Optimizing Email Marketing for GDPR Compliance - Virtual Stacks U.K. Ltd.
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Email GDPR complaint

Optimizing Email Marketing for GDPR Compliance

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Email marketing is known to be one of the most effective forms of advertising, as it is a very cost-effective way to directly reach your target audience. With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws in effect from the EU since May 2018, you now need to be cautious with your email marketing campaigns. It is important to follow GDPR guidelines so that your emails will not be marked as spam or so that your business will not be flagged as using illegal marketing practices.

Let us dive deeper into understanding email marketing under GDPR, how you can better communicate with your existing customers, and how to optimize your email marketing campaigns.

Email Marketing Under GDPR

With privacy and anti-spam laws in place in many countries, it is best to understand the legal requirements for email marketing.

To make your email campaign legally compliant, the first thing you need to ensure is that all your subscribers opt-in and provide their consent to receive your emails. The best way to do this is to have a double opt-in system. When subscribers sign up in this system, they receive an email confirmation stating they have agreed to receive emails from your business.

Next, you need to have a privacy policy in place. It is legally mandatory in most countries to have a privacy policy if you intend to collect personal information of a user, including email addresses, through your website or mobile app. According to the Data Protection Act 1998 in the UK, you need to follow a set of data collection principles if you intend to collect the personal information of users online. Under GDPR, there are global consequences when you collect personal data from EU residents. Therefore, it’s important to follow all data collection guidelines, regardless of where your primary customer base may be located.

In most cases, email addresses are collected through websites via web forms, which should include a clickwrap and a link to your website’s privacy policy. A checkbox for your clickwrap is an easy and effective way to gain confirmation from users that they agree to receive emails from your business. Since it is mandatory to have a privacy policy, you need to ensure that it is a comprehensive document. Your privacy policy should cover every detail present in the web form, which includes email addresses and all the other data that your site collects. The details should include name, phone number, address, email address, IP number, pages visited, date and time of access, browser and operating system used, and the site used to access your website. 

You also need to ensure that you continuously update your privacy policy. Your privacy policy should also clearly state the following — how you intend to use the collected information, steps that you take to secure the information, under what circumstances your business will share the information, how your users should review their information and change it, and the effective date of the policy.

For GDPR compliance, you must obtain affirmative consent for collecting email addresses and allow subscribers to opt-out at any point in time. Only use emails for the stated purpose, and ensure that your subscribers agree to your privacy policy. To avoid being marked as spam, use honest and clear email subject lines, and always have a visible unsubscribe option.

How Can You Communicate with Existing Subscribers?

With GDPR in place, it is important to communicate with your existing subscribers within the legal framework so that you don’t violate the law.

Here is what you need to do to communicate with your existing subscribers to your email list:

  • Renew Email Subscriber Opt-Ins — If you have prior recorded permission from your contacts before the GDPR laws went into effect, then you can communicate with them. If you have a mailing list that includes subscribers who were previously auto-enrolled in your email list, then it is crucial to obtain their permission once again to continue receiving your marketing emails. Get right with GDPR by running a campaign asking subscribers to opt-in again, and subsequently removing any who don’t opt-in again. Even if you lose some of your subscribers, you will be on the right side of the law in the long run, and you can continue to grow your subscriber list.
  • Obtain Opt-In Permissions from New Subscribers — GDPR compliance requires businesses to obtain explicit consent from users who opt-in to join your email list. Hidden privacy policies or pre-checked boxes to consent are now illegal practices. Web forms also need to be updated if they are not GDPR compliant. Your web forms should have clear boxes seeking permission from users to receive emails and agreeing to your terms and conditions, which should be clearly linked.While double opt-in systems are not a GDPR requirement, they help ensure your customers fully agree to receiving emails.
  • Carefully Manage Automation and Segmentation — Marketing automation has made email marketing much more fast and convenient. With new GDPR guidelines, however, you should be very careful with marketing automation. Only users who have a recorded opt-in permission can receive automated marketing emails. Segmentation under GDPR is also strict. Algorithms should only be used if they are helping to group customer data, but only a human-overseen action should be taken from that point. This means algorithms which send automated emails based on segmented information are against regulations.
  • Provide Opt-Out Options — You can only send email marketing communications to users who have opted-in to receive your messages. But what if subscribers want to discontinue the relationship? GDPR guidelines require a clear and easily accessible unsubscribe option in every marketing email. After a user has unsubscribed, all of their email marketing data must be deleted immediately. Additionally, you should provide subscribers clear options to choose the types of messages they want to receive.

Optimizing Your Campaign

With GDPR in place, it is important to know how to properly optimize your email marketing campaign for achieving the marketing goals of your business. Optimize your email marketing campaign for GDPR with these steps:

  • Familiarize Yourself with Your Email Marketing Service — Many popular email marketing companies now offer the features needed to ensure GDPR compliance. Therefore, it is important to find out whether your email marketing service offers specific tools to negotiate GDPR rules or not. If your email marketing services do not offer you the features, it is time to change your service provider.
  • Obtain Opt-In Permissions — Under the GDPR rules, it is now mandatory to obtain a record of users’ informed consent if you want to store your subscriber’s data, which includes email addresses, and to send them your marketing campaigns. Your email marketing service can help you send out a consent opt-in to your subscribers. Make sure you take the consent of all your subscribers, existing as well as potential. Users who do note provide their opt-in consent must be permanently removed from the email list, along with their user data.
  • Ensure Opt-Out Options Are Clear – It is also mandated under the GDPR to enable users to withdraw consent at any point from receiving your business marketing emails. A clear, easy-to-access unsubscribe option must be included in all marketing emails so that your subscribers can opt-out, if desired. Most popular email marketing services include customizable unsubscribe options for your emails.
  • Update Data Retention Policies — User data storage is also important under GDPR. All subscriber data (including email addresses), must be securely stored, and you should not hold user data any longer than necessary. No matter whether you are a large or small business, it is crucial to understand the GDPR’s data retention rules. User data should not be retained unless there is a legitimate reason. Data that can legitimately be retained so long as users are subscribed would be email addresses, but excess data such as credit card information should never be stored

Ensure GDPR Compliance with Email Marketing Specialists

If you want to ensure your marketing emails are meeting GDPR standards while also reaching the marketing goals of your business, consider relying on the expertise of an email marketing specialist. Virtual Stacks Systems UK provides experienced, results-driven email marketing options that are customizable to the needs of your business! Choose from a single marketing email campaign or an ongoing email marketing strategy. Contact us today to discuss your options.

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