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GDPR compliance is not a one-night stand – AutoGraph

Mobile Marketing

AutoGraph CEO Henry Lawson cautions marketers not to ask for too much information, too soon.

As the clock counts down to less than a year until General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is in force, marketers across the world (EU regulations are becoming the de facto global standard) are focusing on how to ensure their businesses are compliant.

With marketing KPIs to deliver against and escalating pressure from the compliance team, many regard this as a bump in the road – the need to tick a legally approved box and resume normal service.

But that misses the core intent of the regulations: giving consumers control and transparency. It’s not about a quick box-tick; it’s about developing a deeper and more beneficial relationship for both sides – a fulfilling marriage rather than a quick fling and back to Tinder…

Lasting relationships
So how on earth do marketers change their approach? Well, a great starting point is to consider how lasting relationships begin. Whether in the online or physical world, we start by sharing non-threatening information – our passions and interests, past experiences, places travelled to or lived in – and trade these details back and forth as trust develops.

As the onion unpeels, we start talking about our nearest and dearest, and around this stage we also start to share some re-contact information, our phone number, email address or Facebook permissions. This evolution of trust is subtle and nuanced, one both parties approach with caution, guided by a well-honed sixth sense.

By contrast, most marketers approach the process from the end backwards, asking for re-contact information before even instigating a two-way relationship. Websites immediately ask for permission to activate cookies, launch pop-up invitations requesting email addresses, and send emails that deliver these re-contact cookies back to the marketer. Only then is the interaction customised to provide what the consumer really wants: a relevant experience. Even the word we use here – ‘personalised’ – is deeply flawed, implying that the marketer has personal knowledge of the consumer – which they do!

So how should we change all this? Well, application of the rules of dating can help.

Small talk
First, small talk. In the bygone world of the village shopkeeper, this could take the form of a chat about the weather (in the UK) or baseball scores (in the US), free samples of a new biscuit or cheese, or a gentle enquiry about a customer’s preferences. This is all done without any guarantee that the customer will ever walk back into the shop and monetise the prior conversation. Do it well, and the consumer is almost guaranteed to return. Do it badly, and they will never come back.

In the last 20 years, supermarket loyalty schemes have attempted to capture that same level of intimacy, and they have worked – to a point. But without proper communication and explanation, these schemes have increasingly felt to many consumers like data-trawling. And in no way have they given the customer control over what they are served, beyond the broad-brush STOP that is provided by the law.

What many have discovered is that providing consumers with a level of control actually builds the holy trinity of kudos, data and results. It is in many ways counterintuitive for marketers – but it works, and works very effectively. When Acxiom launched its US website, which opened up Acxiom’s vast data records to public editing and deletion, many in the company feared a tsumani of opt-outs. The CEO, Scott Howe, knew better, having written his PhD thesis on how to engage consumers. The venture has paid off, with considerably more data being added than deleted by consumers.

Privacy standards
On this side of the Atlantic, Vodafone already has the highest of data privacy standards. Previously this put it at a disadvantage as a member of the alliance of carriers in mobile advertising. Its solution was very different. It used AutoGraph’s user-generated profile technology to create an individualised mCommerce experience based on profiles created by consumers themselves. The consumer-led approach enabled the use of an unprecedentedly short and readable set of terms and conditions, and data four times broader than that collected by traditional means. That and over 90 per cent opt-in to using the profiles generated led to Vodafone more than doubling its revenue per user – leap-frogging its competitors and receiving more than its fair share of advertising revenue.

So, just as in the nightclub or bar, marketers are discovering that taking it gently and engaging in small talk is much more effective than the one-off chat-up line and laser-guided mission of a one-night stand. With that in mind, GDPR becomes an opportunity to build deep and meaningful relationships, rather than short term opt-ins that consumers don’t fully understand.

This article first appeared in the June 2017 print edition of Mobile Marketing. You can read the whole issue here.