We’ve all be waiting for the first real test of the EU’s GDPR regulation in order to judge its effectiveness. The moment appears to have arrived with news emerging that French data regulator, CNIL, has fined Google 50 million euros (£44m) for “lack of transparency, inadequate information and lack of valid consent regarding ads personalisation”. 

However, it’s important for businesses to remember that GDPR doesn’t prohibit marketers from collecting or holding data on customers or potential customers, but it gives them control over who can collect and keep their data with proper consent.

Typically, people are willing to share data if it is for a good reason and has benefits; as highlighted in a survey conducted by Deloitte and SSI. It found that 79% of respondents were willing to share data if there was a clear benefit for them.

As such, marketers still have access to a wealth of data that brands can draw upon, even in the era of GDPR, and are going back to the drawing board to formulate new ways (read compliant) of reaching the right audience. 
At the heart of this is a renewed and enhanced focus on personalisation.

Why personalisation is growing in importance

Users who come to your website and agree to share their data are genuinely interested in your product. They also wouldn’t mind you sharing regular product information via email. Now, this is where marketers must take a step back and analyse their data before sending out that standard email to everyone on the list. 

Adobe’s report titled Context is Everything revels that a less than a third of UK brand’s surveyed offer right level of personalisation. One of the key reasons for this is that the companies (59% of UK brands) cannot process data quickly enough to deliver the required level of personalisation with GDPR adding another layer of complexity. 
The aim should always be to deliver the right content to the right person at the right time which can only come through personalised content, otherwise, you risk losing a customer or a potential customer by bombarding them with irrelevant information. This has the potential of putting your businesses on the radar of regulators and, crucially, falling foul of GDPR.   

Sending out tailored communication and experiences builds a loyal and engaged customer base. It also helps develop deeper and meaningful relations, in turn, driving up the retention and engagement with existing customers. However, this is definitely not a manual task. 

How AI, machine learning and dynamic segmentation can drive personalisation

Adobe’s report also highlighted that 70% of UK respondents plan to have implemented Artificial Intelligence (AI) for business and customer analytics by 2019, going up to 92 per cent the end of 2020.
AI and machine help to process data more swiftly in order to help you achieve the desired results. AI can easily be integrated with your existing CRM tool which will update your customer database in real time based on customer demographics, behaviour etc. 

In the GDPR era, email lists need to be constantly updated based on each user’s online behaviour with your website or your campaign. Segmenting your emails allows you to talk to specific groups of your audience – helping to lead you to the path of high conversions. It effectively acts as your assistant who will follow up with customers based on their data and reactions.

Once you have the marketing automation tools in place to implement dynamic segmentation, you can then start to deliver better-personalised communications, targeting the right audience with the right message at the right time. This will lift your marketing, lead nurturing and retention initiatives.  

Just don’t make it too personal

Retailers, for example, will continue to adopt practical applications of AI as a critical aspect of their sales capture and retention strategies. Enhanced recommendation engines will enable them to more effectively target shoppers who have abandoned an online basket with personalised and timely communications.

However, while these technological developments mean we can gain a deeper level of insight from the data we have, legitimately, collected, brands will need to tread carefully to avoid intimidating their customers through excessive personalisation. 

As more and more companies fall foul of GDPR, getting the balance right when it comes to personalisation will be a critical challenge in 2019 and beyond.