3 min read

They’re four little letters that struck fear into the hearts of every marketer when they were first announced. In May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation came into effect, marking significant changes to email campaigns in the EU.

What happened with GDPR?

The reason so many marketers were fearful of GDPR was the need to re-attract customers and ask for consent. Prior to GDPR, customers could merrily make a purchase without noticing a tiny, pre-populated tick box that would add them to a mailing list.

Since GDPR, we now have much more control over what marketing material we subscribe to. Opt-in boxes are not pre-populated, and we cannot sign up without consent.

One of the biggest changes marketers had to make was to ask their existing customers to “opt-in” once again. This time, their customers would have to willingly agree to receive marketing material. The idea of this panicked marketers, who feared their mailing lists would shrink.

The new email marketing rules under GDPR

In layman’s terms, marketers would now have to make sure that their campaigns complied with the following policies:

Consent must be freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous

Translation – you must ask all new customers if they want to subscribe. You should not dupe them with pre-populated boxes, or “tick here if you don’t want to subscribe”. You should outline the nature of what you’ll send them and how often, e.g. weekly promotions.

Data subjects can withdraw their consent whenever they choose

If they’ve subscribed, there should be a clear unsubscribe link within each email you send. Unsubscribing should be easy and should not send users to 404s or ask them to input reams of data. Similarly, users have the right to be forgotten, so you should delete specific data relating to them (rather than trends from your whole list).

You must have documentary proof of consent

This could be a confirmation email that you send to a new subscriber, or a notification in your mail client to show that a new user has subscribed.

Was GDPR the disaster we imagined?

More than a year on, email marketing GDPR has had in no way as catastrophic an effect as we thought. Research showed that mailing lists shrunk by no more than 10%, and furthermore, the loyal customers remained.

This illustrates the fact that GDPR actually helped email marketers. The best data is that which is constantly refined: GDPR helped us to separate the wheat from the chaff. Rather than casting our net wide, we are now focusing on a smaller, converting and engaged audience. This means higher conversion rates and better reports for senior staff – win win!

Always optimise for better conversions

Remember, you can attract more subscribers by offering personalised offers and other incentives. Just ensure you are compliant – offer them the chance to subscribe and clearly lay out your policies in the sign-up and in your privacy policy. By using data to our advantage, we can really gain more from GDPR.