The introduction of GDPR in 2018 was arguably the most significant event for the technology sector since the invention of the smartphone. However, in our recent survey of 287,000 global consumers’ attitudes towards data privacy and mobile marketing, we found that a mere 8% of them felt they had a better understanding of how companies use their data since GDPR came in. What’s more, 39% of European respondents said that they didn’t even know what GDPR was. So why isn’t the message getting through?
Organisations can hardly be accused of not taking GDPR seriously enough. Forbes revealed that a combined $9bn has been spent on GDPR preparation in the USA and UK alone. But ultimately, businesses have a responsibility to educate their consumers on the data-value exchange. Specifically, on how and why their data is collected and used. However, our study revealed that 52% of consumers globally still don’t understand how their data is used, even after reading consent notices. With GDPR now in force, it is impossible for marketers to obtain genuine, informed consent, without explaining how they use consumer data in easily understandable terms.
Marketers are missing a trick. Perhaps because the media narrative around GDPR still focuses so heavily on its punitive element, companies are overlooking the potential for GDPR to actually bring enormous business value. Across the industry, enterprises are seeing the regulation as an ‘issue to manage’, rather than as an opportunity to rebuild consumer trust in the running of the internet.
To appreciate the opportunity that GDPR holds, we need to reflect on why it was created in the first place. GDPR was designed to tackle the scourge of toxic data, largely collected without consent, that has long been used for marketing purposes. The goal of GDPR isn’t to punish the tech industry – far from it. The regulation aims to ensure that organisational practices are fair to the consumer. This is more than just a major step forward for the individuals’ right to data privacy. Cleaning up toxic data lays the groundwork for an improved relationship between brands and consumers, allowing companies to win back valuable user trust
Here’s why marketers, tech firms, brands and publishers need to change the way they view GDPR.
Firstly, it turns out that consumers might be more willing to share their data than previously suspected. When we asked our respondents how they would prefer to access content, 71% stated that they would rather share their data than pay with money. This goes to show that, when given a basic understanding of the data-value exchange and a fair choice – in accordance with GDPR – many are more than happy to share their data.
But when marketers bombard users with long, deliberately complex consent notices, consumers become distrustful. Additionally, YouGov research has found that almost half of Brits and Germanswould be more likely to shop with a company that can prove it takes data protection seriously. Consent notices should use plain language, that’s easy to understand, quick to consume, and be published in plain sight. By offering users clarity, we can empower them to make an informed choice.
Then there are the potential costs of neglecting GDPR. We found that 52% of consumers globally say that intrusive or irrelevant marketing messages give them a ‘poor opinion’ of the website or app that hosts them. This shows that failure to treat consumer data properly is bad news for both brands and publishers – making marketing spend less effective overall. Further research by Hubspot similarly found that a significant majority of internet users exit a websitewhen they encounter annoying or intrusive advertising.
Already, a number of hefty fines have been handed out to large corporates this year. This is a very real reminder that companies need to focus serious time and resources on making sure they are fully GDPR-compliant. By putting consumer consent at the centre of data-sharing and advertising practices, we can create a better environment for consumers and brands alike. This is an essential step towards restoring trust and integrity to the tech industry, as well as to eventually building a more mature and respectful internet. Even if it means resisting the urge to maximise short-term revenues, organisations which embrace GDPR and put consumer choice and data privacy at the center of their digital marketing execution are sure to outperform their competitors in the long-run.