Now that we’re a year into GDPR, we know that none of email marketers’ fears surrounding the new requirements came to fruition. Rather, GDPR—like plenty of other regulations already on the books across the world—has simply shifted the landscape of digital marketing.
Email marketing specifically has remained as potent and powerful a revenue-driving tool as ever. The Regulation provides a close look into consumers’ value and illuminates ways companies can use email marketing to give more transparency into their marketing efforts.
And more transparency means more trust and better relationships with your subscribers, and that’s great news for all of us as marketers, as consumers, as humans.
Timeline of major email regulations around the globe
The GDPR did cause marketers to shift their policies and tactics, but the concern for consumers’ privacy is nothing new.
Here’s a rundown of some of the major regulations regarding digital communications and the timeline of when they were enacted.
December 13, 1995: Data Protection Directive
As a part of the EU’s laws on personal privacy and human rights, they enacted the Data Protection Directive in order to protect individuals regarding the processing of their personal data and the free movement of that data.
July 31, 2002: Directive 2002/58 on Privacy and Electronic Communications
Also known as the e-privacy Directive, the EU enacted this law to give greater security and insight into the ways data is collected over the internet, specifically requiring opt-ins for certain data collection such as cookies. Additionally, the e-privacy Directive covered data retention, limited the use of unsolicited email marketing, and required opt-in for the use of certain cookies.
December 12, 2003: Spam Act of 2003
Australia’s Spam Act of 2003, on the other hand, primarily protected users by ensuring companies respect unsubscribe requests. It also prohibited people from harvesting addresses or using lists that contained addresses that had been harvested.
December 22, 2003: CAN-SPAM Act
The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 protects US citizens from unsolicited email, particularly pornography and marketing materials. It requires companies to provide information to prove their legitimacy and honor subscriber’s requests to opt out of any further communications.
July 1, 2014: Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation
Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation enacted in 2014 offers similar protections to the Australian and US anti-spam acts while also requiring senders to get consent before they email an address, though there are provisions that allow for communication without explicit consent for limited periods of time after collection. Consumers can also request to unsubscribe from a particular sender.
April 8-14, 2016: Adoption of General Data Protection Regulation
When the EU adopted GDPR in 2016, the measures were intended to give individuals residing in the EU more control over their data and privacy.
In moving data privacy law from a directive to a regulation, the EU standardized privacy protections for all individuals residing in the EU. The GDPR created a framework for data privacy by defining the rights of data subjects, integrating core principles for processing personal data into its requirements for data controllers and processors, and providing a regulatory structure (including fines) through which the law would be enforced.
May 25, 2018: Application of General Data Protection Regulation
Companies had to time to adjust before the Regulation became enforceable, but there was a lot of speculation that GDPR would put an end to email marketing.
The GDPR states that email marketers need to be transparent with how they deal with their subscribers’ information, disclosing how exactly they track and use consumers’ data as well as requiring explicit permission to do either. It also requires that marketers be thoughtful in how they use subscribers’ information and not rely on assumptions or processes that subscribers wouldn’t (or couldn’t) understand.
May 25, 2019: GDPR one year later
Despite initial concerns, we haven’t seen any evidence that GDPR has diminished the power of email marketing. Marketers worried that they would lose the ability to use data to drive their efforts, but consumers prefer to do business with companies who protect their privacy.
Consumers don’t mind sharing their data with brands they trust when they believe that data is going to be used to their benefit.
If anything, as consumers become more security-conscious, the move encourages businesses to prioritize their customers’ desires for more transparency. And it’s this transparency that helps businesses build trust with their subscribers. The GDPR has elevated the level of trust and communication between businesses and their subscribers, and ultimately more trust means better relationships, better marketing, and greater revenue.
The GDPR requires companies to be transparent with their consumers about their data. At first, marketers worried this would inhibit their ability to deliver data-driven marketing, assuming that people would refuse to share data.
However, GDPR hasn’t hurt email marketing, but rather has reinforced the power of marketing based on strong relationships. Your subscribers want transparency. They want to be treated fairly, not unsubscribe from one list and then realize they’ve somehow been signed up for multiple. They want to see exactly what you’re doing with their data and how it affects them.
The great news is, email marketing becomes even more powerful with greater transparency. It allows you to be up front and honest, building stronger relationships with your customers.