Turning GDPR into a business opportunity

Despite the fact that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has been in the works since April 2016 and has just over a year to go until it’s brought into force, it’s only now becoming a very hot topic. It’s slowly starting to sink in…businesses need to act.

GDPR in a nutshell

GDPR’s a regulation that’s set to help strengthen data protection for individuals located within the European Union (EU) – pushed forward by the European Parliament, the European Council and the European Commission.

>See also: GDPR: What do you need to know?

Crucially it will give people more control of their personal data and how it’s used. It also aims to simplify a myriad of data regulations currently in place. When the GDPR takes effect from 25 May 2018, it will replace the data protection directive from 1995.

But other than the above, what does GDPR really mean for brands and businesses?

Many businesses are still not clear on this, or whether or not they’ll be ready when the regulation does take effect. According to DMA, 26% of marketers believe their businesses are unprepared for the General Data Protection regulation, with just two thirds (68%) believing they’ll be compliant in time for the deadline in May 2018. Quite simply it’ll become a lot harder for businesses to access customer data in the same way it is being done now.

There will be a lot more processes in terms of how data is recorded, accessed and maintained, and businesses will have more legal responsibility if they don’t comply. But despite the current rush of conversations around GDPR, the impact it’ll have on businesses, how to best revise data policies, auditing and numerous other elements, there’s actually a flip side if you take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

The great data potential realised…

At the moment, many are looking at GDPR as a “problem” as it’s set to create more work and hoops for businesses to jump through. What people are failing to do, is look at and realise the regulation’s potential.

>See also: The road to GDPR implementation: challenges and opportunities ahead

GDPR in fact presents the opportunity for businesses to “reset” how they use and collate data from their customers. It will prompt new ways of thinking, and bring about more trust and transparency.

It will also enable better business practices and the ability to make more informed decisions. Of course, like anything, there’s a fair amount of preparation needed, but if we look beyond that, it’s not just about being GDPR-ready for May 2018. It’s also about being ready for any future legislative changes that will come about over time, especially as there will be more and more data sources and new ways to look at consumer information.

Instead of seeing GDPR as a “data blocker”, you should be looking at it as the path to the future of data. It is a big shift change, but it’s also about how you embrace that change.

As a consequence of GDPR, in the next few years, we’ll start to see consumers take complete control of their data – brokering what businesses can and can’t have access to, when and how.

They’ll be able to turn their data on and off whenever they like, or gradually take it away, but the more they trust a brand, the more likely they’ll be to allow that brand or business more access and use their data. There has to be something positive in it for the consumer. Businesses in turn will have to get consumer buy-in and gain their trust in order to make this process just as valuable for them.

>See also: Change is coming: the GDPR storm

The future is all about the data

Businesses that truly embrace GDPR and show customers the value of why and how they’re using data, and give customer complete control, will be the ones that win. There will be technical challenges that come with GDPR, but over time, they’ll find that processes will becomes less intricate, especially as they’ll be working harder and smarter with their data.

There will be a data value exchange as businesses can make their products and services better, keep customers happy by making services more efficient, target them with the right offers at the right time, which in turn creates a much better customer experience and journey.

So what’s next?

When you turn GDPR on its head and think about its positives and long-term benefits, you begin to realise and understand what you can do to help you plan better for this pending regulation, as well as further afield. Here are a few tips on the areas to focus on:

Put customers at the heart of your business

Align as a business on your customer strategy, and be clear on the data required to enable this and why it’s needed. Ensure that the business understands the potential of data, and that the customer has a strong value exchange for allowing the access to and usage of their data. Use GDPR as a stimulus to ensuring there is clarity on both sides, and a consistency of usage that gives a tangible benefit to all parties.

>See also: Benchmarking global readiness for the GDPR

Make smarter decisions through the use of data

Putting customers in control of what data can be shared and used poses a risk to businesses that the breadth and depth of data collected will be reduced. By using data in a smarter, more open way will both mitigate risk, and also create business growth through more effective product development, improved customer experience and more relevant marketing. If customers can see the benefit to them that their data is enabling, then trust and data accessibility should both grow.

Look after what’s important

Having access to a customer’s data is a privilege. It should be looked after securely, compliantly and with a clear governance process. Data storage and usage should be done in a secure way, with set procedures and access levels, with clear security guidelines and disaster recovery. Give clear responsibility across all business areas from the business users to the Exec, to democratise the use, ownership and accountability of data.

Like death and taxes, GDPR is a certainty. Businesses can simply accept their fate and make things fit as best they can, or they can use it as a catalyst to redefine the approach to personal data usage, drive real business and customer value, and ensure that the data industry has a long and healthy life.


Sourced by Chris Dobson, consultancy director at Aquila Insight

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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