Ever since it has been introduced into the legal system of the EU a bit over a year ago, GDPR started causing some real steer amongst the digital advertisers. The fact that the user data has been mistreated for years has led to some really bad practices in digital marketing, and the consequences of those practices were more than damaging to the retailers.
Still, the amount of money spent on digital advertising is measured by hundreds of billions on a yearly level, so it is not as easy as one would think to put some order into the completely chaotic market.
The latest victims were some of the largest companies having their business operations in the EU. Facebook, for example, had to pay a fine of 50 million US dollars in France due to the breaches of GDPR rules. Unfortunately, this was not an isolated case, and many other companies met similar fate for selling user data to third parties without their consent.
Why are they doing it?
Understanding the reason behind this behaviour is crucial for understanding why GDPR is about to change the landscape of digital marketing industry.
Value of details such as contact details and the people’s behaviour online is huge for the retailers, companies that offer services, and marketers in general. Once they get a hold of the data they tend to push their products and services towards them, as they feel this is the way to make a solid profit. In many cases, they are right, but this is being done with no consent from the users, and often also results in a huge amount of frustration.
How people react?
The studies have shown that the general population has an extremely negative attitude towards this way of advertising. In most cases attempts to advertise in this way have a rather negative effect and not only that they not result in many sales, but they also create a negative sentiment towards the brand that is being advertised in that way.
Just try to imagine a situation where your phone gets bombarded with messages calling you to buy this or that… It is annoying and not many people will react positively to it. It is more likely they will have their doubts towards the brands advertised in that way.
Yet, this practice continues on and on.
Who does it?
Before GDPR was introduced, pretty much everyone was using this model of advertising, but in the past year, serious businesses had to abandon the practice in order to avoid heavy penalties. Still, this hasn’t stopped the affiliate marketers and all sorts of schemers to continue with it.
These people care only about their own profit and have no inclination towards worrying about the brand reputation at all. They simply push a certain offer until it is profitable, and then simply switch to another once the current one stops generating enough profit.
It is unlikely that the practice will stop as many business incubators rely heavily on affiliate marketers. Still, there are some of those companies that are aware of the negative impact of such actions, so they limit their affiliate marketers in terms of the traffic source. It is a reasonable and rather effective way of amending this issue, but not everybody is following that approach.
The problem lies in the fact that many of those incubators and many affiliates have both their operations and their offices outside of the EU, where GDPR is not an issue and where they can take the advantage of being disloyal.
Of course, there are regular businesses outside of the EU having a part of their operations there who use the same method out of pure ignorance and misunderstanding of the consequences of this approach.
What all of this means for legitimate businesses?
The first thing that can be drawn as a conclusion is that the marketing strategies simply have to undergo changes. The threat of financial fines for not respecting GDPR is just one piece of the puzzle that makes the entire problem.
The even worse part is that the advertising in this way damages brand authority on a huge scale and that can lead to even more serious consequences.
It means that the standard marketing and advertising strategies need to be reinvented if you want to stay relevant and successful. Many would think that GDPR is a bad thing due to all of this, but in fact, it is a great improvement that opens new possibilities to the legitimate sellers and filters out the dirt from the market.
The change that will be forced in this way will make the digital environment much fairer and easier to penetrate using legitimate and allowed means.
It will definitely take additional steps and more effort to achieve this as the current market is still not ready for this shift, but legal actions in combination with reduced profitability for the scammers will lead to a better business environment, eventually.
What should you do in order to weather the storm?
The actions your business needs to take in order to pass through this transition are numerous, and not all of them can be covered at once, especially if you are a smaller retailer or business, without enough financial power to cover all the aspects at once.
Still, there are several things you need to cover in the future in order to really increase your chances of staying afloat. These changes need to be made gradually and they include:
• Website changes
• Email marketing changes
• SMS marketing changes
• Full GDPR compliance across all advertising platforms
This is a part that you should have covered by the dare GDPR was introduced. It mostly contains various disclaimers that are mandatory on the website and following the rules stated in those disclaimers, as well as protecting your customer’s data.
Most of the businesses have gone GDPR compliant by this time if they are operating or are based in the EU, but if by any chance you have failed to cover this part so far, now it is the time to get it sorted.
Email marketing changes
This is one of the segments that will need radical rethinking and a much more responsible approach than it was the case before.
First of all, you need to get your mailing lists in order! Many, many businesses use the mailing lists that have been collected using illegal methods, and many of them use the lists they simply bought!
One of the most common mistakes is using a mailing list acquired via trade on marketplaces for direct promotions on the company website! Although this is a method that will most probably produce some results, you can’t go that way! It is still failing to follow the letter of GDPR and can result in all of the consequences we mentioned before.
Try sticking to the mailing lists you have generated in the right way, using your website. That is the only appropriate way! Also, make sure that your email campaigns are GDPR compliant. You need to state in a mail where you got the customer’s data, and to provide an option for them to unsubscribe from the list.
In SMS marketing you need to pay attention to the GDPR rules in the same way as it is the case with emails, but you need to be extra careful because phone numbers are even more sensitive issue than email addresses.
SMS has become a favourite tool for affiliate marketers ever since Google and Facebook have upped their control and are more rigorous towards those who violate the rules. There are not many users can do to protect themselves from unwanted ads sent via this channel yet, so you need to pay attention and use ONLY phone numbers that have been collected in a proper way.
As for the other advertising platforms such as social media and native networks, as well as push and pop traffic, GDPR compliance must be followed to the T in order to get the results you want. You can’t use cloaking and fake news landing pages to create inbound traffic that will result in GDPR compliant data acquisition.
It means that all advertising on external platforms and networks, as well as on 3rd party websites needs to be truthful, honest, and in compliance with all relevant rules. Only then you will be sure that all the data you gathered are actually useful.
This even stands for the AI solutions if you decide to integrate some of them into your website for personalised shopping experience purposes. The customer behaviour needs to be tracked only within the website, and you cannot opt for their behaviour on other websites. Google itself can create some confusion in this department as they tend to “leak” some of those data, but this is something you can’t influence so you shouldn’t worry about it.
What are the end results?
If you stick to the GDPR rules and conduct your marketing in accordance with them, one thing is certain – your data will be top-notch and extremely useful. However, this means there will be no shortcuts in your business development and you will have to stick to the rules and arm yourself with patience.
This approach will yield results in the end as your brand reputation will be impeccable, and your shoppers will be more than happy to return to your website over and over again. As the number of disgruntled users increases by the day due to the bad marketing practices, this could easily become a clear divider that will give your business an upper hand in comparison to your competition.
Of course, this is not something that is easily achieved, so you might need some help with it, especially if you are a small business without significant internal resources.
We at Studioworx will be more than happy to help you with all the tasks at hand. We have the experience and the knowledge to stir your business ship in the right direction.