Is your loyalty program GDPR-ready?

By Ko de Ruyter and Debbie Keeling

Just in case you might have missed it; a wind of change has started to blow in the loyalty marketing landscape. In Europe the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is about to go live and it marks a heightened privacy consciousness among businesses and their customers. And ultimately, we expect that the principles of GDPR will go global. So even if you are not operating from the EU, it is not a bad idea to start reflecting on what the new model of data protection will mean for you and your program. Almost certainly, the bar will be raised and your program members will expect you to take your protection of their data to a whole new level.

So, are you GDPR ready?

? First off, the new privacy laws regulations are going to be complex and you definitely need to consult your legal team for expert advice (Disclaimer 1). But, it is all good. There are several opportunities for loyalty marketing on the horizon. One is around the newly coined buzzwords ‘re-engagement’ and ‘re-permissioning’. As loyalty marketers, we need to review existing permission processes as they need to be more transparent and offer more opportunities for control and even data-brokering by members. You need to convince your members that sharing their data does not just allow you more opportunities for data mining, but that they will enjoy a more valuable membership in return.

So, how do you re-engineer member re-engagement? To begin with, years of research message framing has taught us that it is all about the specific words that you use. So, when designing a communication strategy around your program’s data protection, it is a good idea to invite your members to update or refresh their program preferences. Do try to avoid the use of seemingly coercive language, as this creates a negative attitude towards your program. Given the significance of the data protection issue, our advice would be to design a re-engagement campaign that draws your members’ attention to the issues over time and uses a multi-channel approach. When people log in to their member profile, call your sales agents, take an online learning module or engage on social media, take every opportunity to let your members know that they have a chance to refresh their details. Of course, across multiple channels it is important to allow members the explicit choice to opt-in OR opt-out. You do not want to bother a member who has just chosen to opt-out again. Encourage your members to pro-actively contact you in case anything changes, present this as an opportunity to refresh their program preferences. You may want to incentivize this. After all, that is what we do. But, be careful to make sure that a re-permission is freely given and not conditional on the incentive. Instead, frame the incentive as a token of appreciation about re-affirming the partnership or give out a reward for a fast response (whether this is an opt-in or opt-out).

When it comes to designing a program communication strategy it is all about execution, execution, execution. So, check out how Manchester United FC brought GDPR to their world-wide fan-base with a campaign labelled ‘Stay United’:

there is also a short video clip with ‘an important message from Manchester United’.

After explaining that the law has changed, and that the club wants their fans to be the first to know about it, they are asked whether they would want to stay in touch and (animated versions of) club icons are used to explain the benefits of staying in the loop by refreshing their email preferences. Early respondents (regardless of whether they opt-in or out) are entered into a prize draw for a Megastore voucher or a shirt signed by one of the top players. So, take some inspiration about how to get in touch with your program members from the loyalty program of an organization that is forward-looking both on and off the pitch.

Ultimately, getting GDPR ready offers you the opportunity to convey to your members that you respect their privacy in a valued partnership. This well-meant advice has been written by two of the staunchest Manchester City supporters in the world of loyalty marketing (Disclaimer 2) …