Everyone from start-up marketers to business leaders should be well aware of the incoming regulation that will soon drastically alter the way businesses managing customer data. Which means, in effect, all organisations doing business in the European Union should be in the process of achieving at least minimum compliance, if not a full embrace of the new customer-focused mode of business that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) represents.

Why? The regulation will be enforced from May 25. In an ideal world, businesses will have made leaps and bounds towards compliance and approval of the ways the EU is conducting all types of business to collect, manage, govern (and even delete) customer data in an ethical and solicitous way. The result of this is stronger customer relationships, with high-quality customer data made available for business use by consenting consumers.

For the tech employees, the picture need not be so unclear. It’s the IT team directed by the technology decision makers who must ensure that all data collection, processing, and management takes place in accordance with the new regulations. It is easy to view GDPR as a challenge, but what appears to be a mere compliance challenge, is in fact, an opportunity for businesses to build stronger, better relationships with their customers.

GDPR will not wait for anyone. Not only is the deadline fast approaching – a month to be exact – but once it has, businesses will need to be GDPR compliant from the very first interaction with their customers. There are a few key points that should be considered when your customers make the first contact.

‘Piggybacking’: What Does This Mean For Business Technology?

From the get-go, or first contact with a customer, everything about data collection changes. For the majority, this is the website. Organisations have a legal requirement to ensure clear communication of the processes and boundaries for data use, across all digital channels regardless of who runs them. Yet despite this, 46% of UK marketers believe their company isn’t responsible for data collection across all digital properties.

For the website, a major challenge in this area is getting visibility of which third parties are ‘tag piggybacking’ on websites. What sits behind a seemingly straightforward website is often a complex web of unauthorised and even unknown JavaScript tags that piggyback off one another resulting in a compliance nightmare. These collect visitor data and share it with the technology providers for every digital element of the page.

Given that a large part of the function of GDPR is ensuring that informed consent must be provided before data may be collected and used. Unfortunately, the current marketing technology ecosystem which developed over the past decade was not designed to be GDPR compliant.

The sooner GDPR related communications begin both internally and with customers, changes are signposted and explained, the sooner real trust is created. And whilst this is a marketing and customer care department challenge, the technology platform is what everything relies on to function to the highest capacity while remaining compliant.

Only Tech Can Stop Data Leakage

The enforcement of data collection consent over all tags and website functionality is also a key aspect. As brought to the media attention in April 2018 in light of the high profile Facebook data leaks, having customers personal without consent is no longer an acceptable practice. Data must be collected consensually and with full transparency of its intended uses.

To enable this personalised 1:1 privacy consent for all web visitors is an absolute must. The most well-designed solution may be to deliver customer consent overlays directly onto web pages. This gives visitors a positive experience with respect to consent communications – as well as simplifying control over data collection by various marketing technologies. Given the global reach of the web, being able to easily customise privacy choices to match all local languages will be a vital element that may have a big impact on the way consumers respond to their new rights.

Only Tech Can Engender Trust

The technology platform serves the purpose of creating the brand trust that customers will become increasingly aware of as brands take on greater responsibilities in protecting personally identifiable information. Additionally, it falls to the tech team to manage the process of visitor audit trails, which must be made available upon regulatory request.

All sites will require a consent manager so that every use of personal data is managed and transparent. These will need to be connected to all the different technologies and third-party suppliers that manage the various web operations a site requires.

Indeed, connecting these aspects of privacy, consent, company and third-party data, and sharing them within the regulations, will be fundamental to modern business success in 2018.

Ultimately, in modern business, your data can often define you. GDPR will not only force but also empower businesses to reassess their relationship with customers. The new regulations have the potential to revolutionise the ‘value exchange’, where consumers receive personalised, meaningful content and services, in return for transparent use of personal data.

It is the responsibility of the tech team to ensure that the website is prepared for the first engagement between the ideals of GDPR, and the reality of customer interactions. To pull this off they’ll need to work hand-in-hand with marketing team due to the nature of website tags servicing the marketing team’s requirements.

It’s a chance to build bridges at a time when many customer-service relationships regarding data are wobbling and create a smooth process to get the whole company prepared for the changes ahead.