Email marketing is going to blaze a trail with the upcoming European data privacy law. As the clock ticks closer to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), reflecting on your business' current marketing strategies is essential to pave the way for the new changes. 

The GDPR will bring a shift in the way email marketers treat subscribers' data. As data protection takes precedence, engagement approaches will undergo a steep difference. So, while we wait for 25th May, 2018, here are some fundamentals that'll prepare you to better embrace these changes. 

What's the GDPR all about?

The GDPR is an upcoming European Union law that imposes strict obligations on the way a business uses its subscribers' personal data. Henceforth, every business is required to be transparent with their audience and collect only the necessary information from them. Businesses are also liable for the safety of their subscribers' information and they are subject to penalization for any breaches. 

In short, the regulation lists a set of rights for data subjects (people whose data is managed by a business), for which every marketer (of a business) must comply.

Here's what you need to do as an email marketer

With permission-based engagement in the limelight, marketers are tasked with capturing, processing, and managing users' data efficiently.

Data Collection

Marketers are recommended to use the double opt-in method for obtaining consent from their users, while collecting data. You also need to educate them on why you're collecting their data. Performing an internal audit will help you understand what kind of subscriber data you already have and what you further need to collect from your users. Mention consent in simple terms, and make sure to obtain separate consent for different purposes. Remember, consent has to be a voluntary affirmative action, so don't use any form of default consent like pre-ticked boxes or filled fields.

When it comes to children or sensitive data like race, ethnicity, religion, etc., collect only when you have clearly informed your subjects and you have enough provisions.

Data Processing

Once you collect the necessary data, the way you handle it is crucial. Personal data you collect from your data subjects must be used only for the purposes that you clearly stated when they gave their permission. If you use it for any other inappropriate objectives, you'll be held at crime for violation of the law.

Periodically review your data to ensure that it's up to date. Whenever you make changes to privacy notices, inform your users immediately. Your subjects can restrict the processing of their data when they have any issue with the content you hold or the way you handle it. You must respond to their restriction request and make preparations accordingly.

Data Storage and Access

It's your responsibility to safeguard your users' personal data, and in the event of any loss or breach, you'll be strictly punished. Inform your subscribers about where their data is stored, and don't allow any third-party services or unauthorized people to access your stored data at any point in time.

As your engagement is completely mutual in a permission-based approach, you must allow your users to opt out of your service at any time. Users also have the power to make modifications to their information, so let them access their data and make updates when needed.

Data Erasure and Transfer

You must permit the transfer of personal data from your system to third-party services when an individual requests it. You may also migrate data across data centers within your organizations, as there's no stipulation for only storing information in the EU servers. An individual can also demand the deletion of any personal data that they feel is not being appropriately used by your business. In both the cases of erasure and transfer, you cannot penalize a user who makes this request, and you must promptly respond to their needs by providing immediate arrangements. 

It's also important to allow users to access their data in a readable format so that they can download their information, at any time, through password-protected files.

What if you don't comply with the GDPR?

Non-compliance with the GDPR comes with a huge monetary penalty. Sanctions for not complying with the law can be very high—20 Million Euros (€20 million) or 4% of your company's total worldwide annual turnover from the preceding financial year, whichever is higher. 

How can you benefit from being GDPR-compliant?

  1. Clean email marketing: Abiding by the laws of this regulation, you reach out only to the people who want to connect with you. Your email engagement rates will go up and you'll end up with better conversions. 
  2. Goodwill from customers: Due to the transparency in your email marketing approach, customers will tend to stick with you, and a sense of trust can be built between your brand and your customers. 
  3. Increased revenue: With higher conversions and improved email performance, you can improve your ROI and, ultimately, build a better brand image.

The bottom line

The GDPR isn't a thing of stress for the email marketing industry. It's a welcome addition, as it helps in cleaning up your mailing lists and helps you target the right set of people. While complying with the laws might initially seem laborious, the payoff is definitely worth it—you become a smarter marketer! So, say "yes" to GDPR for a robust and successful email marketing. 

The role of Zoho Campaigns in the GDPR space

Zoho Campaigns provides some advanced features that help you manage consent from users, adhere to the rights of your data subjects, and achieve remarkably clean email engagement. Click here to learn more about our latest tools. 

Are you GDPR-ready?

Now that you know how the GDPR influences email marketing, are you prepared to champion it? Take a look at the GDPR-ready checklist that we've specifically designed for email marketers, so you have a better idea of what you need to know about the regulation. 


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  • Privacy Shield
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  • SOC

Disclaimer: The information presented herein should not be taken as legal advice. We recommend that you seek legal advise on what you need to do to comply with the requirements of GDPR.