A year ago, marketers were experiencing a whole new kind of anxiety: the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) had just set in after months (if not years) of intensive scaremongering, and the wait was on to see what would happen. Would databases disappear? Would marketing results fall off a cliff? On the anniversary of the legislation’s staging date, we decided to ask whether the nightmares came true … or if it was all just a bad dream.
In a survey of 250 U.K. marketers, we asked them about how much they lost when GDPR hit last year and whether they’ve managed to regain those losses (and how). The results surprised all of us.
The story that emerged is that while the losses this time last year were substantial — an average database decrease of 23 percent — marketers have achieved a remarkable recovery. In the last year, databases have successfully recovered to 93 percent of their pre-GDPR levels.
The news gets better. Retail marketers staged the most successful recovery of any sector, having actually increased database size to 101 percent of pre-GDPR days. This is light years ahead of their colleagues in travel, who are struggling with databases only 73 percent the size of last year.
So what drove this turnaround?
Finding the answer merited a deeper dive into who recovered best. As well as retail being among the most successful, we found that larger businesses recovered much better than their smaller counterparts. The caveat is that they were hit much harder by losses to begin with (an average of 29 percent of their contacts).
So what drove the rebound? Crucially, what larger businesses did that smaller businesses didn’t was to diversify their tactics for generating new leads. There appears to have been no single silver bullet for recouping GDPR losses. Success lay in a combination of strategies, including incentivizing newsletter sign-ups, optimizing content marketing, loyalty programs and competitions. The bigger the business, the more of these tactics were employed — and the better the overall result.
This bears out in what we’ve seen on the ground at Yieldify, running over 3,000 lead capture campaigns since last year’s GDPR legislation came into force, generating 2.6 million leads along the way.
With recovery on track, we asked marketers whether GDPR’s impact aligned with their expectations. Given the intense amounts of think pieces and dire warnings, marketers could be forgiven for having expected the worst. As it turned out, their expectations were generally wide of the mark. On average, 25.5 percent of marketers said that the impact on overall acquisition was better than expected. However, the impact on email marketing was a nasty shock to nearly a third (32.4 percent) of marketers. It seems that GDPR was simply uncharted legal territory for marketers, who are still coming to grips with the fine-detail implications.
Ultimately, GDPR’s silver lining has shone through for marketers. As many have discussed, this was never just a question of opt-ins and checkbox compliance; it’s about being more transparent with your audience. Faced with less data, you find better ways of using what you have. When done smartly, that results in marketing activity that’s better targeted and more effective. Therefore, even if your database isn’t yet back at the levels of last year, you can probably bet that those contacts that have remained are giving you better engagement. With all that in mind, see you next year for the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)!
Romain Sestier is vice president of product and data at Yieldify, a customer journey personalization platform.
Related story: The ‘Art and Science’ of GDPR Consent for Retailers