Drawing of a man with a megaphone sitting on an envelope representing an email message.

How GDPR and Marketing Is Affecting Consumer Data

13 min read
folder icon GDPR

In this article, you'll discover how the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) affects digital marketing practices and learn practical steps to ensure your business is compliant with these regulations. By understanding GDPR, you can build trust with your customers and take advantage of the golden opportunity it presents for marketers.

Key Takeaways:

  • GDPR is a stringent data privacy regulation that impacts businesses with customers in the European Union.
  • Compliance focuses on three main areas: permission, justification, and access.
  • GDPR affects various roles in marketing departments, such as email marketing managers, marketing automation specialists, and public relations executives.
  • Practical tips for compliance include performing a mailing list audit, deleting unused addresses, updating your privacy statement, and centralizing your CRM data.
  • GDPR offers a golden opportunity for marketers by allowing better understanding of customer interests, building trust, and streamlining CRM platforms.

Every website you visit, every call you make, and every photo you take leaves a digital footprint. One of the most precious resources in the world is contained in those footprints: your personal data. Your name, IP address, and location are all parts of these footprints. Digital marketing firms need as much personal data as possible, as it directs how companies communicate with their customers.

Because personal data is so valuable, it's a prime target for theft and misuse. This has led to consumer concern over how their data is used, stored, and sold. An Associated Press survey found that a majority of Americans don't believe that identifying data they share online will remain private and secure. Similar data security studies around the globe have come to the same conclusion.

Lawmakers have recognized the importance of regulating how sensitive data should be handled. In America, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is one of the more stringent laws passed. Ultimately though, that only provides protections in one state. EU citizens got more comprehensive protections after the European Union introduced GDPR in 2018.

Now that the calendar is turning over to 2023, it's expected that all businesses collecting consumer information modify their data processing activities to comply with GDPR fully. If your business collects or works with the data of European citizens, and you're not aware of all of GDPR's requirements, you may be breaking the law. This blog post serves as your complete guide to GDPR and marketing in 2023.


What Is GDPR?

The GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation, was created to standardize regulations that protect consumer data. The law requires companies to provide mandatory privacy protection settings in their digital products and websites, also turned on by default.

GDPR aims to make companies more accountable for their actions and puts customer experience before business so that individuals don’t feel exploited.

Under this regulation, companies must maintain a record of how they use customers' personal data and handle data breaches, keep updated with privacy impact assessments, and much more. This regulation is legally binding, and not complying with it can lead to huge fines.

The Cost of Non-Compliance

The deadline for GDPR passed some time ago, but regulators didn't immediately start levying fines for violations. Now that businesses working with digital data have had adequate time to shape up their practices, European governments are cracking down.
Near the end of 2022, several large tech companies received hefty fines from various European regulatory agencies. These include:
  • The popular messaging app Discord was fined €800,000 for failure to provide default data protection options for voice chats. 
  • Facebook's parent company, Meta, was hit with a €265 million fine by the Irish Data Protection Commission for a data-scraping breach. 
  • Alpha Exploration, the operator of the social media app Clubhouse, received a €2 million fine from the Italian Data Protection Authority for having weak default security options.
Since collecting and working with user data is a central function of digital marketing, you should understand the impact of GDPR and ensure that your practices are up-to-date.

GDPR and Marketing: What You Need To Know 

For digital marketing organizations, GDPR is one of the most stringent data privacy regulations they will have to work with. Owners of small businesses may find the rules especially harsh, but it helps to focus on three main areas: permission, focus, and access. 

1. Permission

You cannot simply assume a prospect or customer wants to be contacted by you. You need to explicitly ask for their permission to send them marketing material. It can't be an ambiguous default tick box at signing up, either. Visitors to your site need to express their affirmation clearly. 

2. Justification

The GDPR now requires companies to provide justification for why they collect the data. This means they need to be able to explain why they are collecting certain data and not collect any unnecessary information. For instance, if you need to know the clothing size of each of your customers and can explain why, you can collect that information. If you follow data minimization practices and only collect the information you need, you should be GDPR compliant.

3. Assess

Each customer has the right to be forgotten and to get inaccurate or outdated information about them removed. The GDPR gives them full control and access to their data and the right to remove it if they want.

If you are taking care of these above areas in your business, you can definitely reap the benefits of GDPR. One of the biggest is the fact that this compliance comes with the great opportunity of staying connected with the right customers who are engaged with your business and creating targeted marketing campaigns.

GDPR and Marketing: Who Is Most Affected?

Any business with customers in the European Union will realistically be affected by GDPR. Some businesses, like service providers, may not be headquartered in the EU, but GDPR still applies because they have European customers. 

You may also be subject to other privacy laws and data privacy regulations in your area. GDPR compliance will likely ensure that you are in line with other regulations like CPRA and CCPA, which makes compliance with those a bit easier.

Marketing departments typically have three roles that are the most impacted by GDPR. Here is a look at those three positions and how they are affected. 

Email Marketing Managers

B2B marketers depend on email addresses to feed into lead-generation applications. At the start of the sales process, a user will typically give you their email address in exchange for more information. This could take the form of signing up for your mailing list or gaining access to download some content. This process is known as an "opt-in" and is allowed under GDPR.

What is forbidden, however, is buying email lists. Scraping email addresses from the web or copying them from websites is also not allowed. Therefore, email marketing managers must ensure opt-in for all B2B email marketing campaigns. Users giving consent to be contacted is a GDPR requirement for email marketing. You can no longer automatically add users to your email lists and then wait for them to opt out (unsubscribe from the list).

Marketing Automation Specialists

Marketing automation is one of the most powerful tools in the field of marketing. However, close attention must be paid to GDPR guidelines to use these systems properly.

Sending automated emails to someone who has opted out violates GDPR. This also applies to emails scheduled to be sent before the user opted out. As considerable fines can be levied in this case, study the features of your marketing automation software. The system should be able to check if the recipient has opted out before it sends an email. 

Public Relations Executives

Public relations (PR) personnel typically communicate with media organizations. However, GDPR doesn't distinguish pitching a new product to journalists from marketing directly to a potential customer. Journalists need to give consent to be contacted by you, meaning email outreach will not suffice.

Permission can be given when journalists reach out directly to you, as that shows they expressed interest in talking with you and your business.

GDPR and Marketing: Practical Tips

If you believe your business is GDPR compliant, it doesn't hurt to do some checks to verify. If you're sure your company is not ready, review these tips and use them as a checklist of things to do to prepare.

Perform a Mailing List Audit

Most pre-GDPR marketing databases have become obsolete. If you continue to use older lists, double-check for records of users opting in. The user should be removed if you can not verify an opt-in record. For new subscribers and potential leads, ensure that they have also confirmed they want to join your list by sending an automated email to confirm their subscription.

Delete Addresses You Are Not Using

Once you have verified the people on your list with no record of opt-in, don't hang on to their data. Even if you're not actively emailing these users (or contacting them some other way), the data retention sections of GDPR require that you delete these records. It may be hard for marketers to let go of email addresses they had spent considerable time collecting, but it must be done. If your CRM system can provide deletion records, ensure you can deliver these logs if they are ever requested. 

Add an Invitation Pop-Up to Your Site

You've probably visited websites where you're presented with a pop-up window. The messages in the pop-up often invite you to join an email list. Having new users opt in this way is perfectly acceptable under GDPR. It's also an opportunity to do some marketing segmentation, as users can sign up for their specific interests (products, blog posts, white papers, etc.). Remember to link to your privacy policy in these messages to ensure full compliance.

Update Your Privacy Statement

Speaking of your privacy policy, becoming compliant with GDPR is an excellent occasion to revisit it. Make sure to note any other privacy laws and data collection policies that you follow, to give users an understanding of what they should expect when dealing with your company. GDPR requires that privacy policies be written in clear, easily understood language. Your policy must let your users know how long you retain their personal information. GDPR also states that your privacy policy is published on your website and included in any mobile applications your company develops.

Shift to Social Media

"Cold calling" via email is no longer allowed with GDRP. However, sales teams can reach out to new prospects on social media sites. LinkedIn is business-focused, making it an ideal place to reach out to potential new customers. Other social media like Twitter and Facebook may present more challenges in finding leads, but they can also be used. This type of marketing strategy is known as social selling, and it's something that salespersons should be trained in.

Centralize Your CRM Data

Excel spreadsheets and Google Docs full of customer information should now be a thing of the past. All of your user data should be centralized in a single CRM system. Not only will you be able to manage and segment your mailing lists better, but the best of today's CRM will also allow users to access their own data, make changes as needed, and review how you use their information. The data analysis capabilities of CRM systems also aid in decision-making for best marketing practices. 

Marketing After GDPR

Since the passage of GDPR, how you handle EU citizens' data has permanently changed. Although compliance may seem like a hassle, the fines for violations can reach up to €20 million. That alone is a good enough reason to change how your business and marketing departments operate.

Following the simple guidance of "don't contact someone unless they specifically ask you to" should help you stay in line and provide a safe customer experience. However, with that much money on the line, it's best to seek advice from a qualified attorney about the legal requirements in your area.

Here's Why GDPR Is a Golden Opportunity for Marketers

As you implement GDPR compliance practices, it helps to think of it not as a burden but as an opportunity to expand your market reach. New regulations don't have to be limiting; they can be a chance to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Understanding Customers' Exact Interests

Under the GDPR, you need explicit consent from customers to send them any kind of communication, which means that these forms can be much more than a simple "yes" or "no" to subscribe. You can ask them to choose from a wide range of options, which also helps you narrow down the customer's specific interests.

You can then segment them appropriately into customer personas and send them only the kind of information they are looking for, removing the need for a "one-size-fits-all" email marketing campaign.

Building Trust

Being transparent and open with one another can help create trust between the customer and the company. By fully disclosing what you do with the consumer's personal data and how you use it, you are paving the way for trust, which is beneficial in the long run.

Switching to a Single CRM Platform

With the "right to be forgotten," customers can ask companies to delete any and every bit of data they have on them. If this data is stored on different platforms in bits and pieces, this request may not be handled as easily as it should be.

By employing a single company-wide customer relationship management (CRM) system that lets you store all of your customer data in one place, you can fully comply with the request and with the GDPR. Customer assessments become easier because all their data can be found in one place, ensuring you aren't missing any information.

FiveCRM: Your Single Solution

With the risk of high fines, now is the time to ensure you are in line with GDPR and other privacy regulations. Having centralized management of all your customer information is more important than ever. The right CRM solution will help you manage all of your digital marketing data in one place.  
FiveCRM offers full-featured solutions that will ease your regulatory compliance concerns. Our team is happy to help with any questions you may have, so get in touch today or check out our product options now.

Michael King says...

"I can’t think of a time where a client has requested something that we weren’t able to do with FiveCRM. Unlike most systems, it has a lot of flexibility."

Improve your outbound efficiency now

Managing Director, Senior Response


“Each client, and each of their campaigns, has its own unique specifications. We essentially needed to set up mini CRMs on one platform to meet those requirements.”

Improve your outbound efficiency now

Operations Director, Team Telemarketing

Why wait?

Start improving your outbound efficiency now, with the most customizable Telesales solution on the market.

Improve your outbound efficiency now
You might also like other posts ...
article background
6 min
Why is Email Marketing So Effective?
Why is Email Marketing So Effective? There's a lot of buzz online about how email marketing is an incredibly effective platform - and rightly so - but there is still a...
article background
6 min
What is a Sales Funnel?
A "sales funnel" may sound like something you'd find somewhere at the back of your kitchen cupboards, but this simple concept can boost your sales and marketing effort...
Five individuals having a work meeting
5 min
Beginner's Guide to Email Marketing Automation
The concept of marketing automation can seem confusing, but it needn't be. It's often the final stumbling block for most companies when setting up their online marketi...