GDPR in America

Is it time for homebuilders to start worrying about a GDPR-esque set of regulations in America?

Short for the “General Data Protection Regulation,” GDPR is a broad set of regulations originally passed by the European Union (EU) in 2016. These new laws, which were officially implemented in the spring of 2018, aimed to define data-protection and online privacy rules within the EU in order to protect consumers by giving them control of their personal data.

GDPR, while complex in nature, was essentially designed to spell out exactly how businesses and organizations would be allowed to use and handle personally identifiable data in a digital age. Overall, it aimed to ensure that personal information would be handled according to these guidelines:

  • Data can only be used a specifically stated purpose
  • Personal information can only be kept for as long as it’s absolutely necessary
  • Companies are responsible for the security of data as well as the consequences of insecure data
  • Users can request copies of their collected data and/or that their data be deleted from storage

And the penalty for not complying with these guidelines? Provisions in GDPR granted the EU the ability to fine offending companies/organizations to the tune of 4% of their annual revenue or up to an equivalent of $25 million.

While it’s unlikely that the United States adopts sweeping regulatory measures that rival GDPR anytime soon, there are plenty of signs that consumers are ready to take more control over what businesses and advertisers can and cannot do with their data. In fact, just last year, California passed “The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018” which aims to accomplish many of the same things that the EU’s GDPR rules already do.

So what would a GDPR-esque shift mean for homebuilders? At first glance, you might not think it would impact you all that much. But it’s important to take a look at your website and consider how much you rely on it to generate interest in your brand as well as capture new leads that fuel your sales funnel. With that in mind, here are a few ways your digital presence would have to adapt.

Substantial Changes to Websites Would Likely Be Necessary

At the onset of GDPR’s launch, a pair of major U.S. newspapers made it into the headlines because they began blocking website traffic from users who lived in the EU. At the time, they claimed that they simply could not guarantee compliance with GDPR on their website, so they were forced to block traffic rather than risk a hefty fine.

Homebuilders may not have a lot in common with journalists. But if you think about the fact that the two newspapers were the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, you’ll realize that the GDPR has compelled organizations to make some significant updates to their sites, and even some of the bigger online players had difficulty keeping up.

How much you’d have to update on your site would vary depending on what and how much data you collect about users. It could be as simple as copying the newest version of your company’s privacy policy onto your website, or it could be as involved as adding new modules that allow users to view or request deletion of the information you collected about them.

Data Collection Would Become Synonymous with Data Management

Should regulations similar to GDPR be adopted in the areas you serve, the way you think about data will need to expand beyond just how you’re going to capture leads or re-engage previous website visitors. Instead, you’ll have to think about how you plan to collect, store and protect your users’ personal information from start to finish.

You’d Need a Clearly Defined Data and Privacy Roadmap

What makes GDPR and similar regulations so challenging for homebuilders is the fact that they don’t just change the way you need to handle personal information; they change the way you need to think about what that personal information means to you.

We can all agree that, in a leads-driven industry, personal data is a key asset for any homebuilder. But rather than a lead being treated just as a piece of information that fits in your sales and marketing funnel, it’s something that would need to be treated as a valuable business asset that, if mismanaged, can severely impact your bottom line. In that regard, you’d absolutely want to set forth a clearly defined roadmap for all of your business’ data and privacy processes so that every element of your operation is ready to comply from the start.

Digital Expertise Would Likely Be Required

The simple truth about GDPR in America is that it would ultimately require homebuilders to improve their level of digital fluency exponentially. While a legal team could guide you in terms of how you’d need to update your existing privacy policies, you’d need a digital marketing team to implement and manage those privacy changes on a daily basis. And when you look at your team right now, you’ll have to decide if you’re prepared to handle that sort of drastic change or not.

Want to see what else the NDG team has to say about the latest homebuilder marketing trends? Check out the rest of our blog here.

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