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85% of SMEs understand GDPR but legal requirements are still not being met, new survey reveals


  • 85 percent of UK SMEs are familiar with the GDPR and 80 percent are aware that the GDPR requires data to be kept clean and accurate
  • More than half of SMEs do not clean their data
  • Only 40 percent hold their consumer data in a CRM or similar database
  • 42 percent of SMEs use direct mail to contact their customers or recruit new ones

London, 9 August 2021 – A new survey has revealed that 85 percent of the small- to medium-sized businesses in the UK are familiar with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), but more than half are still not cleaning their data and therefore not adhering to the GDPR’s legal requirements.

The survey of 1,110 SMEs, conducted in June by marketing data and insight company REaD Group, also revealed that only 40 percent hold their customer and prospect data in a CRM or other database: a surprisingly low figure given that businesses need to maintain contact with their customers for sales and marketing purposes, and never more so than over the past 15 months. Twenty-five percent of those with a CRM indicated they did not run data cleaning or update processes: this rose to 61 percent of SMEs overall. The GDPR requires all customer data to be clean and up-to-date in order to be compliant and legal.

REaD Group logo
REaD Group logo

Positively, the survey revealed that awareness of GDPR is high: 85 percent of all SMEs said they were familiar with the GDPR, regardless of whether they had customer data in a CRM or other database. Of those with a CRM or database, only six percent were not familiar, meaning that the majority of those who hold customer or prospect data are familiar with the regulations governing storage of that data. Eighty percent of all respondents were aware that GDPR requires data to be kept clean and accurate or be deleted: although this still leaves one-fifth of SMEs who were not.

Direct mail remains a popular form of marketing with 42 percent of all respondents confirming they use physical mailing for communicating with and/or marketing to their customers. Sixty percent of SMEs with a CRM carry out physical mailings, while 30 percent of those without a CRM also carry out physical mailings: it is likely that these communications are not well targeted.

“It was positive to see that awareness of the GDPR and the requirement to keep data clean and accurate (or else delete it) was so high amongst the UK’s SMEs, which would indicate that the GDPR has firmly embedded itself,” commented Scott Logie, Customer Engagement Director at REaD Group. “And while the majority of SMEs with a CRM or other database were aware of the need to clean and update or delete their data, there are still a significant proportion who must ensure they run the necessary cleaning or updating processes required by the GDPR.

“We were also intrigued by the fact that only 40 percent of SMEs hold their data in a CRM or other database. Irrespective of the format it is held in, centralising the customer data a company holds into a CRM or database is important, because it makes the storage, management and upkeep so much easier and, as a result, any marketing processes so much more efficient and effective too.”

Download the full report here:

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Notes to Editors
The research was conducted amongst 1,110 SMEs with a turnover of up to £25 million in June 2021 by Customer Care Research. The results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria, with the emphasis on turnovers up to £4.9m.

For an interview with REaD Group, please contact:
Kate Gordon
Bright Spark PR for REaD Group

About REaD Group
REaD Group is a marketing data and insight company that gives brands the right to be personal. Data – particularly quality data and data quality – is at the heart of everything it does: REaD believes that there isn’t a marketing challenge that data cannot solve.

To genuinely engage customers, brands must create communications that are timely, relevant and permissioned. REaD uses its unrivalled data products, insight and expertise to helps its clients get closer to their customers, offering market-leading data quality and cleaning solutions and trusted marketing data.

For more information visit

About Customer Care Research
Customer Care Research is an independent organisation providing expert customer focused Business to Business, Trade, and Consumer Qualitative & Quantitative Research and Communications in the UK and abroad.

It recognises that good research and information projects are developed within a partnership between themselves and the client.

Its specialist customer, client, prospect and competitor knowledge insight provides input into current business action plans, customer relationship initiatives, image and brand evaluation and future strategy.

For more information visit