Will GDPR see a mass opt-out by consumers in 2018?

 gdpr and inbound marketing, managing your B2B data base

For your business to flourish it needs to attract website visitors as a pre-requisite to gathering email addresses and relevant business information to fill your sales pipeline. As a business your responsibility is to then distribute valuable, timely and relevant content to nurture leads to prospects along the buying process toward a sale.

Realistically most new leads aren’t quite ready to buy; they may be just starting out on their buying journey and are more likely to be doing research and gathering information. Email is one of the most effective ways for you to nurture and assess these leads, a key part of a comprehensive inbound marketing program using email addresses and business intelligence you have gathered.

When done correctly, email marketing serves as an effective way to get people to download content, convert prospects with special offers, and most importantly keep your existing customers engaged.

However, there is on the horizon a storm brewing with the introduction in 12 months of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018. Add this to the parallel lobbying of online data privacy advocates in the light of high-profile cyber-attacks, the issue of data protection/privacy and the perception that privacy policies have become weaker.

It could be particularly tough for those companies that are reliant on consumer insights to tailor their services. Moving forward, companies will need to be more transparent with what they do with personal data, while individuals will have more control of their own information.

What Is GDPR?

The GDPR or General Data Protection Regulation (click to read all 261 pages of the directive) is designed to unify data privacy laws across the EU, giving EU residents control over their personal data and prescribing how organisations can use this data and mandating how they must protect it.

This will see the EU mandate an ‘opt-in’ approach to B2B data collection and use. This could raise concerns that customers will start to question the security of their data and the fact that they could en masse begin to opt-out as companies go through the process of formally inviting contacts to opt-in to meet the new rules.

Concepts such as the ‘right to be forgotten’, data portability, data breach notification and accountability are all encompassed in the rulings, with those companies that do not comply potentially facing massive fines of €20m, or up to four per cent of global revenue.

Marketers Need To Restore Public Confidence 

Under the EU’s new rules, consumers have the right to know how their personal data is being used, the reason it is being processed, have the right to access and correct it, restrict further processing and to request that all their data be erased.

As a company you must know the personal data that you have on your customers, where that data is stored, its source and that you are lawfully complying with the regulations on how to keep and process it.

Gigya poll drawn equally from the US and the UK, found that two thirds of respondents worried that their personal data is at risk, fueling fears of a mass consumer ‘opt-out’ upon the implementation of  GDPR in 2018.

The 2017 State of Consumer Privacy and Trust survey found that:

  • 69 percent of consumers are concerned about security and privacy with Internet of Things (IoT) devices
  • 68 percent don’t trust brands to handle their personal information appropriately
  • 63 percent believe they bear responsibility for protecting their data, while only 19 percent believe brands should be responsible and only 18 percent believe government should have that role
  • Despite security fears, password hygiene remains poor, with 70 percent of consumers using seven or fewer passwords across all of their online accounts

Companies will have to think about the technical requirements of data protection, the governance involved in this, and how to clearly explain what and how they manage data and follow the new GDPR rules for example of communicating a data breach. Privacy notices going forward for example must be: concise; transparent; intelligible; easily accessible, and described in language that is clear and easy to understand. It needs to be as simple to understand how to opt-out as it was to opt-in.

GDPR As An Opportunity, Rather Than An Inhibitor

Next year’s introduction of GDPR will increase the stakes for protecting information.

There are opportunities for businesses to both attract and build trust with their customers as a responsible organisation that complies with the new GDPR.

As businesses we know that personal information has a value so protecting it does make good business sense and the benefits of having the data exceed the costs of managing it properly to protect privacy in the first place.

Being irresponsible and ignoring privacy concerns and not protecting data does have significant downsides and failure can be damaging to a brands reputation. GDPR will set out to enforce stricter mandates on privacy and apply far greater penalties for non-compliance

In today’s environment, your reputation can hinge on how you as a company treat customers and whether you meets their expectations, and today this does include more and more their privacy expectations.


  1. Any company that takes GDPR seriously will strengthen operationally
  2. It will be operating with lower levels of risk
  3. Less likely to violate or be non-compliant with privacy regulations and the consequences that go with failure
  4. Improved customer loyalty by treating their personal information with respect
  5. Improved privacy processes may enable a company to reduce its operating costs


  1. Any immediate gains to be had from taking privacy shortcuts are short-lived as savings made will be dwarfed by the penalties of failure
  2. Non-compliance with regulations means putting relationships in jeopardy, risking fines and a public telling off
  3. With no proper data infrastructure the risks of privacy failures will be far higher
  4. The company name and reputation will suffer - impacting sales 
  5. For any company, continued success depends upon earning the trust of those that it holds personal data on (customers and employees)
  6. Its success also depends on it earning the continued cooperation of third parties, such as business partners, suppliers and regulators

Preparing For GDPR

As a company it is recommended that you conduct a thorough review of the various types of personal data you have stored, their source, what they are used for.

As a marketer you will need to assess your data capture flows, against what you do today for email/blog subscriptions, landing pages, calls-to-action, etc. You will need to make sure that you get the consent in the correct way, store it properly and have a process to prove that the contact is who they say they are. 

This is where inbound marketing can help with your compliance to GDPR. You will need to make sure you are creating and utilising high-quality content on your website, that can be gated as a tactic to collect your emails and consent opt-ins from website visitors. 

A GDPR Checklist To Get You Started

For its part the ICO it has produced a checklist for marketers and media owners to get started ahead of 2018 (a snapshot is below) 

ICO 12 point plan to manage gdpr

 The 12 step plan from ICO covers:

  1. Awareness
  2. Information you hold
  3. Communicating privacy information
  4. Individuals rights
  5. Subject access requests
  6. Legal process of processing personal data
  7. Consent
  8. Children
  9. Data breaches
  10. Data protection by design
  11. Data protection officers
  12. International

Take Away

A positive relationship between you and your customers needs to be centred around consent, based on trust and a two-way conversation that provides mutual value to your customer and your company. We will not be able to replace the need for legal advice, and this blog cannot be used as legally binding advice. It is vital for you to discuss GDPR and the implications for your organisation with appropriate legal advisors.

If you are thinking about how inbound sales and marketing can keep you on track, growing leads and helping you manage your data - download our list of 101 reasons for Inbound.

PDF download for inbound marketing 101 reasons why you should use it

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