Retail is Detail, So Embrace GDPR

Tuesday 1st May 2018

Retail is Detail

Today, more than ever before, retailers rely on detailed consumer data to inform their daily decisions and to predict future trends.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force on May 25 to further regulate how organisations collect and process personal data, has been regarded by many as a headache and a huge drain on resource.

However, enlightened retailers know that GDPR will, in fact, enable them to enhance the value of their customer data, which will in turn help to make their businesses more agile and consumer-focused.


“Drowning in data”

GDPR attracted considerable attention among retail leaders at Retail Week Live 2018, held in London this March.

M&S chief executive, Steve Rowe, admitted that the company hasn’t realised the full potential of data from its 32 million annual customers.

“There are huge amounts of data and one of the problems for most companies is that we are drowning in it. We’ve got too much and we can’t join it together,” Rowe said.

With the big-data boom over recent decades, many retailers have assumed that more data equals more commercial advantage. But, as Rowe says, data is about quality not quantity.

Many retailers have been blindly obtaining consumer data for years. In fact, a 2016 global report found that 85 per cent of data stored by businesses is either dark, redundant, obsolete or trivial. GDPR has spurred retailers to ask: if it isn’t accurate or relevant, why do we have it?


GDPR as a catalyst for change

GDPR’s hard deadline and clear guidelines are also acting as a real catalyst for change.

Asos’s director of technology and customer experience, James Saxton, said at Retail Week Live that: “GDPR is the rocket we needed to talk to customers about privacy, give an even better customer experience, create a privacy-first culture and even further enhance our data protection.”

To become GDPR compliant retailers need to conduct comprehensive data mapping and cleansing, which may have not been done for years. Compliance is one benefit but, like Saxton says, consumers will appreciate better privacy standards from retailers, and having accurate and relevant data will help retailers sell better.

In fact, almost two-thirds of EMEA businesses (61 per cent) say that complying with transparency requirements could “build trust with customers and increase the consumer trust in the brand”, according to Deloitte’s GDPR Regulation Benchmarking Survey.

The consensus from retailers, especially at board level, is that getting GDPR-ready has asked vital questions of their data processes. Even better, retailers are putting those questions into active projects and ultimately finding greater commercial opportunity.


How to capitalise on the GDPR opportunity

So what benefits can retailers expect to see from turning GDPR compliance into commercial advantage?

For sales and marketing, GDPR means data mapping and cleansing, which means accurate and effective CRM systems. Instead of seeing a mass exodus of potential consumers, retailers can see GDPR as an opportunity to sell to core customers—as well as culling obsolete email addresses and phone numbers with no-one at the other end.

Data has long been a friend to marketing functions, and now retailers can use GDPR projects as a springboard to better personalisation of marketing. Retailers who’ll benefit most here will go one step further, using data to enhance their communication with consumers long-term. That goes for in-store, online and other touchpoints throughout their relationship.

Ultimately, better consumer data will help retailers make better investment decisions. For example, when it comes to analysing a roll-out of new stores, retailers can profile local consumers more effectively and make informed choices about store location, layout, opening hours and even what products to stock.

In short, retailers are realising that GDPR can provide the detail behind retail. For those with the right mindset, it will help them reach data maturity and realise the commercial opportunities that quality data has offered all along.