advertiser and the consumer in the long term. In the end, it’s about the marketing industry becoming more relevant and responsible in the way we understand audiences and serve them useful information in an attention-grabbing way.

Using data for good

I am by no means claiming that all data is bad, in fact, if data is used in a way that makes the advertising relevant to the consumer, it can be helpful to a consumer and deliver them information that they actually want to receive.

One example of this can be through location targeting, where consumers can receive relevant adverts based on certain behaviours within a region. This may include serving someone restaurant vouchers for local eateries just before lunch, or adverts that give them an offer for a product or service that they may be interested in.

We have the responsibility to educate consumers, to make them aware of how you can use their data to create a better experience for them.

Four months and counting

Changes in legislation this year have the potential to help businesses be more transparent about how they use personal data, and in turn, encourage brands to communicate with their consumers more effectively. GDPR is coming into force in May, and although businesses may find the new laws daunting, it is a time to be optimistic and give the industry a spring clean.

The guidelines are a great opportunity for companies to ensure that their data is up to scratch and that it’s actually implementable within campaigns, otherwise, there is very little value in keeping it.

Using quality data and insights will allow us to ensure that we understand how our consumers actually want to interact with us. By explaining the value exchange to consumers, they are more likely to understand the relevance of their data, and therefore see the value in the advertising that they are receiving.

Starting 2018 with our best foot forward

The challenges of 2017, in addition to the introduction of GDPR, have given us the opportunity to start from a blank slate, creating an environment that consumers are happy to be a part of. By ensuring that we are responsible for the data that we hold as an industry, we can deliver advertising that is both contextually relevant and engaging. I’m excited to see what this year brings.