By KJ Dearie
With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) having begun its reign as the most comprehensive digital privacy legislation that the world has ever seen, we’ve officially entered a new era of data privacy rights and regulations.
Alongside the GDPR, new laws, rules, and proposals are popping up around the world in the same vein of granting consumers greater rights and controls over their personal data. While this new age of privacy is largely beneficial to the digital world and the users who share their data within it, it also presents something of a compliance burden to the businesses who face fines and penalties if they fail to meet these increasingly strict legal standards.
When it comes to the GDPR, for example, any business who targets the information of customers within the EU is subject to comply with the lofty regulation. While this applies to many U.S. companies, there are a good number that only target U.S. citizens and do not knowingly collect information from those in the EU.
The weight of compliance might be lifted from the shoulders of such companies, but adopting some of the privacy strategies of compliance-minded companies could offer big benefits to business.
Here are the four biggest rewards that businesses can reap by complying with privacy regulations like the GDPR – even if they don’t need to:
1. Increase User Engagement
For businesses who rely on marketing efforts, the GDPR push for user consent is changing the way companies shape their contact lists. Now, through re-engagement campaigns and permissioning outreach strategies, businesses are purging their old contact lists of disengaged recipients and stripping their lists down to the active and willing members of their community.
This re-engagement and refinement process, whether done to comply with laws or otherwise, serves up two big benefits to businesses:
Updated Contact Information
People are constantly on the move and adjusting their contact information accordingly. It’s estimated that email addresses change at a rate of about 23% a year, postal addresses at a rate of 20%, and phone numbers at 18%.
With the money and resources that companies put into contact data and the marketing outreach that relies on that data, businesses who fail to update their current information could be setting themselves up for major losses. So even a company that doesn’t need to institute opt-in campaigns for GDPR compliance can still use similar systems of reaching out to contacts and cleaning out stores of useless data.
Tailored Marketing Audience
To maximize marketing return on investment (ROI), companies should be targeting an engaged list of subscribers. Ensuring that all your contacts are active and willing members of your community allows you to tailor marketing strategies and sales to those users.
In order to put these efforts into motion, you must first establish who on your list is active and who is not. Once again, establishing a re-engagement campaign resembling those of GDPR-conscious businesses could be just the ticket to getting these measures underway and tailoring your marketing efforts for maximum impact.
2. Build Customer Trust Through Transparency
One of the unifying threads of new data laws and privacy measures is the shift toward transparency. For example, the GDPR calls for businesses to evaluate how they disclose their data practices and privacy measures to consumers. Given the expansive range of the regulation, users around the world are noticing a raised standard for business-to-customer (B2C) transparency.
Not only has media surrounding the GDPR brought data privacy into people’s everyday considerations, but it comes at a time when data breaches and privacy practices, like the highly publicized Facebook scandal, are at the forefront of citizens' concerns.
The newfound fame of the data privacy sphere, coupled with the GDPR-provoked push for users to engage with companies’ data practices, means more and more consumers are paying attention to privacy policies.
Since businesses like Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, and thousands of others have rewritten their policies to reflect the clarity that is mandated by Article 12 of the GDPR, consumers are getting used to seeing user-friendly privacy policies.
Users expect transparency when it comes to how businesses handle their data – not complex legalese or hidden disclosures. Keeping up with this new standard is beneficial to any business with customer relations in mind.
3. Bolster Your Data Security
Data is one of the most valuable assets for any modern-day business. And like any asset, you want to keep it safe. Regulations like the GDPR not only work to grant users greater rights over their data by way of consent and privacy disclosures, but they also serve to remind companies to evaluate the caution with which they handle data and secure their flows of information.
For businesses yet untouched with compliance concerns, the data they collect, store, and transfer still needs to be audited and adjusted to maintain safety standards and avoid security headaches and hassles.
Any business can take a few easy steps to audit their data flow to ensure that those stores of data are aptly protected:
Determine what data you collect and why
Create a data flow map and include ALL information you collect
Analyze your supporting assets
Map out your data transfers
Review and assess
By taking the time to audit your data now, analyze the results, and adjust accordingly, you can prevent security breaches and data handling mishaps that could land your business in hot water.
4. Evaluate Your Mission to Optimize Consumer Relations
It’s easy in today’s business world, especially over the Internet, to treat data as a commodity and forget that it is the personal property of the individual, but to ensure good standing with your customers and clients (not to mention avoid hefty non-compliance penalties), it's crucial to stop doing that.
New privacy regulations like the GDPR are ultimately grounded in user rights. Businesses who take action in line with the values that they present are forced to evaluate how they treat user data and, subsequently, users themselves. So take a step back and reframe your mindset and business mission to reflect a consumer-first mentality; that is one of the best ways to cultivate and maintain valuable customer relations.
While the new crop of privacy rules and regulations may seem like a burden to businesses, they ultimately serve a purpose – and that purpose is to make the Internet a better place. Changing with the times, even if those changes aren’t forced in the name of compliance, could be just the ticket to keeping trust high, privacy right, and business running efficiently.
About KJ Dearie
KJ Dearie is a product specialist and privacy consultant for Termly. She works with small business owners and marketers to ensure that they’re putting their best foot forward when it comes to legal compliance and customer relations. Lately, her focus has been on the GDPR and the rapidly changing landscape of data privacy.