GDPR one year on: A four-letter word, or a surprise boost for savvy email marketers?

Jun 13, 2019 | Ads, Content marketing, Regulation

A year on from the new EU data privacy rules, new data shows consumers have greater confidence in the email marketing they receive. Rob Massa General Manager, BounceX EMEA looks at consumer perspectives of the impact of GDPR and top tips for optimising email post GDPR.

It’s officially been over one year since the launch of the EU’s flagship data protection law, GDPR, and the dust has finally settled enough to examine the impact this legislation has had on email marketing.

While some brands feared increased data protection would shackle email marketers and paralyse email as a channel, our research suggests the opposite appears to have happened. GDPR has acted as a catalyst that has supercharged email, giving marketers the push needed to shakeup this crucial marketing channel.

That’s not to say GDPR hasn’t caused some headaches. The new law has created a kind of year zero for some email marketers, with many brands and retailers having to completely cleanse and review their databases to ensure they are compliant. But savvy operators have sensed a golden opportunity, using GDPR to ensure their emails are more targeted and relevant than ever before. If they fail in this task, of course, consumers now have even more power to simply revoke permission to use their data, so marketers need to get it right.

The state of email post-GDPR

In a bid to assess the state of email marketing post GDPR, BounceX has surveyed a sample of 1,000 UK consumers to reveal new behaviour patterns that can help direct email marketing strategy.

The data shows that, post-GDPR, 35% of consumers are more likely to open emails from brands and retailers than they were before GDPR. 36% also think the information they now receive is more helpful. Perhaps most importantly, 40% of consumers feel as though they have more control over their data.

That increase in perceived value and security means that consumers are more likely to act in ways advantageous to retailers and brands. For example, 29% of shoppers tell us they are likely to spend more money with retailers that email them post GDPR. 35% are more loyal to those retailers, and 34% are less likely to unsubscribe from their email lists. This is pretty compelling evidence that marketers leveraging GDPR to their own benefit are reaping the rewards.

Reimagining the email channel

Compare this to the state of play before the new legislation was launched. Our research revealed that prior to GDPR, 50% of consumers said they were less likely to read most emails (50%), less likely to engage with emails (46%) and struggled to find relevant content. This caused nearly half of all consumers to unsubscribe (49%), send their emails to junk (55%) or simply submit a fake email address to avoid marketing messages (31%).

Seen in this light, GDPR has given email marketing the impetus it needed, rather than being a much-feared stick to beat marketers and database managers. In fact, GDPR has strengthened email’s position as the single-most important identifier when thinking about customer journeys online, measuring intent and leveraging incentive and reward when converting customers to purchase.

Here are my top tips for optimising email post GDPR:

No soft opt-in

A year on from GDPR, all marketers should know that soft opt-in methods, such as a pre-checked opt-in box, are no longer acceptable. Permission must be explicit, but there are steps you can take to ensure customers put a tick in the consent box.

Offer compelling value

Be explicit about the benefits customers will enjoy once they’re on your subscriber list. Consumers provide brands with valuable personal information and privileged access to their email inbox, so the content, rewards or incentivisation they receive in exchange must be of comparable value.

Create referral campaigns

Encouraging new subscribers or existing customers to get friends and family to sign up for your marketing emails is an effective tactic, especially in welcome emails. Offering incentives to both new sign-ups and for the referrers themselves is a win-win.

Make the most of transactional emails

No consumer consent is needed for transactional emails because they’re deemed to be of ‘legitimate interest’ under GDPR rules. Transactional emails include:

  • Delivery reminders
  • Post-purchase receipts/order confirmation
  • Cart abandonment emails
  • Browse abandonment emails

Make sure you add sign-up links to gain marketing consent in these emails to grow your subscriber database.


GDPR may have been designed by the EU to hand consumers more control over how and when their personal data is used and by whom, but the side effect is that consumers have greater confidence in the email marketing they receive. Our research revealed that more consumers understand how their data is being used (40%) and as a result they are more confident, engaged and liable to take steps that are advantageous to brands and retailers. Seen in this light GDPR has been great news for email marketers willing to overcome the challenges and refine their email marketing strategies.

By Rob Massa

General Manager

BounceX EMEA