By Nicholas Upton
Your inbox is probably clogged right now with a bunch of emails asking you to read some new terms of service. This surge of really boring emails is the outcome of a landmark European decision to adopt a privacy framework called the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR.
In essence, it’s a new version of data protection that helps ensure consumers can better control their data and how businesses can use personal data. All those emails are part of a requirement that consumers opt in to new marketing and one that likely won’t be friendly to businesses.
“A lot of users are not opting-in anymore,” said Josha Benner, cofounder of marketing services firm Uberall. “They have a drop of 30 percent when people are opting in, so you lose a significant chunk of people you can market to.”
Benner said GDPR also makes it much more difficult for companies to use the data they have for targeted marketing. For instance, sending a customer a receipt by email no longer means the company can match that email to its marketing database—a fairly common practice. Already, consumer complaints have skyrocketed and companies operating in Europe are facing some extreme fines.
U.S.-based companies with European operations are playing catch-up right now, but because GDPR only applies to Euro Zone consumers while they’re in the Euro Zone, it’s not exactly a dire situation. That, however, could change if laws like one recently passed in California spread across the country. The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 won unanimous approval and was quickly signed into law last week.
The new privacy act is essentially a watered-down version of GDPR with some major wiggle room to adjust rules down the road. But for marketers who have gotten used to using incredible amounts of personal data, it’s a sign of things to come.
Benner said as privacy rules expand (and they will), companies should think less about “push” or outbound marketing and more about “pull” or inbound marketing.
“Push marketing takes their product out to the customer through direct communications out to the customer in a personalized way, either a personalize email or retargeting on a website where you see the same burger you saw before. Really going out and finding the customer,” said Benner. “Pull is the reverse, you give more control to the customers and let them learn about the product o the brand. It’s less intrusive, it’s almost like a service to the consumers.”
He said that “service” means when consumers have made a buying decision and want a tasty burger, they go out to find what is available. They’ll pull up Google or Yelp and find all their options near and far. It’s essentially what consumers already do, but as those branding messages get harder to deliver, that pull marketing will become more and more important.
“People still want burgers, but they want them when they are hungry. So the say, ‘Siri, search for a restaurant near me,’ then start discovering,” said Benner.
That, of course, makes local search marketing and overall search engine optimization (SEO) important, but the review sites are becoming even more impactful.
“It goes beyond SEO, if you look at Google or Yelp where you can search for burgers its all about SEO. But there are paid opportunities that can get you in a permanent position and social content becomes more helpful,” said Benner, noting that the number of reviews have tripled in just the past year.
Benner, who may be a little biased, said working with a search and reputation firm like his can be a big help. But companies with the G&A for a marketing department can do this as well. And they’d be wise to do it early so they aren’t stuck with limited marketing options as U.S. privacy rules grow stronger.
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