Consumer data and protection is a topic that has been at the forefront of the minds of consumers for a while now and companies are striving to meet their obligations under GDPR. The protection of data and privacy is changing for the better and is signalling a rise in more ethical, accountable and responsible management of information. 

The introduction of GDPR and CCPA is a significant milestone in data protection and consumer confidence. Classing data as an extension of a person is a great step in the right direction to regulate privacy, especially in a changing technological landscape.  One thing is for sure: data will continue to guide marketing decisions and provide a driving force for how companies analyse consumer journeys to improve the online customer experience. Subsequently, we expect a growth in hybrid agencies that are able to extend their expertise across the industry, and help businesses unlock the value from data but at the same time establish trust with customers. 

GDPR and CCPA, a step in the right direction…BUT

In terms of GDPR and CCPA, it is a step in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go. At this stage, GDPR is just words on paper. We would like to see the legislation actually be enforced first and foremost before anything else takes the wheel or distracts this process. 

Enforcement of these data regulations can ensure the lawfulness of data handling and processing. Technology is evolving in a way that can help businesses accelerate their response to the legislation and become GDPR compliant. In fact, this is a great opportunity for marketers to do what they do best and that is use data to create better experiences and personalisation – something that’s desired and expected by consumers. Thus sharpening their industry expertise to deepen their customer relationships and meet the new obligations. 

As consumers become savvier (or suspicious as the case may be) about how their data is being utilised, it stands to reason that they are becoming more careful about where, when and under what circumstances they provide their personal data. With this changing dynamic, it nudges companies to put more emphasis on efficient data management/collection, and improve security and privacy to build deeper trust and retain more loyal customers.  If marketers get it right, GDPR can become their secret weapon. After all, GDPR is not a compliance issue as such, but rather a customer engagement challenge that affects the bottom line. 

Therefore, we foresee the rise of hybrid agencies which can offer a wealth of solutions to clients, as they are better positioned to understand the broader perspective of data protection and then design and deliver targeted, relevant communications and experiences. Profiling, data collection, data processing and personalisation strategies are the ‘bread and butter’ of marketers so this is an opportunity for agencies to build their own tech platforms and tech providers to act as an agency for their clients, to help their clients stay on the right side of regulations. 

How is the future looking? 

Technology continues to develop quickly to the tune of voice control, tracking and AI. Under GDPR, organisations are still able to capture data but need to move beyond privacy and make the transition to true transparency and accountability.  

Technological developments in tracking are particularly noteworthy, as they allow a tighter focus on content and context of the consumer journey, whilst ensuring that affiliate partners have implemented any changes necessary to comply with the GDPR.  This opens up doors for agencies and tech providers alike to provide a superior offering to their clients, i.e. take a holistic approach to measurement across the entire media ecosystem to ensure marketing value is being added. 
As far as AI’s relationship with GDPR is concerned, GDPR seeks to clarify the definition of generated consumer data and biometric data in relation to privacy protections. As in, a crackdown on AI learning/capturing data without consent of the consumer.  In this context, GDPR is necessarily aiming to impart ethical processes and protect consumer privacy in this forever evolving technological landscape.

There is also an instillation of a right for individuals to object to having their data collected in this way.  This falls into the capable hands of tech developers, in such a way that they need to ensure they are building tools that are compliant with these regulations. Correspondingly, both marketing agencies and tech providers can deliver a more targeted and seamless customer experience by adopting AI solutions to understand, manage and protect the huge data volumes now available. 

The long-term view 

Consumer privacy is changing for the better but we would like to see regulations being enforced as a priority. However, it can be seen as an opportunity for companies to challenge the way data is obtained and devise creative ways for data use within regulatory guidelines while expanding the scope of the industry at the same time, allowing it to continue to become a more consumer-centric model. 

As a result, we can expect to see a rise in hybrid agencies that span more than one scope of the industry, offering dynamic martech solutions such as data and tracking management. In an ever-changing technological landscape, data laws are a positive step, as they aim to provide transparency and choice for the consumers. It is therefore crucial for businesses to create an environment of trust that fosters the protection of individuals’ privacy online and e-commerce.