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1. Why is GDPR compliance important for ecommerce businesses?

Ecommerce and GDPR compliance: 2024 guide

Updated Jan 15 2024

Since the inception of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018, the digital landscape has witnessed transformative shifts. For ecommerce businesses, adapting to these changes is not just about compliance but also about fostering trust among users. This guide serves as a compass, guiding ecommerce companies through the intricate nuances of GDPR as it intertwines with the ever-evolving ecommerce landscape, ensuring that businesses not only stay compliant but also champion user trust while collecting data.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • GDPR compliance in ecommerce fosters customer trust, ensuring data safety and fostering loyalty.

  • While GDPR originated in the EU, its standards have become globally recognized, making compliance crucial for global market access.

  • Core principles include lawfulness, transparency, data minimization, accuracy, and accountability, among others.

  • Regular audits, clear privacy policies, secure storage, and updated protocols are vital for maintaining GDPR compliance in ecommerce.

  • Utilize GDPR tools like OneTrust, TrustArc, and Cookiebot, and stay connected with community forums such as for updates and best practices.

Why is GDPR compliance important for ecommerce businesses?

The rise of ecommerce, fueled by technological advancements and shifting consumer preferences, has brought convenience to our fingertips. Yet, with such convenience comes great responsibility, particularly in how we handle user data. The reasons below make GDPR compliance one of the best practices for ecommerce businesses today.

Trust and reputation

In an era where a data breach can occur instantly, maintaining GDPR compliance sends a clear message to your customers: their data is safe with you. This trust is paramount; it fosters loyalty and ensures repeat business.

Avoiding hefty fines

Non-compliance is expensive. The penalties associated with GDPR violations can be crippling for businesses, with fines reaching up to 4% of a company's annual global turnover or €20 million (whichever is higher). For an ecommerce business, this could mean potential bankruptcy or, at the very least, a substantial financial setback.

Global market access

GDPR might have originated in the European Union, but its influence is global. To access and operate in the EU market, compliance is essential. Moreover, many regions outside the EU have adopted similar data protection standards, making GDPR compliance a gateway to global expansion.

Improved data management

While it might seem like a burden initially, GDPR compliance can streamline your business's data management processes. Knowing what data you have, where it's stored, and why you're storing it leads to more efficient operations and reduces potential vulnerabilities.

Competitive edge

As consumers become more informed about their rights and the value of their data, they lean toward businesses that respect and uphold these rights. Being GDPR compliant can serve as a differentiator, setting your ecommerce platform apart from competitors who might not prioritize data protection as much.

Understanding the basic principles of GDPR

Navigating GDPR can sometimes feel like wading through a sea of jargon and legalese. However, at its core, GDPR is built on a set of clear and user-centric principles designed to prioritize and protect user data. Let’s drill down into these principles and understand what they mean for businesses and individuals.

1. Lawfulness, fairness, and transparency

  • Lawfulness: Processing personal data must have a legal basis, such as consent, contractual necessity, or legitimate interest.

  • Fairness: Personal data should be handled in ways that people would reasonably expect and not used in ways that have unjustified adverse effects on them.

  • Transparency: Organizations must be clear, open, and honest about how they use personal data.

2. Purpose limitation

Data collected should be used strictly for the purpose it was intended for. Any new data processing activity must align with the original purpose, or businesses need to seek further consent. Using any data beyond the stated intentions without valid reasons or user consent is prohibited.

3. Data minimization

Collect only what is essential. It's not a buffet of data; businesses should gather only what is strictly necessary for the specified purpose and nothing more. GDPR emphasizes not hoarding data but rather focusing on the absolute necessary, reducing potential risks.

4. Accuracy

Accuracy isn’t just a good-to-have; it’s a must-have under GDPR. Personal data held should be accurate, up-to-date, and rectified if found to be inaccurate. Inaccuracies can harm individuals, so rectification mechanisms should be in place.

5. Storage limitation

Hold onto data only as long as you truly need it. Once the data serves its purpose, it should be deleted or rendered anonymous. This means regularly checking and managing the life cycles of the data you store. Long-term data piles can become a liability.

6. Integrity and confidentiality

  • Integrity: Ensure data remains accurate and suitable for its intended purpose. Data should also be protected against unlawful processing.

  • Confidentiality: Protect data against unauthorized access or disclosure. Implement encryption, secure access controls, and regular IT security reviews.

7. Accountability

Last but certainly not least, GDPR mandates that organizations demonstrate compliance with its principles. This isn’t just about adhering but proving that you adhere. It's the principle that wraps around all others, ensuring that businesses are proactive in their data protection measures.

Common data collection practices in ecommerce

  • User profiles: These are comprehensive profiles that users create when signing up, often including personal, shipping, and payment details.

  • Cookies and trackers: Used to understand user behavior and preferences and provide a customized shopping experience.

  • Transaction data: Detailed records of purchases, returns, and customer service interactions.

  • Feedback and reviews: Reviews, ratings, and feedback provided by customers about products and services.

  • Newsletters and marketing data: Information from users who opt-in for newsletters, promotions, and other marketing communications.

Potential risks and challenges for ecommerce businesses

  • Data breaches: With the amount and variety of data stored, ecommerce platforms are attractive targets for cybercriminals.

  • Consent management: Given the continuous interaction with users and various data collection points, managing and documenting consent can be challenging.

  • Cross-border data transfers: Ecommerce platforms often deal with cross-border transactions, which means adhering to data protection regulations of multiple regions.

  • Data overload: Storing the personal data of users more than needed can lead to increased storage costs and potential compliance risks.

  • Dependence on third parties: Ecommerce businesses often use third-party tools for payment processing, customer relationship management, and marketing, which adds to data handling complexities.

User rights under GDPR

GDPR's essence lies not just in data protection but in empowering individuals by granting them definitive rights over their personal data. For ecommerce companies, understanding these rights is crucial as it shapes interactions with users and enhances trust when companies collect data.

1. Right to information

Users have the right to know how their data is being used. Ecommerce businesses must provide transparent information about customers' personal data processing activities, typically through clear and concise privacy notices.

2. Right of access

Users can request access to their personal data. This means that businesses must provide a copy of the personal data that they processed, free of charge, and within one month of the submitted request, wherever possible.

3. Right to rectification

If personal data is inaccurate or incomplete, users have the right to have it corrected. For ecommerce businesses, this might involve updating account information or modifying transaction records. Prompt action on such requests not only ensures compliance but also boosts consumer trust and satisfaction.

4. Right to erasure

Users can request the deletion of their personal data under certain conditions, such as when the data is no longer necessary for its original purpose and ecommerce platforms must comply unless there's a compelling reason for continued processing.

5. Right to restrict processing

Users can limit how their data is used, especially in cases where data accuracy is contested or when the user has objected to processing. During this period, businesses are allowed to store data but not use it in any way.

6. Right to data portability

Users can request their personal data in a structured, commonly used, and machine-readable format. This right is particularly relevant if users wish to move their data between service providers. It promotes competition by allowing users to switch between platforms without losing their data.

7. Right to object

Users have the right to object to their personal data being processed for direct marketing purposes, research, or statistics. Ecommerce businesses must address objections unless they have valid reasons for processing.

8. Rights related to automated decision-making

Users can challenge and request a review of decisions made purely based on automated processing, such as algorithm-driven product recommendations or credit assessments. They have the right to understand the logic behind such decisions and their implications.

Steps for ecommerce businesses to maintain GDPR compliance in 2024

Adapting to the ever-evolving digital landscape means ensuring that ecommerce businesses not only meet the current GDPR standards but are also prepared for future shifts. Here are actionable steps for ecommerce platforms to remain compliant in 2024 and beyond.

1. Conduct regular data audits

Data controllers must assess the types of personal data stored, its sources, and the purposes for which it's used. This will help the data protection officer identify any redundant or unnecessary data collection and process data in alignment with GDPR principles while protecting the rights of data subjects.

2. Implement clear data privacy policies and practices

Clearly communicate how data is collected, processed, and stored. Make sure data protection policies are easy to understand and accessible to users, showcasing the business's commitment to data protection, which covers cookie identifiers and IP addresses.

3. Train staff with awareness programs

Ensure that all employees, especially those handling customer data, are well-informed about GDPR principles, the importance of data protection, and the procedures to follow. Regular refresher courses can further cement this knowledge and adapt to any changes in regulations.

4. Ensure secure data storage and transmission

Invest in robust encryption methods for both stored data and data in transit. Regularly test and update security systems to guard against breaches and unauthorized access. Remember, a proactive approach to security can save significant costs and reputational damage in the future.

5. Regularly review and update website cookies

Ensure that all cookies and trackers are GDPR compliant. Seek active and informed consent from users before deploying non-essential cookies and provide clear options to manage or opt out. Maintaining transparency about cookie usage enhances user trust and ensures smoother website interactions.

6. Establish a process for handling user data

Create streamlined procedures to quickly and efficiently handle user requests related to their GDPR rights, from data access to erasure. This includes ensuring a timely response and action. A clear, intuitive interface for these requests can simplify the process for both users and businesses.

7. Collaborate with GDPR-compliant third-party partners

Vet all third-party vendors, from payment processors to marketing tools, ensuring they adhere to GDPR standards. Collaborative compliance reduces vulnerabilities stemming from external sources. Consistent communication with partners ensures that any changes in their compliance status are promptly addressed.

8. Stay on top of evolving regulations

GDPR is not static. As data privacy concerns and technological advancements evolve, so will the regulations. Subscribe to GDPR news sources, attend seminars, or collaborate with legal experts to stay updated.

Key tools and resources for ecommerce GDPR compliance

Ensuring GDPR compliance in the world of ecommerce may seem daunting, but with the right tools and resources, businesses can ensure they remain compliant and also leverage the best in industry technology and practices.

Recommended GDPR compliance software and plugins

  • OneTrust: A comprehensive tool for privacy management, offering solutions for data mapping, consent collection, and DPIA assessments.

  • TrustArc: Offers a range of data privacy management solutions, including GDPR-specific tools.

  • Cookiebot: A cloud-driven solution that helps businesses manage user consents related to cookies, ensuring GDPR and ePrivacy Directive compliance.

  • WP GDPR Compliance: A popular plugin for WordPress-based ecommerce sites that assists with user data access requests, consent management, and more.

Community forums to learn about best practices

  • A comprehensive resource offering GDPR guidelines, news, and best practices. The site's forum and FAQ sections are great places for detailed insights.

  • Ecommerce Europe: This association provides various publications, webinars, and guidelines tailored to GDPR in the ecommerce sector.

  • Data Protection Network: A community-driven platform where professionals discuss GDPR topics, share insights, and offer guidance.

Leverage Gelato's print on demand platform to ensure GDPR compliance

Businesses are constantly on the hunt for tools that not only streamline operations but also prioritize data protection. At the core of Gelato's operations is a deep commitment to data privacy. When processing orders for custom products, such as t-shirts, mugs, phone cases, wall art, etc., the platform ensures every piece of personal information is handled strictly in line with GDPR regulations.

  • Robust encryption: Gelato goes the extra mile to ensure user data remains uncompromised. Harnessing cutting-edge encryption techniques, the platform encrypts data both at rest and in transit.

  • Secure protocols: Beyond encryption, Gelato’s platform is built upon secure protocols to prevent unauthorized access or data breaches. Regular security assessments and updates further strengthen the platform's data protection system.

  • Data handling and storage: Transparency is a principle of GDPR, which Gelato upholds in its user data handling. The platform offers clear insights into how data is being used, stored, and processed.

  • GDPR tools: To make GDPR compliance seamless for ecommerce businesses, Gelato provides tools and resources to manage user data effectively. From easy access to customer data upon request to tools that facilitate the right to erasure, Gelato stands as a beacon of trust in the print on demand arena.

Integrating Gelato gives print on demand businesses a powerful platform that not only offers custom merchandise production but also data protection. By choosing Gelato, businesses seamlessly elevate their merchandise game while enjoying the peace of mind that comes with their robust GDPR compliance. Sign up for Gelato today!


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