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How Have Email Marketers Adapted to Data Protection Laws?


Data Privacy legislation such as GDPR and the planned California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) have thrown down a challenge to email marketers.

Our latest ebook, Email Marketing in a Privacy Conscious World, finds that industry experts are upbeat and believe that legislation can help email marketers to raise their game.


How Have Marketers Adapted?

Our recent survey conducted a year after the introduction of GDPR found that 76% of marketers had changed their methods for gaining customer consent.

Retailers have introduced stricter opt-in processes and more explicit consent for marketing , while many have gone through a process of cleaning their databases.

One effect has been that marketers have been more likely to engage with legal teams and experts, and can now plan marketing campaigns with this knowledge in mind.

According to Schuh’s Head of Ecommerce Stuart McMillan, this has had some positive benefits:

“It (GDPR) has also forced us to engage with the legal industry to advise on exactly what we can and cannot do and in actual fact we’re going to do more marketing in some areas than we did historically because of this, which is a touch ironic.”


Effects of Legislation on Email Marketing

Email marketing is still alive and well. According to DMA stats, fewer customers now wonder where companies acquired their email address, which is a positive step.

Email still performs as well as any marketing channel, and better than most. The DMA says that, for every $1 spent on email, it delivers and average ROI of $32.

As Verity Jennings of Phrasee explains, data protection laws are more about targeting ‘bad actors’ – the email marketers using relatively dubious tactics.

“Sending marketing to people who don’t want it has never been a good strategy, so we’ve never done it. If your marketing is good, getting consent shouldn’t be a struggle. Why would any brand want to trick people into becoming subscribers?”

Some marketers have seen benefits, as a more transparent sign in process screens out less interested email subscribers.

Of the small businesses we surveyed, 84% reported higher than average engagement levels as a result of regulations.

As Verity Jennings explains, it may reduce the size of email lists, but this is no bad thing:

“Take any brand’s subscriber list, remove all the people who don’t want to be on it, and what are you left with? A slightly shorter list comprised of people who actually want to engage with that brand.”

The main focus for the best email marketers, once they have obtained customer consent, is to use customer data and behavior to send relevant and targeted emails.

Personalized emails

Personalization means retailers can tailor emails to the individual customer, from simple touches like using their name to the use of behavorial data to recommend relevant products.

Data regulations have driven an increased focus on the customer, and this will accelerate what the best marketers are doing – using the tools at their disposal to obtain consent ethically and deliver relevant and effective messages to their subscribers.

To find out more about how email marketers have adapted to data legislation, and how email marketing will develop, download our Email Marketing in a Privacy Conscious World report.


Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is Editor in Chief at SaleCycle. He's been covering ecommerce and digital marketing for more than a decade, having previously written reports and articles for Econsultancy. ClickZ, Search Engine Watch and more.