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An Post sees boost to marketing mail despite GDPR rules

AN POST is experiencing a boost to its direct mailing business ahead of the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The EU-wide regime, which comes into effect this coming Friday, updates and overhauls European data protection law, and all companies that process the data of EU residents are obliged to comply with the new requirements.

An Post commercial director Fiona Heffernan said direct mail, which involves sending marketing materials directly to consumers, is worth around €50m to it.

“We are seeing signs that it is growing with GDPR,” she told the Irish Independent.

Last week, Britain’s Royal Mail warned the GDPR could reduce marketing mail.

Shares in the former state-owned monopoly, which was privatised in 2013 and floated on the London Stock Exchange, were sharply hit after the warning. But Ms Heffernan said An Post does not expect to experience the same decline.

“The direct mail industry in the UK has a 20-year start on Ireland, and it is used differently in the UK then it is over here,” Ms Heffernan said.

She said so-called cold mailing – businesses mailing people they have not previously dealt with in order to attract new customers – is less commonplace in Ireland. This practice, she said, is likely to face more difficulty because of the GDPR.

“The use of direct mail by companies in Ireland is a lot different. Companies here would use direct mail a lot with existing customers to cross-sell or up-sell,” Ms Heffernan said.

The GDPR allows a business with “a legitimate interest” in making contact with someone to continue to do so through direct mail, as long as the business provides the customer with the option to opt out each time it contacts them.

By contrast, for digital channels of direct marketing, customers will have to opt in to continue to receive communication from businesses, meaning there is less regulatory pressure on physical direct mail.

“This is where we see the growth opportunity for direct mail in Ireland – we are already seeing growth on the ground,” Ms Heffernan said.

“The pinch will be in cold mail where a company does not have a legitimate interest to contact people – the way the population is in Ireland, where we are in that life cycle, the most significant part of our direct marketing is from businesses to existing customers with legitimate interest in place.”

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