GDPR had a huge impact on the way that we work as marketers. For affiliates even more so as the need to hold compliant marketing data for customers was prioritised. After a mild flurry of panic around the deadline date we look at how this has impacted the day to day running of online and affiliate business.

Data gathering and compliance are key to continued revenue growth

So many affiliate businesses were built on marketing to mountains of valuable data, which has been acquired through a lot of hard work and over a long period of time. The GDPR changes therefore did cause many to balk in disarray, as it called into question whether this data could still be used long term. We all saw a flurry of emails asking for the recapture of active consent, but for many – it effectively decimated their database of email data to market to.

Affiliate businesses have had to ensure all their data is gathered and maintained compliantly with the right systems, processes and tools in place to enable compliant marketing. There is an added cost to this which has been absorbed within the commercial models that affiliates earn revenue alongside which is not really spoken about when commercials are negotiated.

The point is, this wasn’t a one time clean up, it is something that all businesses have had to think about as part of their ongoing compliance to maintain long term revenue. The way that data is gathered from an affiliate site should have been changed, with the correct opt in boxes that do not come pre-ticked now firmly in place. 

Whats next and how should you keep up to date?

Using a more holistic approach to data gathering is key, as you will risk fines if you don’t. This could amount to a large dent in your profit margins if you’re not careful, as you could get up to €20 million or 4% of your profits, whichever amount is greater as part of the fine process. Industry experts are forecasting that these will start to be levied by the end of the year, with the first high profile cases expected to reach large amounts. 

These will be the cases that will spread the news on GDPR further, so we can expect them to be pretty severe in the first instance. There’s a lot to prove with these rulings, with a hard line taken on those that flout the rules. Know the rules, follow them and avoid the potential to receive one of these fines. Some affiliates are shirking their responsibilities with GDPR, but this won’t last for long. Programmes will continue to insist on checking affiliate marketing practices and tools like Rightlander and Wag.io are developing processes to help affiliate managers manage larger databases of affiliates to ensure compliance is enforced.

Complaints from customers will also more actively lead to investigation. So if one of your registrants received a third party email that they didn’t consent to, then it won’t take much to prompt an investigation to the affiliate who sent it. 

How does this impact your business?

In the wake of this regulatory change, many affiliates have now moved over marketing to other means of acquisition such as social communities and mobile marketing groups (WhatsApp). This has been an easy way to get around the need to hold client data which has posed a revenue risk for affiliates not in a position to comply. This means new ways of generating content and audience engagement and a change away from onsite advertising which is still prominent in affiliate channels.

There’s still some ambiguity among operators and affiliates regarding who actually controls the data, as the roles can change. The controller has more responsibilities within the context of GDPR, so it’s simple to see why no one wants to be landed with these extra tasks. In this instance, it’s important to clearly define this relationship so that both parties really understand their responsibilities. 

While we think of the GDPR as rigid, there’s also room for this to change. The regulations may evolve as time goes on and more improvements are made. This is just the first instalment of the regulations and these can be changed as time goes on. For some, it’s business as usual after GDPR, but this will come to an end. Deadline day was all the way back in May and it’s only a matter of time before we see the first sanctions rolling out. If you’re not keeping yourself up to date with this regulation, then you risk the big fines that could tank your affiliate business all together.