As a global company that empowers marketers to send emails, the
subject of GDPR is at the forefront of our minds at Campaign
GDPR, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is a joint
proposal by the European Commission, European Parliament, and the
Council of the EU which provides individuals with even greater
control over the collection and use of their personal data.
After its implementation in 2018, GDPR caused email marketers
stress and anxiety as they wondered how the regulation would affect
their business. We watched as companies around the world adjusted
their plans in response to these new rules enforced by the European
Union, and we changed our strategies to make sure our emails
But today, we’re going to dispel some fears and shed new light
on the positive aftereffects of GDPR. And beyond that, we’re even
going to see how GDPR saved email marketing.
But to see its saving power, we must first reflect on a time
when marketers around the world feared that their marketing
programs were destined to die at the hands of GDPR.
Let’s take a minute to remember how each of us viewed
marketing before GDPR.
Now think back to the feeling you had when this reality hit:
that this regulation would fundamentally change how we do business
in the future. For many of us, this question loomed in our
“What will marketing look like after GDPR?”
And with it came questions like, “Will GDPR kill my email
lists? Who can I market to after GDPR? Is this the end of my
The added requirements of GDPR forced marketers to reexamine
nearly every existing strategy, and companies expected the
For thousands of companies, this news sounded like the end of
our marketing strategy. We started thinking about how retargeting
would work. How could we track people through a funnel? What would
our data centers look like, and will leads slow to a crawl?
Look at some of these articles that popped up during that
So May came, and companies worldwide prepared to put their
compliance plans into action.
And what happened? It actually wasn’t as bad as everyone
expected. Marketers thought their email lists were going to be
obliterated. And they weren’t.
In fact, 60% of organizations that changed strategies due to
GDPR compliant organizations saw less than a 10% change in their
list size. Almost 20% saw NO change in their email lists.
And we ended up seeing headlines like these:
So what did GDPR actually result in? I’m going to assert that
the steps marketers took to comply with GDPR resulted in positive
changes to their lists. One example of this can be seen in the ways
many marketers approached the issue of consent leading up to May
Once GDPR was established, many organizations chose to send out
messages asking the questions:
“Are you interested in these emails? Do you want to keep
hearing from us?” And for most companies, a lot of people
responded with a solid “yes.”
But what about the people that chose not to respond? What about
the ones who opened but didn’t give their consent, or the ones
who didn’t even look at the message?
Aside from the GDPR implications of their response — these
negative responders are just noise.
They’re the ones pulling your open and click rates down.
They’re not engaged or interacting with your emails. And
they’re diluting your email list because they’re simply not
interested in your company. And this means that no matter how many
emails you send them, they’ll never actually buy anything from
you through this channel.
So when these people didn’t opt back into your lists, the
quality of these lists actually improved. And here’s why.
It’s not the size of your list that matters.
It’s not the size of your list that matters. Long gone are the
days of grasping for every email address possible. List buying is
no longer in vogue, and for good reason.
If you have a massive list, but no one on it opens your emails,
and no one clicks through to purchase, you’re wasting your time,
you’re wasting your resources, and you’re putting yourself in a
terrible position for the future.
With a massive list of disinterested people, you’re first and
foremost wasting resources. You’re spending time putting together
these campaigns, and you’re spending money on big email marketing
You’re now part of the 70% of marketers that say increasing
their email list quality is their top objective.
But in addition to this, if no one on your list is opening your
emails and you instead have subscribers marking them as spam, this
is a BIG problem for your deliverability.
Deliverability is a mix of several different factors including
your reputation as a sender, how often someone marks your message
as spam, and even the credibility of your email service provider.
But if everyone on your list flags your emails, or if you have an
overwhelming amount of people consistently unsubscribing, no email
service provider can save you. Your emails will start getting
denied by email clients and your messages will stop being
This is why, even well-before GDPR, the tactic of list-buying
was declining sharply. Some email service providers wouldn’t even
accept users who’d purchased subscribers. At Campaign Monitor, we
took that stance long ago, knowing this is not only a negative
experience for subscribers, but for other marketers in our
And it all circles back to why these tighter regulations
instituted by GDPR are in fact forming better habits and practices
in marketers around the world. Even if you have the largest list
out there, are your subscribers actually interacting with your
emails? Are they actually converting?
Email must contribute to your revenue. Otherwise, you’re just
wasting time and money. And historically, as your list grows by a
variety of means, you eventually have subscribers that are
disinterested in your content — which means they will never
contribute to your revenue.
More regulation drives engagement.
Whether your list is large or small, the key to a successful
email program is maximizing your audience’s engagement. And
engagement is a natural byproduct of the renewed focus on the
relationship between sender and recipient that’s prompted by the
transparency, notice, and choice that GDPR requires.
Even at the forefront of your list building, GDPR requires every
marketer to be transparent with how they’ll communicate to that
recipient, and for that recipient to agree to those
To put it in other words, when your subscriber signs up for
communication from your company, there’s a clear understanding of
what messages they’ll be receiving, and that they’ve raised
their hand to receive those messages.
This understanding of expectations between sender and recipient
places marketers in the perfect position.
Now that you know your audience is full of truly, uniquely
interested customers, you can target them with specificity. Now you
have more insight into who these recipients are, and you can craft
precise messages to nurture their interest and drive
GDPR has not ruined marketing as we know it. These new
regulations have instead elevated the level at which marketers can
understand and communicate with their audience. And alongside this
new level of marketing, we must evolve our strategy to take these
conditions into account, creating high-performing, revenue-driving
Create a high-performing email strategy.
What GDPR leaves us with, therefore, is the path to creating an
extremely high-performing email strategy. By incorporating GDPR’s
new standards into our strategies, we can now drive straight toward
highly engaging, highly profitable email campaigns—which is why
some statisticians expect that, despite these new regulations,
company spending on email marketing is estimated to grow 48%.
So we’ve looked at how GDPR and its new requirements for
consent help marketers instill confidence in the relationship
between them and the individuals they market to. Now, let’s look
at how the effects of this relationship can connect marketing
efforts to revenue results.
We should mention that, whatever strategy you choose, you should
always work with your privacy and legal team to make sure your
organization’s privacy and other notices provide the right
information to data subjects that support your strategy.
1. Thoughtful segmentation
First, we as marketers must continue to evolve the way we use
segmentation to reach our customers.
Take what you know about your customer and use it to send
timely, relevant messages.
Many marketers thought GDPR simply stripped back what we know
about our customers. But data minimization isn’t all about
getting rid of personal data. Under GDPR, it means that what you
know about an individual should be “adequate, relevant and
limited to what is necessary in relation to the purposes for which
they are processed.”
So for example, knowing when and in what situation consent was
given can be relevant when deciding what content to send a
Consider when and how your subscribers sign up
You know about what they care about because of where and how
they subscribed to your list. If subscribers came from your blog,
you know they’re looking for informational content. If they
subscribed at the time of purchase, they’re likely interested in
more product-focused communications. Where and how they signed up
for your list can already give you very specific characteristics
that you can use to segment your list.
This level of segmentation directly leads to high-performing
click-through rates are 100.95% higher in segmented email
campaigns than non-segmented campaigns.
Even knowing when a subscriber signed up for your list can give
you guidance on how you should communicate with them. You could set
up automated messages to go out to specific segments of customers
who purchased—and signed up for your emails—a week ago, 30 days
ago, or six months ago. Think about your customer journey and align
that with what you already know about your subscriber to send them
timely, relevant messages that drive more conversions.
Nurturing your subscribers with content based on how they signed
up, like in this email example from Casper, is a perfect tool to
inspire more purchases.
Now, it’d be shortsighted of me to go through this topic of
segmentation without mentioning preference centers.
Preference centers are incredible drivers of segmentation.
Offering a preference center empowers your subscribers to select
the exact types of communications they’re interested in. GDPR
uses the word “choice” as a fundamental part of the definition
of consent: an individual has a real option to consent, or not. And
because they’re raising their hand to state their interest, this
means they’re more likely to convert.
List segmentation using methods like a preferences center
can lead to 39% better open rates, 28% lower unsubscribe rates, 24%
better deliverability, 21% more transactions, and 15% better
Now you can send specific communications to individual
subscriber lists with the knowledge that they’re interested,
allowing you to lean more heavily on overt conversion tactics.
Here’s an example from South By Southwest, a music and film
festival in Austin, Texas. In this email, they point to the fact
that they recognize their audience wants relevant messages. So they
lay out precisely how to opt in for their various email lists,
encouraging people to self-select the method that means they’re
most likely to convert.
2. Content-driven programs
But segmenting your subscribers is half the battle. Segmentation
allows you to get in the right headspace for communicating, filling
out characteristic and interest guidelines for these groups. But if
you take this knowledge and don’t follow up with content that
caters to these interests, the result will be disengaged
subscribers who will either ignore or unsubscribe from your
Rich content is what propels engagement. So yes, step one is to
segment. But step two is to follow up that segmentation with
extremely relevant email content.
Deliver quality content
Building up interactive and compelling email experiences is top
of mind for marketers, based on this report from Convince and
Convert and Litmus.
And it’s this segmented, targeted, and relevant content that
58% of your revenue.
Take this email we sent to our customers, for example. We
created an extremely targeted email and filled it with content
specific to the customer. And now this message is in the perfect
spot to inspire future purchases, as the content directs the
customer toward upgrading their account.
3. Personalized experience
And it’s this level of personalization that must happen for
your entire audience. If not individually, then at least at the
level of segmentation.
Automate your messages for hyper-personalization
Personalize the timeliness of your messages. Set up automated
journeys or triggers to send timely messages to your segmented
customers. Personalize the content beyond just their segment.
Create unique messaging based on what emails they’ve clicked on,
or what products they’ve purchased.
Creating segmented, relevant messages that are also delivered at
the right time through automation can average
70.5% higher open rates, and 152% higher click-through rates
than your standard emails. The example of our customer email from
before is a perfect example of this level of personalization.
Another example of this perfectly timed and personalized email
is from Moo, a printing company. They sent this email to a customer
who had already purchased business cards, so they knew the customer
would be interested in other business card offers. Then they timed
it to deliver around six months after their last purchase, which
may be when they need a refresher on their business cards.
There’s an invitation to experience new content, not just to buy,
with information to back up the experience.
The highest performing messages are just like this one:
targeted, specific, relevant, and timely. These methods will
elevate your email marketing far beyond what you can hope to
accomplish with ads, media buys, or other digital methods.
You can be one of the marketers who have seen a
760% increase in revenue from segmented campaigns.
How GDPR Saved Email
GDPR refocused marketers on existing email best practices,
further solidifying marketing programs for those who were already
focused on delivering great experiences to their subscribers.
These same guardrails now give not only your subscribers an
understanding of how they’ll hear from you, but they give your
company an understanding of how your subscribers want to
And as we’ve seen, this puts your marketing efforts in a
perfect position to interact with an audience that’s truly
interested, empowering you to send engaging messages that are
high-performing and influence your revenue. We, as marketers, can
now target and strategize with intensity, intensely focusing on
what we know about our customers. Now their expectations can truly
move the needle for our businesses.
This is how GDPR has not only changed email marketing but has
Source: FS – Email Marketing Blogs!
How GDPR Saved Email Marketing