Marketing

Naomi Simson on GDPR: Is this opportunity to reconnect with customers good or bad?

Naomi Simson /

Last week, comedian Adam Hill tweeted: “Just spent an hour trawling through my GDPR emails. I think I liked it better when they just harvested my data”.

It’s true, my inbox is overwhelmed and each brand seems to be dealing with the new privacy regulations differently.

I was keen to know if my ‘customer experience’ was similar to others. So I ran two polls: one in my group The Huddle, and the other with the team members from the Big Red Group. Across the board, 68% of the poll participants rarely or never confirm their subscriptions to the mailing lists — a telling statistic. It was accompanied by the following comments:

  • “I can’t even unsubscribe to them all let alone reconfirm”.

  • “I confirm when it’s required to continue with the app or program. However, if it’s an email advising of changes I ignore it”.

  • “I’ll re-confirm if I see value in staying on their list. If not, I see it as a good opportunity to unsubscribe!”

  • “I’ve only been confirming subscription to the online retailers, where I receive deals … not the general newsletter type subscriptions”.

  • “I’ve heard a few people nervous about re-confirming because a larger brand was sued for having people on their database they didn’t get prior approval for. I’m confused about this”.

It’s interesting feedback from a smaller, but honest cross-section of my own community. It make me wonder if we are really listening to what our customers want when it comes to privacy?

For customers there is often a trade-off between desiring a personalised online experience, yet not wanting to give too much personal data away. So, how do we as business owners navigate the murky waters of privacy and still deliver an exceptional customer experience?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) represents a seismic shift in the balance of privacy power for Australian businesses. For one, it sets a powerful precedent.

Even before similar reforms roll out internationally, everybody in online business — almost irrespective of their location — is likely to be affected in some way by this piece of legislation in Europe. All because we’re transacting on this thing called the world wide web — the operative word being ‘world’.

This law, as eloquently put by Nitashs Tiku in Wired, “is a chance to flip the economics of the industry. Since the dawn of the commercial web, companies have been financially incentivized [sic] to hoover up data and monetize [sic] later. Now, EU consumers will have the freedom to opt in, rather than the burden of opting out. That emphasis on consent creates a financial reward to building consumer trust”.

With all this talk about data, transparency, privacy and trust, it made me wonder, how well do we really know our customers?

RedBalloon, in a very real way, is an exporter: people purchase from all around the world buying experiences back here in Australia. Do I really know how many of our customers reside in Europe? Are they indeed European residents? Perhaps they’re Aussies living the London dream, tourists, expats with relatives back at home …

This legislation means we, as a brand, can go back out to our customers and ask, “what relationship do you really want with us?” It gives our customers the choice for participation — or not. It means a shift in the way we listen to our customers, as well as the way we act.

Staying up to date with compliance is a struggle for most businesses, yet this legislation gives us the opportunity to build customer intimacy and add value to the interaction by understanding not only ‘what’ they want from their interactions with us, but answering the big ‘if’ they want a relationship at all.

At the very least we will know the people who come back or want to participate believe in what we’re doing.  As businesses and brands we must respect loyalty as a two-way street by honouring what the customer wants — not just what we’d like them to want.

The GDPR emails that get my attention are short, to the point, speak simply and remind me of the company’s ‘purpose’ … such as this one:

“Hey there!

Every brand has a purpose.

At X, our purpose is simple. Making advertising better.

After all, native advertising is just that. Native. It’s organic. It allows consumers to organically interact with your brand.

Policies like GDPR help us bring that further to light, continuing our strides toward Trust + Transparency with our customers (and their customers too!).

That said, we recently updated our Privacy Policy to better serve you.

Don’t love reading the fine print? Here are the highlights:

Easy Navigation: Our native ecosystem is made up of our readers, business partners (both marketers and publishers), and website visitors. Navigate based on how you interact with us.

Easy Read: Let’s face it, not everyone has a legal degree (and that’s okay!). We’ve broken the jargon down into layman’s terms, making it more digestible.

Easy Communication: Have questions related to our Trust + Transparency initiative? Want to know what we know? Ask away. We’re here and transparent.

Thoughts?

NOW READ: Why Aussie startups should keep one eye on European data regulation

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Naomi Simson

Naomi Simson is the founder of RedBalloon, co-founder of the Big Red Group, author of two books and blogger at NaomiSimson.com. She also appears on Channel Ten as one of the investors in Shark Tank Australia.

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  • Annette Scott

    Hi Naomi, why is it though, that when I try to have a look at your website, a pop up asks me if I will allow Red Balloon to access my location? When I say ‘don’t allow’, I can’t go any further. Is it absolutely necessary for your company to know where I am? I am looking to purchase a gift for my stepson in another state and thought that Red Balloon would be the perfect site for that. Now I’m not so sure….. I hope you can remedy this situation. Thank you.