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Coronavirus: Test and Trace - What Does it Mean for Marketers?


This article is written by Sara Watts who is the Chair of the North Council and member of the Email Council Legal and Deliverability Hub. It was edited and reviewed by Steve Henderson, the Deputy Chair of the Email Council, and George Jones (DMA).

Bars Restaurants and certain other establishments must try to collect the name, address and contact details of people entering their businesses and store them for 21 days.

You can find the government’s guidelines on Test and Trace, here.

Do visitors have to give their information?

As of Friday 18 September, data collection to enable NHS Test and Trace will become mandatory for certain types of businesses.

What legislation do I need to be aware of?

It is important to be familiar with GDPR guidelines and PECR; the laws dictating how you collect and store information, and how you perform email and SMS marketing.

You must only collect the data you require, tell people why, keep it safe, give people choices and control where possible, and make sure marketing messages are sent with their permission. It is important to have a lawful and appropriate basis for processing of the test and trace data

It is advisable you read and understand the following:

GDPR for marketers: The essentials

Direct marketing guidance

Can I use the information I’ve already collected for Test and Trace?

If you’ve already collected this information via a booking system or marketing system, then make sure you ask the customer for their permission to share it with the Test and Trace system before you do so, ensuring you have a process to distinguish between the people who say yes and the people who say no.

Should I use my own technology or a third-party company?

This is a business decision, depending on what systems you have in place or can put in place and your target audience. If you use a third party, make sure you have questioned them about their data processing and security, and how they adhere to the guidelines. Your contract or agreement must contain a data processing section explaining the data sharing, processing, obligations, and SLAs to ensure you can meet your own obligations.

Your Test and Trace process may not need an app or a complicated system as long as you follow the guidelines and have data processing and security covered. This can be as simple as a form, spreadsheet or simple database.

Simple mistakes to avoid:

  • Do not make other customer’s details visible to other customers
  • Store details safely and securely, limiting staff access to only those who need it
  • Delete it after the Test and Trace period

If mistakes are made regarding the misuse of data, large fines can be issued. It is advisable you are fully aware of all related legislation. If you are unsure if you are compliant then seek legal advice.

You can find the ICO guidelines, here.

Don’t forget about training

It is important that you make sure every employee that might be involved in the collecting or storing of the data is trained and understands the importance of keeping the data securely and what to do if someone requests that their data is removed. It is a good idea to make sure everyone knows what and why you are doing something and the consequences if the data is misused.

The DMA code is also a good resource for companies building a data protection training programme.

Next comes the exciting bit, looking at all the ways you can enhance these Test and Trace processes into data collection, marketing, and PR opportunities

Firstly, look at all the extra measures you have had to put in place. These can include but are not limited to:

  • Collecting the Test and Trace data
  • Having people wearing facemasks when working or getting to and from your establishment
  • Social distancing measures in place
  • Not having physical menus
  • Increase in hygiene measures

Then look at your target market – what does your existing and target customer look like, what age are they, where to they come from, what do they do, how often do they come to your establishment, what are their technical capabilities?

Start to work through the changes and look at how you can turn them into opportunities, which will make for a more positive experience for your customers, make them visit more regularly and attract new customers. Do not forget to consider the customer when looking for solutions and opportunities.

Test and Trace is an opportunity to gain marketing permissions

Consent is just one option when looking at how to collect data, but when talking and dealing with Test and Trace data, consent should be the only option used.

As part of the Test and Trace process, tell customers about future events and offers. Inform them about your mailing list and ask if they want to hear about those events and offers first.

If you get permission to use the information to send them marketing, it gives you a massive opportunity to continue the conversation and start to build that longer-term relationship with them. When this is done correctly it adds value to them and makes them a more valuable customer to you.

Points to consider when asking them for marketing permission:

  • Have a clear plan of how you are going to send marketing information, how often and what sort of marketing – and make sure this is made clear to the person when you ask for the permission
  • Consider how you are going to store the permissions
  • Make sure every communication gives them the opportunity to change their mind
  • All companies should have a privacy policy, check this is in place and is updated
  • Have someone who is responsible for the marketing – if you have a marketing process already this can become part of it, if not this is a great opportunity to build a marketing strategy from scratch
  • Consider if this will be a tick box or someone physically asking someone and then think about what would encourage people to say yes –look at your audience and think what will appeal to them
  • If you are gathering consent verbally, staff need to follow a set script and ensure that they record the answer accurately, staff training it crucial

The DMA have a template available to members for model data capture statements. Visit the DMA website for more details.

Is it ok to incentivise people to sign up?

You can incentivise people to register for marketing if the incentive is not disproportionate and does not prohibit the people who do not sign up from taking part. For example, you could not say you can only come in if you sign up, but you could say you can access the booking app a day early if you are signed up.

For example, you couldn't say, only people who have given marketing permissions can access the internet, but you could say you can access faster internet or unlimited internet. It is also perfectly ok to offer a free drink or a small discount.

Think about your audience and what will appeal to them specifically. Think about the cost to you versus the value of gaining the permission to market to them, and consider using the opportunity to offer something they might not have considered otherwise.

You can read the ICO’s guidelines on incentivising people here.

Consider branded merchandise

Do not forget the masks – a nice way to include merchandise is to offer a branded mask in exchange for signing up for marketing information. Remember to also offer them for sale so they are not off limits for people who don’t want to give permission for marketing. Other ideas could include branded pens, t-shirts, hand sanitiser or anti-bac wipes.

Make sure the terms and conditions of the offer are clear and available.

Delay the offer

The offer could always be redeemable on the next visit, to help encourage them to return and to open the first communication you send.

How can the other changes that you have had to make create an opportunity?

Stand out from the crowd

Do things which will get people talking about you in a positive way on social media and in real life. For example, if you have to mark a seat as "out of use", don’t just go with a red cross, use it as an opportunity to display something people will want to photograph or mention. This could be something funny or clever, and use that to block out the use of the seat – remember your audience and your brand when doing this, it has to make sense to your current audience.

This restaurant used teddy bears, which made it into most of the national papers and several news channels.

Be audience-aware

Menus have been replaced with boards, QR codes, apps, and disposable menues.

You must make sure they are accessible and appropriate for your audience. The whole idea of this guide stemmed from sitting in a restaurant where the menu had been replaced with a board on the wall or a QR code that could be scanned at the table.

Customers were mainly couples in the 40 - 70 age range. Nearly everyone waved their phones about then got their glasses out, then fiddled with the phones for a bit and then waved them over the code a bit more and then walked over to the menu and squinted at the options – all whilst breaking social distancing measures.

This process was designed for the knowledge and capabilities of the staff in their 20s and 30s. Be audience-aware and provide alternatives either for different age groups or for accessibility purposes.

Other opportunities

Whatever option you use, it’s an opportunity to market your brand and product:

Scanned menus: include a send/forward to your friend option, where you both get a discount once your friend has visited – just make sure the customer forwards it rather than asking for the friend’s contact details.

Disposable menus: make it attractive and include something on it which encourages them to sign up and or take the menu away with them. If you offer takeaway as well, give an incentive to order within a set period with a time sensitive offer.

Family groups: If you encourage conversation and interactions, families will stay longer. Combine how to promote this on social media so they share that positive experience. Think about a photo competition, an online quiz or where they draw or invent a new dessert or cocktail which represents their family. Think audience and think brand.


When a table has been cleaned use a sign to highlight this, this will reassure people and create another opportunity to market or promote something on the sign. Make sure the cleaning station is clean, on brand and inviting – consider individual packets of branded wipes that people can use for extra reassurance then take away with them.

Each item is an opportunity to get people to follow you on social media and highlight promotions. These are just a few examples and they really will be unique to your business, just take the time to review the changes and look for the opportunity.

If you have seen any brilliant examples of where people are using these changes as an opportunity, then please include them in the comments.

We will also be considering adding a category to the DMA for the best use of marketing when implementing changes during the pandemic.

Hear more from the DMA

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