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GDPR Guidelines for Email Marketing

GDPR Guidelines for Email Marketing

In order to do email marketing, you have to collect a lot of personal data from your customers. It’s your responsibility to keep that data private and safe — and that’s where the GDPR comes in.

As an email marketer, you’re probably familiar with the GDPR. But it’s essential to double check that your business is complying with GDPR email marketing best practices. If you need to brush up on the guidelines for GDPR marketing consent, keep reading to learn more about these regulations and what your GDPR emails should look like.

In order to do email marketing, you have to collect a lot of personal data from your customers. It’s your responsibility to keep that data private and safe — and that’s where the GDPR comes in. Click To Tweet

What is the GDPR?

The GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation, is a set of rules for marketers that aims to protect consumer data. These regulations went into effect on May 25, 2018. They apply to all businesses and online consumers located in the EU. Under the GDPR, businesses need to take extra steps to ensure they’re protecting their customers’ personal data and keeping it private. Keeping track of this data is your responsibility, not the responsibility of your email service provider. And businesses that breach the GDPR or don’t follow its guidelines may have to pay a hefty fine.

How does the GDPR affect email marketing?

GDPR email marketing is all about receiving consent. As an email marketer, you need to obtain your customers’ explicit and freely given consent before sending them any promotional emails. When someone new signs up for your email list, they need to be well-informed about what they’re going to receive from you and what you’re going to do with their personal data (namely, keep it private).

It’s also important to analyze your current email list and make sure you have proof of consent for every subscriber. You should know how, when and why your current subscribers got on your email list. Keep a screenshot of your opt-in form, the date and time someone filled it in and what source they came from. According to the GDPR, if you don’t keep a record of consent, the consent itself is not valid. If you can’t prove how your current subscribers gave their consent, you’ll need to send a re-engagement email to ask for their consent again.

GDPR email marketing best practices

Here’s what you should know about GDPR marketing consent and how to abide by the GDPR in your marketing communications.

Get permission

GDPR email marketing starts before you ever send a marketing email. The first step is getting informed consent from subscribers. This means that your customers need to understand what they’re signing up for and how you’re going to use their data. For example, pet food company Canidae provides the following message for its website visitors:

gdpr opt-in form

Use a double opt-in

Many businesses decide to use a double opt-in to get consent from users. While a double opt-in isn’t mandated under the GDPR, it can still be a good way to make sure you’re doing everything by the book.

With a single opt-in, a user fills out a form and gives their consent to receive emails, and that’s it — they’re all signed up. With a double opt-in, however, there’s one more step: Users fill out your website form, receive an email double-checking that they want to sign up and then give their final consent through that email. Abilitee Adaptive Wear sends this simple email for its double opt-in.

Subject line: Confirm your subscription 

gdpr email marketing opt-in

If you send several different types of content, you’ll need to get separate permission for each one. You can do this by adding several individual checkboxes to your opt-in form. Don’t bundle everything together for one-click consent — this violates the GDPR.

Add a visible unsubscribe link

After you obtain consent, your job isn’t done. Your everyday marketing emails need to comply with the GDPR, too. For example, every email you sent needs to have a clearly visible link where the reader can opt out of receiving your emails. Your unsubscribe link should not only let the reader unsubscribe from your marketing communications — include the option to unsubscribe from all of your communication, too. And when someone requests to be unsubscribed, honor their request immediately.

Zoe’s Kitchen has an “Unsubscribe” link in the footer of this email. Since most brands include a similar link in their email footers, readers are used to looking for it there. Another GDPR email marketing best practice is to give your customers access to your privacy policy in your emails (not just on your opt-in form), which Zoe’s Kitchen also does in its email footer.

email footer unsubscribe link

Here’s the full email:

Subject line: The starter of the summer

gdpr email marketing

Be honest

One final component of GDPR email marketing is to make sure all of your marketing communications are honest. Be transparent about who’s sending the email. Include your company’s address to identify yourself, and don’t send any fraudulent content.

This welcome email is very obviously from Halo Top — the sender’s email, brand logo, the address at the bottom and all of the other aspects of the message signal who it’s from. In compliance with the GDPR, Halo Top clearly states what readers can expect and offers multiple unsubscribe options in the footer.

Subject line: Halo, is it me you’re looking for?

gdpr email example

Wrap-up: GDPR email templates

Need to send a re-engagement email to make sure you have your readers’ consent? Use our GDPR email templates! This colorful message, designed by Martin Nikolchev, lets customers opt in with ease:

We also have a creative Opt In Again email template, created by Galina Grahovska and meant for users who need to resubscribe:

Follow these key GDPR email marketing best practices to make sure your business is doing everything by the book!


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GDPR email marketing cover

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Hailey Hudson

Hailey Hudson is a full-time freelance writer based out of Atlanta, Georgia.