Our latest research* suggests that European businesses are still confused about GDPR and how it affects their business and the marketing they can do, resulting in one third sending fewer marketing messages.

This uncertainty can affect the bottom line, and almost one in five businesses across Europe say that GDPR has led to a more challenging business environment for them.

GDPR was introduced to give EU citizens more control over their personal data, and includes direction on the relationship a business should have with its customers and prospects in order to retain and use their information.

“There clearly still needs to be a better understanding of GDPR and how it affects the marketing messages businesses can send. The confusion surrounding it and the lack of business confidence doesn’t help anyone.”

Geoff LoveCEO, Commify

Commify works with over 30,000 businesses across Europe, and among those businesses there is still confusion over GDPR which is leading to many businesses exercising more caution than necessary. Specifically, the confusion relates to whether explicit consent is required to be able to send a marketing message.

“Reducing the amount of junk mail, email spam, unwanted phone calls and unsolicited text messages that are sent is good news for consumers and for the marketing industry generally,” continued Love.

“In the long run, GDPR will help, as smaller, better targeted campaigns tend to generate similar levels of response as old-school “spray and pray” marketing, with dramatic improvements in ROI.”

“However, it seems that businesses are confused about the lawful basis for communication. The dozens of ‘re-permissioning’ messages that flew about highlighted that, and were, in many cases, unnecessary. If you have an existing customer relationship then you have a legitimate interest to market to them, and while an opt-out is necessary, you don’t need explicit consent.

42% of respondents in the UK said they had reduced marketing messages as a result of GDPR, followed by Spain at 38.3%, France at 32.8%, and Italy at 32.1%.

Despite the worries preceding GDPR, the ICO has not yet claimed a high profile scalp. With a lack of case law, this leaves businesses unsure as to what good practice looks like.

As businesses better understand what they can and can’t do, the number of messages sent is likely to grow again. Our advice is simple: if you have legitimate interest, then there’s no need to change tack. But if you don’t have legitimate interest and you don’t have explicit consent, then it’s time to stop and focus on rebuilding your marketing lists. Ultimately you’ll end up with a smaller list, of better quality data, from people who really want to hear about your products.

Geoff LoveCEO, Commify

*Survey conducted in Italy, Germany, France, Spain, UK and Ireland in October 2018, with 782 total responses after respondents answering from outside the EU were removed.