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How to Navigate GDPR Compliance and Data Privacy in Direct Mail Marketing

A Guide for UK Marketing Heads

As a marketing pro, you understand the importance of GDPR compliance. But while most marketers have a clear understanding of GDPR’s implications for digital marketing channels, direct mail marketing often remains shrouded in confusion.

In this blog, we’ll clarify the nuances of GDPR for direct mail marketing, shed light on the differences between GDPR requirements for email and postal mail, and let you in on the benefits of using mail from a privacy standpoint. We’ll even explore PECR, soft opt-ins, and legitimate interest for good measure.

Understanding GDPR: Email vs. Direct Mail

Email Marketing

Under GDPR, email marketing is tightly regulated. Consent is typically required before sending marketing emails, meaning people must explicitly opt-in to receive communications. This consent must be freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous. Organisations must also provide an easy way for people to withdraw their consent at any time.

Direct Mail Marketing

Direct mail marketing, on the other hand, has different requirements. While it still falls under GDPR, mail marketing doesn’t always require explicit consent. Instead, marketers can often rely on legitimate interests as a lawful basis for processing personal data, provided certain conditions are met. This distinction makes direct mail a valuable tool in any marketer’s arsenal, particularly in an era of increasing digital fatigue and privacy concerns.

The Privacy Benefits of Direct Mail

As people become more wary of what they’re opting into, and altogether reluctant to part with their permission, direct mail offers a number of not-to-be-sniffed-at advantages over digital marketing channels:

  1. Perceived Trustworthiness: Because people tend to feel more confident that their data is handled securely when they receive physical mail, direct mail marketing is often seen as more trustworthy than digital communications.
  1. Less Intrusive: Direct mail is generally considered less intrusive than unsolicited emails or phone calls, which means you’re more likely to meet with a positive reception from your would-be customers.
  1. Lower Risk of Consent Issues: Since direct mail can be sent based on legitimate interests, there’s less risk of breaking the strict consent requirements that apply to email marketing.

Key Concepts for GDPR Compliance

PECR (Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations)

Complementing GDPR, PECR specifically addresses electronic communications, including emails, texts, and phone calls. While PECR is highly relevant to email marketing, it has limited application to direct mail. However, it’s essential to understand that PECR still governs consent requirements for certain types of data use, such as sending direct mail based on data collected via electronic means.

Soft Opt-Ins

Soft opt-ins allow businesses to send marketing emails to customers based on a previous transaction, provided the recipient was given a clear opportunity to opt out at the time of data collection and in every subsequent communication. This is specific to electronic communications and does not apply to direct mail (another win for the regulatory flexibility of direct mail marketing).

Legitimate Interest

Legitimate interest is a key lawful basis for processing personal data under GDPR. For direct mail, businesses can rely on legitimate interest if they can demonstrate that the marketing activity is necessary for their interests and does not override a person’s privacy rights. This involves conducting a legitimate interest assessment (LIA), which balances the business’s interests against the potential impact on a person’s privacy.

Steps to Ensure GDPR Compliance in Direct Mail Marketing

If you’re keen to embrace the reach and engagement levels that direct mail has to offer, follow these steps to keep you on the right side of data privacy laws:

  1. Conduct a Legitimate Interest Assessment (LIA): You need to assess whether your marketing activities align with legitimate interest. Document your findings and make sure you’ve considered the individual’s rights and interests. If you’re not sure how to carry out an LIA, you can access our free guide here
  1. Provide Opt-Out Options: No matter how you’re communicating, you should always offer people an easy way to opt out of future communications – and the same goes for direct mail marketing. You can use post to direct customers online and encourage opt-in consent – placing the power in their hands.
  1. Data Accuracy and Minimisation: Ensure that the personal data you use is accurate and up to date – and that you’re only collecting data that’s necessary for your marketing purposes.
  1. Secure Data Handling: Make sure you’re implementing robust security measures to protect personal data from unauthorised access or breaches. You need to look at your physical security, technical security, and administrative security – identifying any gaps as you go.

Guarding Privacy; Protecting Your Brand

Failure to comply with GDPR legislation can leave you vulnerable to huge fines, and risk serious damage to your reputation. People are looking to the brands they love for openness, transparency, and trust. And in today’s highly competitive marketplace, you can’t afford to alienate your customer base by betraying any of those things.

Direct mail marketing, when used alongside digital communications, offers marketers the most effective way to build engagement, drive sales, and retain customers – all with the added benefit of greater flexibility under GDPR.

Need more guidance? Talk to our direct mail experts. Get in touch to speak to our team.

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