Has GDPR improved brand experience? Most consumers aren’t convinced

With the first anniversary of GDPR coming into force just days away, most consumers don’t feel any better off, and nearly a fifth believe their experience with brands has actually got worse.


As we approach the first anniversary of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force, brands should be disappointed to learn that just 31% of consumers think their overall experience with companies has improved, according to exclusive research commissioned by Marketing Week.

Despite brands’ best efforts, the largest proportion (46%) don’t think GDPR has made any difference at all, while 17% believe things have actually got worse over the past 12 months, according to a survey of more than 2,000 consumers conducted by Ipsos Mori.

Encouragingly, the vast majority of consumers (93%) have heard of GDPR, with 39% saying they know a ‘fair amount’ or a ‘great deal’ about the data law.


Nearly half (48%) also say they understand their rights around how their personal data is used, which should be a wake up call for any brands still looking to circumvent the data law.

Two-fifths (41%) believe companies give them more control over their data than they used to, which rises to 49% among 25- to 34-year-olds.

READ MORE: Why GDPR is no longer the wolf at the door

However, while 31% of consumers say it’s easy to make choices about how their personal data is used by companies since the introduction of GDPR, nearly an equal number (28%) disagree that that’s the case.

Overall, 41% believe companies have become more transparent in how they use consumers’ personal data. Younger consumers are definitely more positive than older generations, however, with this figure rising to 53% among those aged 16 to 24 and 49% for the 25 to 34 age bracket. It gradually decreases to 31% for 55- to 75-year-olds though.

More worrying is the fact 40% of consumers – the largest proportion – don’t think companies even care if they are in breach of data laws, perhaps fuelled by endless headlines last year of data misuse, breaches and scandals, most notably at Facebook.


Most consumers have seen a difference in the way brands communicate with them, which is perhaps most pronounced when using company websites. This is impacting consumers’ experience with brands, with 59% suggesting many companies don’t let them use their website unless they agree to sharing their personal data.

Consumers are also not convinced email communication has improved as a result. While a quarter (25%) of consumers say emails from brands have become more relevant over the past 12 months, the largest proportion of consumers (37%) have seen no change, while 34% believe emails have actually become less relevant.

Likewise, when it comes to frequency, 39% think the situation has got worse, although 29% say they’ve seen an improvement.

Brands should be buoyed by the fact 47% of consumers say they trust companies which let them control how their personal data is used though. More encouraging still is the fact 37% say they tend to spend more money with these brands as a result.

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  • Gerben Busch 20 May 2019 at 9:31 am

    Being GDPR compliant does not necessarily go hand in hand with rendering a better customer experience. Looking at today’s practice, the majority of brands are still struggling to get their data act together. A prerequisite for rendering a consistent brand experience across all touchpoints. And, of course, consumers may feel a communication preference center as an initial hurdle to do business with any brand, but after taking it I am pretty sure they are more confident than the brands who don’t have their act together.

  • Jacky York 20 May 2019 at 10:26 am

    I doubt very much that most consumers understand data protection. When I do straw polls and ask questions, eyes glaze over and no one is at all interested in what companies are doing with their personal data. It’s just seen as the price to pay for internet access. No one I’ve ever spoken to has understood consent and what it means in reality. Very few bother to unsubscribe, so there is a quirk in human nature there as to why we don’t unsubscribe.

    Marketers don’t understand GDPR/Data Protection either. Not surprising when most of themarketing/business blogs on the subject are littered with errors and inaccuracies. Very few mention PECR and it’s implications for UK email marketing.

    The gatekeeping element of consent and no access without personal data aspect is largely being ignored by companies large and small. Though even the ICO/EDPB have acknowledged that there is a debate to be had over how modern ecommerce operates with the value exchange of free access in exchange for personal data. A lot ofsmall companies that introduced consent mechanisms to their email capture mechanisms found the impact on their business was so damaging that they just removed it. Their competitors weren’t following the rules, so not a level playing field. Big brands can buy consent with offers or using other channels such as TV/Direct Mail which are out of the reach of a lot of companies or not appropriate for their comms mix.

    The new ePrivacy regs currently stuck in the EU are going to be a huge challenge for marketers. This is trying to impose regulation on a how industry that has it’s foundation in offering free services in exchange for personal data to be used for advertising. Society as whole needs to have have the debate that you can’t have free internet access without the personal data exchange.

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