Monday, July 24th, 2017
On May 25th, 2018 the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will take effect. This means that businesses have less than a year to ensure that their marketing processes are compliant with the new laws. There are a lot of questions surrounding these new regulations, and estate agents in particular need to be aware of certain aspects to avoid any infractions.
How does GDPR affect estate agents?
The main goal of the GDPR is to protect sensitive personal data that could pose a threat if it were ever stolen or hacked. When buying or selling a home, customers expect that they will need to hand over an almost invasive level of information on themselves. This includes data on their work history, credit history, financial holdings, etc. It’s easy to see why estate agents must be extra vigilant when taking steps to ensure that this data is extremely well protected. The information they must acquire from their clients is exhaustive and highly sensitive.
The GDPR is concerned with seven basic areas related to data protection and dissemination.
1. Consent – Consumers MUST consent to be contacted and the terms of this contact must be easy to understand and consent MUST be easy to withdraw. Soft opt-ins, for example, are no longer acceptable.
2. Breach Notification – Businesses MUST notify their customers within 72 hours if any breach has occurred that may threaten their private data.
3. Right to Access – Consumers have the right to confirm whether a business is processing their personal data.
4. Right to be Forgotten – Businesses MUST delete and cease dissemination of data that is no longer relevant should they be requested by the subject to do so.
5. Data Portability – Individuals have the right to transfer and update their own data across different IT environments.
6. Privacy by Design – Data protection protocols MUST be built into any system that processes personal data.
7. Data Protection Officers – For business involved in large scale (more than 250 employees) data monitoring or processing, a qualified data protection officer must be utilised.
Marketing and GDPR
Some of these areas may not apply to a standard estate agency. For example, how many of them employ more than 250 people? However, marketing is one of the areas most affected by the new laws and knowing the specifics can help estate agencies remain compliant.
As mentioned above, consent is the cornerstone of the GDPR. Before, marketers could use a “soft opt-in” approach or “single opt-in” and this was good enough. Not anymore. According to the new regulations, consumers must “actively” choose to receive marketing materials. It is no longer acceptable to rely on disclaimers or “implied consent”, and the marketer must be able to prove they acquired the recipient’s permission to be contacted.
This means that an audit trail must be maintained, including for offline events, such as a paper email sign-up sheets or other methods. The information in this audit trail must include the time and date that the recipient agreed to be contacted, as well as the method used to acquire their consent. Fines for failing to follow these new guidelines are steep. Infractions can cost €20 Million or 4% of global turnover, whichever is greater.
Brexit and the GDPR
But what about Brexit? UK companies don’t need to worry about that EU stuff, right? Wrong. Because the rules are meant to protect EU citizens, they apply to any company wishing to process the data of those citizens, regardless of where the business itself is located. What shape the final Brexit deal might take is still years away from completion, and it is doubtful that the EU would carve out such an exception for businesses in the UK.
PECR and GDPR
Many B2B marketing partners were hoping that the Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations (PECR) would mean that they could ignore GDPR because it didn’t specifically mention B2B, but that is wishful thinking. PECR does not exempt you from GDPR.
It might explain why a recent survey found that even though most IT professionals were aware of the impending changes, only 43% of organisations are preparing for the GDPR. In Canada, similar e-privacy legislation was recently enacted and many marketers found themselves unprepared. It doesn’t need to be this way.
Rezi is GDPR ready
With all of these new rules coming into effect and the nearly exorbitant fines for breaking them, estate agents could be forgiven for panicking a bit, but take heart, Rezi was built to help. Our principle of “one version of the truth” means that you’re already halfway to staying compliant.
One of the easiest ways to stay compliant with the new regulations is to adopt a “double opt-in” approach to getting consent. Many marketers react to this news with chagrin, thinking that an added step will hurt their prospects. While it is true that in the short-term, single opt-in showed some benefits, over time, double opt-in processes actually work better.
It makes sense. If someone says ‘yes’ twice, they are more likely to be receptive to content that you send them, lowering bounce rates and increasing click-through rates. Additionally, Rezi can keep track of when, where, and how consent was initially given, meaning that you are able to provide that information in the event of an audit. Again, this is required by the new regulations.
The other main concern of marketers in general, and estate agents in particular, is that their email lists will be shorter making their pool of potential customers smaller. While that may sound frightening to other agencies, Rezi users know that customer service is at the heart of what Rezi does. This smaller pool means that those who have signed up and consented are much more interested in your content than people who weren’t serious enough to take that extra step.
Since Rezi was already leading the way in personalised customer experiences, having a smaller pool of highly engaged customers is actually a benefit in disguise. The total number of marketing emails sent is going to go down, there’s no denying that. However, rates of engagement should either hold steady or go up because the people you’re contacting actually want to hear from you.
Rezi’s centralised database and focus on customer engagement mean that the estate agent of the future is already ahead of the game when it comes to preparing for the GDPR. Don’t worry, but don’t wait.
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