Why pop-up banners needn’t be an eyesore post GDPR

Ever since GDPR came into force 18 months ago, it’s impossible to browse any website without annoying pop up banners asking for consent to their use of cookies for targeted advertising and marketing. And retailers have been at the forefront of falling in line with the regulation.

"They have invested significant time and resources into getting this right,” notes JP Buckley, partner & head of data protection at law firm DWF. “The UK's online retailing is world leading and retailers are having to engage with customers in different ways, however there's a fine balance between pop-ups and disrupting the user experience.”

GDPR isn't over and isn't simply a compliance box that retailers can tick, he adds. “It is an ever evolving arena requiring the protection of data by design… as well as breach reporting and mitigation. Its impact is wide ranging but insightful retailers have been able to maximise the marketing potential of it while minimising risk."

Feel Good Contacts is one company that has tried to make pop-up banners work for customers post GDPR. The firm has actually boosted its subscriber base by 10,000 by incorporating smart data capture into its marketing strategy, working with personalisation specialists Fresh Relevance.

Shoppers are invited to submit their email address to receive tailored discounts, while new customers are presented with a pop-up offering money off their first purchase, students are offered a special deal – something that might be detected from their .ac.uk email address – and returning customers are encouraged to use the company’s app.

“GDPR is about being transparent with customers,” says Louisa Brooks, email marketing manager at Feel Good Contacts, adding that the nature of the site’s pop-ups are designed to be non-intrusive and offer a tangible benefit to customers. 

Another example is a pop-up that appears when a customer is about to close a window. “[It says] we know you are busy would you like us to send your first order discount via email?” Brooks says the customer open rate of the email is extremely high, because it serves a tangible benefit to users who have already engaged by giving their consent. 

Mixed visuals

However, Tim Hickman, partner at law firm White & Case, says retailers’ approach to marketing under GDPR remains varied. 

“In some cases, retailers overreacted, and sent out emails asking consumers for consent to send further email marketing, pop-ups, cookies, and so on. As the UK Information Commissioner’s Office has made clear, that approach was often unnecessary and, in some cases, unlawful. 

“In addition, many retailers that sent out such consent emails received very low response rates. As a result, they face an unappetising choice between deleting the data of consumers who did not respond, or ignoring the lack of a response and thereby invalidating their own attempts to obtain consent.”

In other cases, retailers were too lax, and took few or no steps to improve their compliance position, he notes. “Many of those retailers are increasingly facing complaints and push-back from consumers, and are now having to scramble to put appropriate measures in place.”

Hickman believes there is still a long way to go. “Most retailers are in the process of becoming more familiar with their obligations with respect to the use of consumer data. However, the rate of progress continues to be slow, in part because regulatory enforcement remains relatively infrequent.”

But for those who see consent as more than just a compliance issue, there is an opportunity to boost engagement.