person Guy Potter access_time January 2, 2018
GDPR: Marketing and Research Working in Harmony?

Digital is disrupting almost every industry and every walk of life. This is leading to businesses changing their business models to compete with innovative start-ups, society adjusting to digital technology, and in turn, the EU having to ensure legislation is aligned to deal with digital.

Enter GDPR, the new EU regulation that comes into force in May 2018. As we’re all aware, GDPR will give people greater control over their data, which means tighter rules for businesses when handling customer data.

Our digital footprint is growing

Data has never been so easy to gather and analyse. As citizens, we register ourselves far-and-wide online and leave a substantial digital trail. Some estimates suggest the number of databases each person is registered in is as high as 650. We have social media, news, banking and online retail –all of which collects vast amounts of data.

From an analysis and marketing perspective this is great, but GDPR means businesses must exercise far greater control of that data and give customers the freedom to come and go from our databases and ease of access to their personal information.

Now, I could go into a deep-dive into the details of how GDPR will impact the research industry – because it will affect all industries – but instead it’s important to focus on the positives and the customer-facing, human side of the new rules, and look at how this brings about opportunity for us as researchers, marketers and creatives alike.

GDPR and agile research

There are marketers who also see GDPR as a creative opportunity with which to attract new customers. Research from the DMA suggests 71% of respondents surveyed saw GDPR as a chance to be more creative. In turn, we’re excited by the prospect of seeing some great, original campaigns which we can support and enhance with research.

As a result, GDPR is an area where, yes, we do need to work hard to comply, but it really is an extension of what researchers are already doing. Essentially, we just need to do it ‘better’ and be even more thorough and transparent.

Having a respondent agree to participate in a survey, as well as holding their data, is a privilege and we need to treat it accordingly. There is a balance between not boring respondents with endless box ticking that detracts from a survey, whilst also ensuring transparency and easy access to their information.

This is where Agile research comes into its own, as it gives respondents the flexibility to add or update as they see fit.

A good relationship with consumers will be an important element of GDPR, as they will have greater control and, consequentially, will want to buy or work with you. The best research houses will have the advantage, as they already treat people as people and not merely as a piece of relevant data for a survey. That transparency will help respondents be more secure and happy in the knowledge they can access, update, or even erase their data at any time.

GDPR is coming whether we like it or not, so we should see it as an opportunity for the research industry to strengthen the bonds of trust between us and our most important stakeholders – our respondents.

GDPR, marketing and research data

This creativity also has a knock-on effect for the research industry, in that it should lead to more energised and engaged respondents who enjoy participating in more ‘original’ surveys.

Not only that, but GDPR will also mean that we’re going to see businesses take a more targeted approach by engaging in micro or ‘moments’ marketing, as well as client or customer ‘experiences’.

For those who think this shift in marketing strategies will see a decline in the need for research –  think again. Such targeted marketing needs quantifiable and quality data to ensure it is accurate and hits the consumer’s sweet spot. Not only that, but as we see an increase in data-driven marketing, there will be a need to get an answer to the ‘why’ of data analysis.

GDPR will see a significant shift in marketing strategies, and in turn, research, but don’t forget, digital disruption is also having an impact at every level. The speed of social media and the way information spreads virally has also brought about a need for faster research results.

Agile research makes this a reality, as surveys can see results within minutes, not days or hours. For businesses that must react quickly to the changing news agenda, this is ideal, but it also means that campaigns, especially for the PR industry, can be created and rolled-out in shorter timescales.

GDPR brings opportunities for both the marketing and research industries and at maru/usurv believe 2018 will see both sides working more closely to transform how we interact with our customers.

Guy Potter is maru / usurv's head of research and clients.