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GDPR: this year’s Millennium Bug?

By Retail Technology | Tuesday April 24 2018

Should GDPR be a major concern to retailers? Is it the new Millennium Bug? Ketan Patel, CIO at tcc global, cuts through the scaremongering and explains why it’s a great opportunity for retailers

Data plays a huge role in the retail industry; it forms connections between retailers and customers, both physically and emotionally. Data protection has increasingly become a major concern for consumers, which is not surprising as more and more revelations about certain tech giants come to light on what feels like a daily basis. 

As individuals, we naturally want control of our own data and the ability to choose whether or not we grant or refuse its use. We don’t want to be bombarded with direct mail, offers and deals for products that are irrelevant to us.

The same can be said for retailers. Data protection should always be front of mind and so, hopefully, you should be familiar with the concept of GDPR by now. The essence of the General Data Protection Regulation - which comes into effect in May this year – has always been in place, the only difference is this year it changes from regulation to legislation, thereby formalising (what should already be) good practice. 

With the deadline fast approaching, 2018 should see a change in attitude from retailers. But it is not all doom and gloom. 

Millennium bug

Cast your mind back to the Year 2000. Also known as y2k, or the Millennium Bug. In the last few years of 1999, panic grew around the problem of coding calendars and computer system data for dates beginning in the year 2000. I urge retailers not to get carried away, distracted by the hype surrounding GDPR, in the same way we did 18 years ago.

Despite the ‘scaremongering’ in the media, this should be seen as an opportunity for retailers. The aim of GDPR is to encourage honesty in sharing data – honesty between the retailer and the customer – particularly in the way they communicate with each other.

Instead of turning this into another millennium bug, retailers can use this to differentiate themselves from their competitors, and instil confidence and trust in customers. Yes, GDPR will bring some major changes for retailers. But the rules enforced by GDPR shouldn’t be seen as a challenge, but rather an opportunity. 

Opening up the communication channels and building – or re-building in some cases - that level of trust will see customers being more receptive to the content they are served. Ask rather than assume and you’ll end up with a more captive audience than ever, that wants to hear from you: Jane might not want to hear about your new line of basketball socks, but she has a burgeoning shoe collection that she wants to grow.

Data security 

Digital leaders should see the opportunity to review data and challenge themselves on what is critical and notable. GDPR will move leaders away from the traditional box-ticking exercise that data security often is, to a continual focus point at senior leadership level. It is absolutely something we should all embrace. We have seen poor practice devastate businesses – from TalkTalk, which faced a £60m bill, to Yahoo, which had to stump up $350m to solve the problem.

This strong and proactive stance on data protection can be used as a sales tool. Existing and potential partners want to feel confident in you and your operation, and this is a clear beacon of trust. For service providers, third parties will always have concerns regarding where their own, and their customers’, data is stored. Its reassuring for partners to know their data is protected, and it allows providers to instil confidence. 

Irrespective of the uncertainty and volatility that surrounds Brexit, the notion of GDPR is here to stay. Retailers must embrace it, and quickly, or suffer the consequences.

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