Why Your Organization Should Focus on the “Art” and “Science” of Complying with GDPR Consent

Updated on February 23, 2019

By Eric V. Holtzclaw

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You’ve seen it before, the long form you must sign before partaking in a potentially dangerous activity, the checkbox at the bottom of an end user agreement before you can use a new piece of software, the abundant documents that are part of every major monetary purchase.

These laborious practices are developed by corporations as reaction to a regulation, an issue or advice from a lawyer.  Not surprisingly, associations are responding analogously to growing regulatory concerns such as ePrivacy, GDPR and CCPA. To address the new regulations rapidly and efficiently, enterprises stick to the “science” side of consent collection and while disregarding the “art” of consent collection. This is an important difference because customer consent is the crucial element that unlocks valuable customer conversation and insights that drive a more expressive exchange.

The ‘science’ of consent collection.  The technology, data and regulations surrounding the collection of data encompasses the “Science of Consent”. These components are well-defined, agreed across a company, heavily supervised and can be eagerly reported both inside and outside the organization. 

While there is nothing fundamentally wrong with viewing consent this way, by only approaching preference and consent management scientifically, companies are only “checking the box” – doing the bare minimum to achieve a passing grade. Just because a business implements technology doesn’t mean it fully addresses customer and business requirements or the intentional spirit of the laws. In fact, a science-only methodology thwarts organizations from benefiting from the best aspects of what consent management can essentially offer. 

Companies in European countries are more developed in their view and further along on the timeline of allowing customers to specify consent. Administrations in these locales realize to get a superior take rate on collecting consent, they must combine preference with consent management to offer a valuable incentive.  If there is no perceived worth to the individual providing consent, why would they willing provide it?

By complementing preferences to consent, businesses allow clients to be particular with the types of communications, the frequency and the medium that they receive these communications. This amplified specificity is a building block for trust between companies and customers, ultimately creating and reinforcing a long-term relationship.

To attain the greatest return on investment for directing mandatory compliance requirements, organizations should include emphasis on the ‘art’ of consent and preference management. In doing so, preference and consent management drives initial implementation and results in the greatest long-term benefit. 

Firms that approach consent with the objective of empowering customer conversations focus on deploying implementations that drive more granular preferences across business units, applications, products, communication channels, and desired frequency. This long-term standpoint leads to healthy and profitable customer relationships. Features such as timing, placement, and design drive adoption by both the company and by its consumers.

Traits of implementing consent “Artfully” comprise of:

  • Consent Spot Collection: Rather than requesting consent through a singular checkbox or a long wide-ranging form, consent is spread attentively through the customer journey. Consent and preferences are collected from the customer at points that are meaningful such as registration, looking for new products, etc.  Taking account of these instances increases the prospect the customer will not only understand what they are agreeing to but also increase their willingness to provide consent.
  • Capability to Opt Down: Once consent is collected, institutions that think of consent in broader terms provide well designed and personalised forms that allow customers to reduce the communications they are currently receiving. These forms should be easily manageable from any customer touch point. A refined opt-down method is a step toward turning a would be total opt-out into a more useful and individual opt-in.
  • Hands-on Suggestion: According to customer behavior, lack of commitment with outbound communications or customer driven actions, companies may offer options to current modes, frequency and types of communications. This prediction of a potential change in consent increases the possibility of maintaining some level of consent for continued communications.

Privacy technology must be deliberated with industry-specific and problem-specific best practices – for example, a financial services company needs the ability to collect consent across multiple channels such as in-person interaction while an ecommerce-only company does not.  A one size fits all method will fall flat and have a negative impact a company’s consent collection initiatives. 

The greatest way to effectively combine the science with the art of consent and preference management is to review and evaluate applications based on real world use cases. Spend time on competitive websites, follow the “unsubscribe” link in emails and analyze the best customer engagement practices. Combining this research with an understanding of why your customers provide consent in the first place and how they benefit from doing so over their relationship with your company is the foundation for a winning approach.

Regardless of your organizations approach to addressing consent, download The Forrester New WaveTM: GDPR And Privacy Management Software, Q4 2018 report. This report provides awareness into vendors that are equipped to solve your organization’s unique consent challenges across the spectrum of science to art.

About the Author: 

Eric V. Holtzclaw is Chief Strategist of PossibleNOW. He’s a researcher, writer, serial entrepreneur and challenger-of-conventional wisdom. Check out his book with Wiley Publishing on consumer behavior – Laddering: Unlocking the Potential of Consumer Behavior. Eric helps strategically guide companies with the implementation of enterprise-wide consent and preference management solutions.

About PossibleNOW:

PossibleNOW leverages powerful technology and industry-leading expertise to enable companies to listen to customers, remember what they like and dislike and respond in useful, personalized ways. Its enterprise consent and preference management platform, MyPreferences®, collects customer and prospect preferences, stores them safely and makes them available to any other system or application in the enterprise. PossibleNOW strategic services experts identify opportunities, plan technology deployments, design preference collection interfaces and position clients for a win. MyPreferences is purpose-built to help large, complex organizations gain control over communications, mitigate compliance risk and reduce marketing expenses while improving customer experience and loyalty. For more information, call (800) 585-4888, email info(at)possiblenow(dot)com or visit 


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