Email marketing has become a core part of the marketing mix for a variety of businesses. It delivers tangible results and is consistently one of the best performing channels for ROI but how firms go about email marketing needs to change. Incoming regulations across the EU, known as GDPR, are set to influence how strategies evolve and could have a substantial impact on marketing list creation and maintenance.

What is GDPR?

GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation, governs how personal information can be collected, stored and used by businesses and organisations. It will come into force across the whole of the economic bloc on 25th May 2018 and will impact all companies that target consumers living in that region.

While the regulation can seem challenging and troublesome to companies, you face significant sanctions if you fail to adhere to the new regulations. First time and unintentional non-compliance will usually be met with a written warning, but businesses could face fines reaching €20 million or up to 4% of worldwide turnover for further non-compliance.

As a result, understanding how GDPR affects daily operations and implementing strategies that recognise this before the May deadline is critical.

The changes to personal data collection and storage are designed to reflect how much data gathering and use has changed in recent years, as well as unifying the regulations across the EU.

What does GDPR mean for email marketing?

Email marketing relies on the collection and use of personal information and, as a result, most organisations are likely to be affected to some degree. From a simple email database through to one that also holds information such as home addresses and full names, any and all third party personal data needs to be assessed and steps taken to ensure GDPR compliance.

Here are four steps to take now to ensure your email marketing is fully compliant with the new legislation:

Engage with existing databases – A core part of GDPR is that consumers now need to give their explicit permission for businesses to collect and use their personal information. This applies to any legacy databases that you currently have too. You’ll need to gain the permission of each consumer in order to continue sending them marketing emails once the deadline has passed. A simple email asking if you can continue to contact each respondent can resolve this issue.

Analyse how you capture data – Lead generation is an important part of marketing and sales, but you’ll now need to receive explicit confirmation that the consumer gives you permission to both store and use their details. So, for example, if you currently gather emails by offering a free download, you’ll need to add extra information and a checkbox to meet GDPR standards. You should also include details on how the information you’ve collected will be used.

Create a process for erasure – Under GDPR all consumers have the right to be forgotten and for their details to be erased completely from your records. It’s a step that should be simple and accessible for consumers, such as a link to click through at the bottom of your marketing emails.

Assess any third parties you work with – You will be responsible for all the data that you use as part of your email marketing strategy, including databases that you may access through third parties. You will need to demonstrate that you’ve taken reasonable steps to ensure that the personal information you’re using is compliant with GDPR. Asking for assurances and to view policies your third parties have put in place is a step in the right direction.

GDPR is just weeks away but businesses that take action now can be well prepared, with the correct processes and procedures in place, to ensure their email marketing campaigns aren’t interrupted.