The European Union is dishing up some tough love to brands and advertisers.

And the introduction of the GDPR is set to mark the most significant shift in how brands collect, use and store consumer data in 20 years. The rules for targeting consumers based on third-party data and cookie IDs are changing.

But contrary to popular belief, this regulation shouldn’t be feared. In fact, the GDPR is possibly the best thing that could have happened to brands. It forces an entire industry to rethink its reliance on third party data and instead appreciate how important it is to focus on a brand’s own first-party data..

While this shift in how advertisers reach consumers digitally might initially be frightening, it’s time to embrace the opportunities. Why? Because done correctly, it will mean more transparent and better relationships with consumers.

Ultimately, GDPR will force a moment of self-reflection and present brands with the chance to become the best versions of themselves. And here are a few ways brands can go about achieving this:

Get to know your real customers 

Brands have been using third-party data and cookies as a source of targeting and new audience acquisition, but a much better approach has always been to create targeting profiles based on their own customer data. This data is so much more valuable because it’s based on consumers who have engaged directly with the brand.

So, it is now time for brands to take a step back and understand the characteristics, patterns and trends of people who are actually buying from them, then use those insights to identify others with similar traits and behaviours. 

Real-time targeting based on real-time actions

Something that doesn’t get discussed enough is that cookie-based targeting is in fact brands having real-time conversations with consumers as a result of their past behaviours. Let’s be honest, how many times has someone been followed around the web with ads for a pair of jeans they had researched a couple of weeks before, and then had bought in-store straight away?

It’s now time to find ways of targeting consumers solely on what they’re engaging with in the moment. Conversations must be contextually relevant. To do this effectively, brands will need to understand what their users are reading or viewing, and the context of what’s being presented. 

If brands can understand the content on the page at that exact moment, they can also begin to determine the audience that will gravitate towards it, and then determine the best suited ad content to serve. Put simply, if they focus on the immediate context and less on what a consumer might have done or bought a week ago, advertising is much more likely to be welcomed. 

Win back trust 

The GDPR isn’t random; it’s a response to consumers wanting more control and consciousness with their data. Consumers are now seeking value, efficiency and experiences through the brands they engage with. Brands therefore need to prove why they should have a place in a consumer’s inbox or on their home screen. GDPR will inevitably refocus brands on nurturing the users they have, pushing them to add value at each turn.

It’s always been imperative to have messaging that’s relevant to your audience,  but by focusing on individual journeys, brands can ensure they are also delivering quality experiences. Every single touch-point and channel engagement with a brand, is an opportunity for them to add value to their intended consumer. It’s no longer about building the biggest database, it’s about serving engaged customers with content that is relevant, timely and welcomed. 

Ultimately GDPR’s message to advertisers is this: know your customers better, be present, earn their affection – maybe even their data. It’s time to move from transactional to relatable.

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