Increased custom, both in store and online, over Christmas and New Year means ‘tis the season to be jolly for gathering customer data! One of our retail lawyers, Michelle Morgan reminds you of what you need to know to make the most of the information you gather at this time of year and avoid a ‘Bah Humbug’ experience…

Retention of data gives you an opportunity to target existing and potential customers and to promote your business. It also enables you to target particular people with a personalised message - such as the various ‘Friends & Family’ Christmas discount vouchers currently doing the rounds.

Marketing communications can be cost-effective and extremely powerful in generating sales. However, if used in an irresponsible or ill-considered way, unsolicited email or text marketing can cause substantial nuisance and inconvenience to recipients. It could potentially lead to negative publicity, loss of consumer confidence and brand damage.

To get the most out of any direct marketing campaign you need to ensure that the data you hold is up-to-date and accurate. This means checking the mailing list regularly, removing duplicate entries and deleting names of those who have asked to be removed.

There is a strict regulatory framework governing the way retailers communicate with customers and, in serious cases, failure to adhere to the framework can also lead to enforcement action by the Information Commissioner’s Office, including the risk of a monetary penalty of up to £500,000 and/or criminal sanctions.

To avoid falling foul of the regulations, any campaign sending unsolicited communications should bear in mind the following principles:

  • individuals must understand that you may use their data for marketing purposes;
  • recipients must have the opportunity to opt out of receiving marketing communications at any time;
  • electronic communications should only be sent to people who have 'opted in' to receiving them - you may able to rely on 'soft opt-in' consent from existing customers to market similar products or services; and
  • you are legally required to check your customer database against the telephone preference service and fax preference service, which hold lists of people who have expressly opted out of receiving direct marketing materials.

Keep these principles in mind and your direct marketing campaign will lead to a ‘Holly Jolly Christmas’ all year!

This article originally featured in retail claims' Christmas newsletter 'let's talk shop' .