The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation takes effect on May 25, 2018. That means companies have a little over a month left to complete the overhaul of their data collection, storage, and usage practices required by these new rules.
If you haven’t started preparing, you’re probably not alone. At the end of 2017, Forrester predicted 80% of companies will not be GDPR-compliant when the regulations go into effect.
In some cases, that lack of preparation probably isn’t out of laziness; it’s confusion. Some email marketers may still be under the impression that GDPR will not affect their email marketing efforts. The truth is, if your email list includes even a single subscriber in the EU, you must take steps to comply with GDPR.
What are those steps? Here are four of them. Of course, this is by no means a complete list; the extent of necessary GDPR prep will be different for every email program. Still, it can serve as a launchpad for broader discussions about what GDPR means for you, your email program, and your company as a whole.
Check your email opt-in tactics.
Or, rather, don’t.
Pre-checked opt-ins will be a thing of the past under GDPR, as will be other commonly-used ways of growing email lists. As the new law says, “Silence, pre-ticked boxes or inactivity should not constitute consent.”
So what is allowed? Under GDPR, marketers must collect explicit opt-ins from new subscribers. Your audience must provide their “freely given” consent to receive your email communication, and this consent must be given in the form of an unambiguous “affirmative action.”
Basically, you have to let your audience know what they’re signing up for, and your email capture widgets must allow potential subscribers to clearly indicate their consent. That doesn’t mean you have to give up hope of quickly growing your email list. Use active capture widgets to rack up email subscribers without racking up GDPR fines in the process.
Use email list segmentation to renew consent from your EU subscribers.
GDPR also requires brands to account for the date at which an email subscriber consented to receive their emails. If you don’t have that information on record, you must obtain an explicit opt-in from your EU subscribers all over again.
Brands have tried all kinds of creative ways to keep their audiences around. English soccer team Manchester United made headlines last year of the non-sports kind after their GDPR campaign caught the eyes of marketers around the globe. The “you must opt-in again to continue receiving emails from Man Utd” message that circled the sidelines of Old Trafford might have confused fans at first, but it definitely let them know what GDPR means for their inboxes.
Even a marketer in Manchester City gear would have to admit it was an ambitious move.
But you don’t have to resort to a massive scrolling ad; an email campaign will do. Segment your EU subscribers and target them with an email re-engagement campaign to confirm their consent before the deadline hits. That way, May 25 won’t catch your email marketing program offside.
Of course, like a Premier League championship, getting consent from your email audience once doesn’t mean you have it forever. You have to hold on to it.
Use preference centers to optimize your email opt-out process.
Under GDPR, you must provide a way for email audiences to opt out of your communication. If you’re already following CAN-SPAM guidelines (and if you’re not, you probably should be) you’re already doing this. Good job!
But while you’re working on your email program anyway, why not take steps to ensure your opt-out process isn’t costing you more subscribers than it should? Directing potential unsubscribers to an email preference center can fulfill GDPR’s opt-out requirements, but it can also help you save subscribers by connecting them with more relevant or less frequent communication.
Why is this important for GDPR preparations? Well, for brands with large European audiences, GDPR compliance will undoubtedly trim down the size of their email lists, no matter how rigorous their GDPR-related email efforts. Of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, shedding off disinterested subscribers can improve your deliverability and the overall health of your email program.
Still, a trimmed-down email list makes it all the more important to better engage the subscribers you do have. Preference centers help email marketers build email relationships by ensuring subscribers receive the kind of communication that works best for them.
Get a grip on your email list data.
For marketers, getting GDPR-compliant is tough enough. It can be even harder if you’re managing email data on multiple platforms.
If you use multiple email service providers or marketing automation platforms, syncing opt-out data between platforms can be a chore. But it’s an absolutely necessary chore—especially when GDPR violations can result in fines of 20 million euros or 4% of your annual global turnover.
By centralizing your email opt-outs on a secure list management platform, you can automate the syncing of your email lists. That way, you ensure that the only people who receive your emails are the people who explicitly opted in.
Getting your email compliance in order is only one part of preparing for GDPR, but secure, automated solutions can free up your time to tackle other parts of your preparation efforts. Like, say, doing what you’ve been planning on doing for months and actually reading the GDPR.