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Grow Your Business Sales & Marketing

How GDPR is Affecting Email Marketing

How is GDPR affecting email marketing?
Credit: Wright Studio/Shutterstock

The European Union's General Data Protection Requirement, or GDPR, has been a hot topic since its enforcement date took effect in May 2018. Companies have faced multiple dilemmas: Is their business one that needs to comply with the GDPR privacy law? If so, what is the best way to comply? And how does a business comply without losing valuable customers?

GDPR-compliant businesses of all sizes likely have had much work to do to ensure a smooth transition, and this has impacted how many companies do business in Europe. There's no avoiding the effects this requirement has on marketing efforts – especially email marketing and mailing lists.

"All marketing activities are likely to be affected by the GDPR in one way or another – that much is obvious," said Oksana Chyketa, marketing specialist at Albacross. "That said, we see GDPR having an exceptionally large impact when it comes to email marketing."

Email marketing is a common advertising tactic that has been easily implemented in the past. But after GDPR, it's another area of business that requires careful consideration.

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For instance, companies need to ensure their contacts gave them consent before continuing to send emails to them. This calls for a stricter subscription process, which should involve double opt-ins and easy opt-outs, and exclude involuntary or required opt-ins.

Double opt-ins confirm that users are interested in receiving emails, weeding out any fraudulent or accidental requests (e.g., failure to uncheck an automatically checked subscription box.) If a consumer provides their email for a subscription, they will have to go into their email and agree to it for a second time.

This requirement acts as a safety net for any business sending marketing-related emails. Anyone subscribing to your emails should be able to do so freely and not feel bribed to do so for a particular product or service. They should also be able to unsubscribe from your email list at any time, and with no repercussions.

When someone gives consent, make a note of it so you have the information recorded and readily accessible should there be any issues later.

"Organize a full information audit and review the existing data you have, paying particular attention to where this data came from and who you're sharing it with," said Chyketa. "If you've been marketing to an email list that you obtained using methods that are noncompliant [with] GDPR, you should no longer reach out to individuals on this list, unless they've double-opted into your communications."

Marketing efforts should be transparent to your consumers. Outline exactly what data you're recording and what you plan to do with it. Any time there is an update, alert your contacts and offer a way to unsubscribe if wanted. [Searching for an email marketing software for your business? Here are our best picks.]

Additionally, not only are companies forced to neglect contacts, but many consumers are choosing to opt-out when faced with a privacy policy update. It's better to send messages tailored to your customers than a generic advertisement to a broad audience anyway. So, if you want to recruit and retain contacts, you need to know how to engage them.

"I think the one thing we're likely to see is that brands may see an increase in unsubscribes and/or requests for deletion," said Jennifer Horner, senior relationship marketing strategist at DEG Digital. "I feel that when presented with a privacy policy update … customers either ignore the email or, if they're not highly engaged with the brand, take that message as an opportunity to unsubscribe from the emails."

Horner added that consumers will now expect personalized communication, and companies should leverage their data to customize messages and advertisements. That way, contacts they do have will be satisfied enough to stay subscribed.

Sammi Caramela

Sammi Caramela has always loved words. When she isn't working as a Business News Daily and Business.com staff writer, she's writing (and furiously editing) her first novel, reading a YA book with a third cup of coffee, or attending local pop-punk concerts. The only time Sammi doesn't play it safe is when she's writing. Reach her by email, or check out her blog at sammisays.org.