GDPR + Brexit = the end of email marketing?

As website development and online marketing experts, boxChilli are preparing for the GDPR not only on our own behalf, but also on behalf of our clients. The new legislation is complex and compliance is not obvious. We’ve had a number of questions regarding GDPR and Brexit, so this week we’re going to break down a few GDPR/Brexit myths and then answer the big question: is this the end of the line for email marketing?

Brexit will not save you from the GDPR

Businesses have until 25 May 2018 to comply with the regulations. Although Brexit has created a lot of uncertainty about our future and the future of British laws which originated in Brussels, the GDPR is not in doubt. It’s been confirmed in the notes to the Queen’s Speech in June that the GDPR standards will still hold after Brexit.

Even if we ditched the GDPR, we’d still have to comply with it

The GDPR is a requirement for every business and organization in the world that handles data about EU citizens. Companies in countries from the US to China to South Africa are in the same boat, wondering how to deal with it. Moreover, there are around 2.9 million EU nationals living in the UK, so that means that even if the UK didn’t add this to our books and even if you you kept strictly to British residents, you’d still have a fair chance that someone on your mailing list would be from the EU. And don’t forget, a significant number of Brits have dual nationality… there’s really no practical way to keep EU nationals off your books. For example, as a website development company in Portsmouth, we expect that most of our clients are UK-based but that doesn’t tell us whether they’re EU citizens or not.

In fact, we’d want to comply with it

For most companies, being able to sell to and/or buy from the 450 million people in the EU is a critical part of their business strategy. Even small, local services such as a hair dresser or plumber may find that it’s easier and cheaper to order tools and parts direct from the manufacturer in Germany, Spain or Poland than through an intermediary. As a result, we’re all going to want to have EU citizens on our contact lists, and therefore we’re going to have to comply with the GDPR.

The GDPR should scare you if you send email marketing

As we’ve discussed recently, the GDPR hasn’t even come into effect yet and the ICO is already cracking down on companies misusing data with fines up to £70,000. The penalties are for actions including:

  1. Emailing people who have said they don’t want to be emailed
  2. Emailing people who haven’t said they do want to be emailed
  3. Sending direct marketing disguised as a service email

As a website development company, we’ve been ensuring that the sites we build meet high professional standards for decades. However, all too often we’ve seen sites thrown together by cowboys where the data gathering, storage and use is not compliant.

But what impact is Brexit going to have on this?

It hardly seems possible, but Brexit is going to make GDPR compliance more complicated for British companies. Right now, and when the legislation comes into effect next year, all Brits are and will be EU citizens. Some time after that – probably 29 March 2019 – Britain will finally actually leave the EU and Brits won’t be EU citizens any more. At this point, British companies will no longer be handling EU data as EU companies, with the same rights, duties and protections as counterparts in France or Germany, but will – literally overnight – become non-EU companies, the equivalent of companies in the USA, Malaysia or Brazil. As a result, British companies will have to comply not only with whatever version of the GDPR the British government has kept for use within our country but the EU standards regarding data transfer and data management for non-EU countries. Experts believe this may add significant costs to doing business between the UK and the EU.

What do I do with my email marketing list now?

It’s time to take a long, hard look at your email marketing strategy and ask yourself if it’s still working for you. Is your email newsletter a valuable tool that’s bringing you lots of income, or is it something you still do because you feel like you ought to, despite the fact that you’re getting most of your feedback and clicks from Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter?

Now ask: is my data clean?

By this we mean: can you be confident that you’re only sending messages to people who actually want to receive them? Are you GDPR compliant? For example, if a list is a mishmash of people who signed up under the old system, where they just had to not check ‘please don’t email me’ to get on the ‘please do email me’ list, a few hundred email addresses you got at a trade show and anyone who has ever ordered from your web shop, then you have a problem.

What to do with dirty data

If your data is dirty, you need to stop sending emails while you decide what to do with it. Your options are:

  1. Delete the whole lot and start again – easy, quick and brutal!
  2. Clean the database – do not be tempted to send marketing disguised as a service email!
  3. Call in the experts – a website development and marketing firm can ensure that not only is your database cleaned up, but your data gathering is improved so that dirty data isn’t being added going forward.

Is email marketing dead?

The effort involved to ensure that your company is GDPR compliant combined with the uncertainties of Brexit and the 5-figure fines issued by the ICO is going to kill off a lot of useful and profitable email marketing campaigns as businesses give up trying to navigate the maze and simply burn the whole thing to the ground instead. As a website development and online marketing firm, we feel this is a shame and we’re confident that there are technological solutions we can offer to help companies through the tricky days ahead. Email marketing, at its best, is a boon not only to businesses but to their customers as well as individuals receive useful, targeted offers which then can easily stop if their circumstances change.


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