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How European marketers are navigating data in light of GDPR and ePrivacy Regulation

Since 2018, marketers in Europe have not only had to deal with the implementation of GDPR, but they are also having to prepare for forthcoming changes to ePrivacy Regulation as the EU seeks to reinforce ‘trust and security in the Digital Single Market.’

A new report by Apteco looks into how marketers are dealing with these regulations. How are these changes impacting on the way they use data? And what is the overall impact on their ability to understand the customer journey in a context where consumers are increasingly expecting omnichannel experiences?

Marketers reflect on GDPR

The report – titled Are you on board with the customer journey? – saw more than 270 respondents who specialize in data insight and marketing campaign software across a range of industries. The vast majority (90.5%) were from the UK, with a further 8.8% from Europe – so it was unsurprising that data regulations are at the forefront of the minds of those surveyed.

At first glance, respondents cite some clear negative effects of GDPR on their data activities.

More than 67% report that they have had a reduction in customer and prospect data, while nearly 60% have seen a reduction in communication volume. With organizations finding they have less data to work with and are subsequently communicating less, it is easy to see how this can be taken to be a negative result of the regulations.

However the report does highlight that less data and less communication is not always a bad thing. Arguably, the data being used and the communications being made by organizations after GDPR could be seen as more streamlined, more efficient, and better targeted – all virtues which are likely to be benefiting customers and promoting a better long-term experience.

Additionally, 70% of respondents say that GDPR has caused their organizations to adopt more formal data management. Again, this is something of a win for respect of customer data and potentially strengthens consumer trust in how it is used.

Marketers’ thoughts in anticipation of ePrivacy Regulation

If anything, marketers perhaps have a more negative view of potential ePrivacy Regulation than they have of GDPR.

how are marketers feeling about adoption of the EU's proposed eprivacy regulation

More than a quarter of those surveyed say that ‘it’s too much to bear so soon after GDPR,’ and more than 31% are unsure about how they are feeling either way.

This compares to just 6.5% who say they are prepared for the changes. In light of this, Apteco suggest that businesses may need clearer guidelines and more support in advance of, and during, the rollout of these regulations.

So where are marketers at in their data-led communications?

The report also asked marketers how their understanding of the customer journey were progressing, across varying strategies and activities.

  • Single Customer View (SCV). Marketers are clearly favoring the Single Customer View data platform. More than 66% of respondents said they had an SCV, ahead of other tools and technologies such as Data Management Platforms and Customer Data Platforms. 26.7% said they didn’t know what type of platform they had in place.
  • Personalization. Progress has arguably been a bit slow in terms of personalization maturity, thanks in part to GDPR. Just over 31% of marketers say they only use minimal personalization (salutation, name) in their activities, while ‘hyper personalization’ has been seen to decrease slightly among respondents. With that being said, the biggest growth in personalization between 2017 and 2018 has been in the use of personalized content blocks within templates – up from 29.5% to 34%.
  • Marketer Priorities. ‘Customer journey’ and ‘improving the customer experience’ remain top priorities for marketers in 2019, reinforcing the move for businesses to become customer-led.


GDPR and the proposed ePrivacy Regulation both can be seen to be having an effect on marketers based in the UK and Europe.

A simple takeaway would be that with added regulation comes less data for organizations to work with, and less subsequent communications. But as businesses move to become customer-led, it can be argued that they are being steered towards better, streamlined, consumer-friendly practice.

In the wake of GDPR certain elements of marketing which relate to data capture seem to be doing better than others. A clear majority of businesses boast a SCV – giving a comprehensive, holistic understanding of the journeys their customers make. But on the flipside, personalization maturity could be seen to have taken a knock as businesses adapt their data and communications strategies.

A key conclusion to draw from this report relates to the customer-led priorities in European business and how this is in line with how GDPR is causing organizations to adopt more formal data management practices. This latter trend will give consumers more faith in the ability of companies to respect their data, in turn engendering trust, and providing a landscape which is undoubtedly better for the customer, as well as being better for businesses who want to keep consumers returning to them long into the future.

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