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What Does GDPR actually mean..without Legal Speak!

On May 25, a new legislation called GDPR came into effect in Europe. GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation, and its provides enhanced data protection rights to EU citizens.

Do I need to comply with the new legislation?

If your business has an entity or is based in the EU, and/or if your business is based outside of the EU but collects and processes personal data of EU citizens, then GDPR applies and you will have to comply with the updated policies.

Outside of this definition, compliance is not mandatory, but it’s a good time to take a look at your business’ data processing terms and privacy policies to support the protection and security of information belonging to individuals.

It could also be a good time to make any necessary upgrades to workplace training, conduct and policies to ensure your business is inline with what the GDPR really represents, which is the right for all of us to protect and control our personal information.

What happens if I don’t comply?

Non compliance can lead to hefty fines. For lower level infringements, this could result in fines of up to €10 million, or 2% annual global turnover (whichever is higher), and for higher level up to €20 million, or 4% annual global turnover (whichever is higher). To put the fines into context, companies such as Google or Facebook could face fines up to a few billion dollars for non-compliance.

Besides fines, regulatory authorities can impose data processing bans, data erasure or suspending data transfers to other countries.

What makes GDPR different to other data protection laws?

Data protection is not new, and pretty much every country has data protection legislation. However, under GDPR, the definition of “personal information” is expanded from general data such as name and email to include things like genetic data, IP address, photos or videos and device IDs.

The inclusion of “data processors” in the GDPR is also new. Traditional privacy laws focus on controllers, or entities that collect data. Under this new legislation, those who look at the data and process it are also included and subject to its provisions. For example, Sparkline would be considered a data processor, an entity that doesn’t collect data but analyses it to extract insights.

Am I a data controller or processor?

Sometimes a business can be both a data controller and processor, for instance, an airline. They collect data on your flight bookings and/or loyalty membership, as well as process the data to offer you more relevant offers and better experiences.

Any individual or business entity (this could be a corporation, partnership or limited liability company) can be a data controller. If you use information such as email addresses to send newsletters to your subscribers/customers, then you are a data controller. If you use cookies to re-market to your website visitors or customer, then you are a data controller. if you use your website users’ behavioral data or browsing history to provide personalised user experience, then you are a data controller.

Who is protected by this new legislation?

People covered by the new protections are referred to as “data subjects”. Data subjects are considered EU citizens residing in the EU, as well as those who may be travelling or temporarily residing in the EU. So basically, if data is processed within the EU borders, those people are covered as data subjects.

Once you leave the EU borders though, whether you are an EU citizen or not, you are no longer covered as a data subject, and local data processing and privacy protections would apply as they always have.

What protection does the new legislation offer people?

GDPR offers data subjects a list of rights to which they are entitled, regarding the storing and processing of their data.

#1 The right to be notified of a data breach

Under GDPR, whenever there is a personal data breach, the data processors must notify the data controllers. The data controllers must notify supervisory authorities and data subjects as soon as possible. This must be done within 72 hours of first having become aware of the breach.

#2 The right to access their data

GDPR requires more transparency between businesses and individuals at the time of consent regarding data collection and use.

All data subjects have the right to know:

If their personal data is being used
How they can access it
How they can change or delete it
Why it’s being used or who it’s shared with
How long it will be stored

#3 The right to be forgotten

If a data subject asks you to erase his personal data, you must comply ASAP (provided you have no legal grounds to keep processing it). You should delete data subjects’ information in the following events: you no longer need it, the data was used unlawfully, or if a data subject exercises their right to object.

#4 The right to object

A data subject has the right to object at any time to their personal data being used for direct marketing or any other legitimate purpose. For example, if a data subject asks you to stop retargeting them, then you must do so.

#5 The right to rectification

A data subject has the right to ask you to update their personal data if it’s incorrect or incomplete.

#6 Privacy by design

Privacy by design is an approach to designing projects, processes, products or systems that promote privacy and data protection compliance from the start. This concept expects data controllers to hold and process only the data absolutely necessary for the completion of its duties (called “data minimisation”), as well as limiting the access of personal data to those needing to process it.

How will these rights be enforced?

Large organisations are required to appoint DPOs (data protection officers), in a lot of cases, more than one. Their job as GDPR experts is to enforce compliance within a company and are in charge of all data processing within organisations. In each EU state there will be a Supervisory Authority, who will have the power to conduct audits, order compliance with GDPR and issue fines and warnings.

Disclaimer: Sparkline are data people, not legal people. We recommend that you seek proper legal advice for any business decisions, just as we did!

Putting GDPR Into Practice

It’s easy to see why the new GDPR legislation has thrown businesses around the world into a spin. Ascertaining whether or not your business needs to make changes in order to be GDPR compliant and then managing these changes can be a daunting prospect.

With big companies heavily promoting their data privacy and protection updates, investing and boasting about buzz recognition certs like SOC-2, ISO 27001, and the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, knowing what your business needs to do can be overwhelming.

It’s good to keep in mind that these large businesses have had law firms and legal teams preparing their compliance for the past 18 months in preparation for the legislation.

What can I do to ensure my business is GDPR compliant?

Ensuring GDPR compliance within a business can be difficult to implement, enforce and educate teams when you have such a large scaled organisation, with a lot of data and plenty of room for error.

The first step is knowing if your business is physically based or has an entity in the EU. Finding out whether or not your business collects and processes the data from EU citizens is tricker.

Ask yourself these questions to judge the risk of breach and assess the levels of compliance necessary for your business:

Do you sell products or services targeting EU citizens?

Do you have data showing people in the EU bought your products?

Do you track digital properties such as a website or app with marketing tech tools, and is there a possibility or reality of an EU citizen landing on one of these properties?

Do you target EU citizens through marketing?

Have you in the past collected, or are actively collecting, data of EU citizens through surveys, or has an EU citizen emailed you or your business questions on products and services?

If you think there are chances of the above, then you need to assess your risk and decide what actions are necessary. Do you need to review your own data processing policies? Do you need a lawyer to review your privacy policies? All of these questions come back to your perspective on the relevance of these changes to your business and the risk inaction poses going into the future as GDPR comes into full effect.

Disclaimer: Sparkline are data people, not legal people. We recommend that you seek proper legal advice for any business decisions, just as we did!

GDPR – Advice

Has your inbox been flooded with updated privacy policies and data processing terms in the past few months? The reason is a new legislation in Europe, called GDPR, which makes it harder for businesses to keep personal data, as well as governing how businesses can collect and use information.

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation, and from May 25 it provides enhanced data protection rights to EU citizens. In the future, the legislation is predicted to move beyond Europe, particularly in light of recent cases where established analytics companies have been accused of obtaining and using people’s data without their consent.

As people become more wary of how their data is being stored and used, we expect that more stringent laws such as GDPR will come into play elsewhere in the world.

If you are a business and have a website, mailing list, shop or any kind of facility for collecting and/or processing data (which is virtually every business), you should be aware of GDPR and what you should do to be compliant.

  • Consult a lawyer or legal firm’s advice if you are in the data collection or processing business.
  • Apply logic to the new policies. With every decision, think about the risk to you/your business and whether you need full overhauls of privacy policies or just tweaks. Most countries already have data protection laws, so if your business complies with existing laws, the GDPR update is simply a further tightening of what’s already in place.
  • Don’t panic. These new laws are good for all of us! The new legislation gives the power of information back to the people that should have it: you!
  • Making large organisations compliant presents the biggest challenge, where there is a lot of information stored in numerous places and managed by many groups. If this is you, consider how your business can maintain stringent data policies. What tweaks need to be made to your existing technology? What training will your teams need and what permissions will need altering for consumers? You’ll also need to look into what governance tools you can use to catch instances of PII (public identifiable information) leakage, as well as maintaining data quality and accuracy.
  • Take a look at Sparkline’s Web and Mobile analytics auditor to help enhance the quality of your data and limit PII leakage in scalable ways.

Disclaimer: Sparkline are data people, not legal people. We recommend that you seek proper legal advice for any business decisions, just as we did!

Partnership to aid e-commerce entrepreneurs, SMEs to become more nimble

Partnership to aid e-commerce entrepreneurs, SMEs to become more nimble

  • Partners Nanyang Polytechnic, SNEF, Sparkline, and Singapore University of Social Sciences
  • More than 1,000 people are expected to complete courses between April to December 2018

(From left) Lazada Group Platform Governance senior VP Michelle Yip; Lazada Singapore CEO Alexis Lanternier; Nanyang Polytechnic deputy principal Edward Ho; Singapore National Employers Federation assistant executive director Stephen Yee; Sparkline co-founder and managing partner Aleetza Senn; Singapore University of Social Sciences president Professor Cheong Hee Kiat; and Tech2Cool CEO Prasenjit Sarkar

IN A first-of-its kind partnership, Southeast Asian e-commerce company Lazada Group is joining hands with higher learning institutes and data analytics experts to jointly develop online and offline training courses for entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to become more nimble and capitalise on the e-commerce boom in the region.

Lazada formalised the partnership with Nanyang Polytechnic’s Singapore Institute of Retail Studies (SIRS), Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), Singapore-based data analytics firm Sparkline, and Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

This is part of Lazada’s commitment to empower sellers with the right tools and build an ecosystem within which they can grow. In Singapore, the company is taking this one step further as it sees synergies with the government’s go-digital push and the growth of e-commerce in Singapore and Southeast Asia. It hopes to work with partners to bring these programmes to the rest of its markets.

“Thanks to the expertise of the partners that we have brought together today, we are able to enrich the offerings on Lazada University to help our 155,000 sellers across the region become more knowledgeable in e-commerce operations and opportunities both in Singapore and Southeast Asia. Lazada sees it as our mission to help the sellers on our platform grow and are happy to work with like-minded organisations,” said Alexis Lanternier, chief executive officer, Lazada Singapore.

More than 1,000 people, ranging from existing and new sellers on Lazada, SME owners, professionals, managers and operational staff, are expected to complete courses between April to December 2018. Topics covered include supply chain and inventory management, introduction to data analytics and how business owners can sell efficiently and effectively in Southeast Asia’s e-commerce market.

All courses are in English. The courses will be available on Lazada University’s new online learning management system. The new system enables sellers to access training materials on their phones, making training more convenient and on-the-go. Singaporeans above 25-year-old will be able to use their SkillsFuture Credit to offset for two existing courses – Getting started on Lazada (Onboarding) and Implement Innovative Change.

How to accurately track clicks from aggregator sites


GoBear is an insurance policy and credit card research aggregator service. It is critical for GoBear to track the number of clicks directed to its partners’ websites. On the other hand, it is equally important for the partner (e.g. an insurance company or a credit card provider) to measure the number of inbound clicks from GoBear.

Gobear Search Results


When a user clicks on the “Go To Provider” button, GoBear tracks this as a “click out” on its end using event tracking. However, the partner also needs to keep track of the click that it receives using an equivalent metric.

“How can the partner track the inbound clicks from GoBear?”

The partner cannot rely on the number of sessions referred from GoBear because this will not be an equivalent comparison to GoBear’s clicks. If the user clicks multiple times within a short period of time, it will be seen as one session on the partner’s Google Analytics reports, but recognised as several clicks in GoBear’s reports. Also, not all clicks would be successfully directed to the partner site if users close their browser before the partner site loads.

Sparkline Solution

For tracking inbound traffic, the partner site can use a Custom Metric to track the number of inbound referrals from GoBear.

  1. Create a Custom Metric called “Lead Count” in Google Analytics (GA).
  2. Create a Constant variable to hold the GA index assigned to “Lead Count”.
  3. Create a Custom JavaScript variable called “CJS Lead Count” in Google Tag Manager (GTM). Depending on the Referrer variable, this will be set to 1 or 0.
  4. Set the “CJS Lead Count” in the GA Pageview tag along with its corresponding index.

Step 1:

Create a custom metric in Google Analytics following the steps in Google Help.

Step 2:

Create a Constant variable and set its value to the index of the Lead Count custom metric assigned in Google Analytics. Here, the index is assumed to be 2.


Step 3.1:

In GTM, configure the “Referrer” built-in variable.


For example, let us count the inbound traffic from “www.gobear.com/sg. The value of “Referrer” will contain “www.gobear.com”.

Step 3.2:

Create a Custom JavaScript variable with the condition to check if the referrer is the aggregator site (in our example, it is gobear.com) and set the counter value to 1 or 0 accordingly.

gobear_step 3.2


function() {
return {{Referrer}}.indexOf("gobear.com") > -1 ? 1 : 0;

Step 4:

Set this Custom JavaScript variable in the GA Pageview tag (reference: Google Help).



As a result of this, the partner-site will be able to track the number of inbound referrals from its aggregator sites. For example:


This will allow them to better compare click out metrics reported by GoBear instead of trying to reconcile session numbers.

Google Data Studio now offers unlimited reports for free!

Yes, you read that right! Google has removed the 5 report limit on the free version of Google Data Studio. Users can enjoy the product with its full capability for free. This goes hand-in-hand with Google’s mission to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”.

What is Google Data Studio?

Google Data Studio is a reporting tool and is part of the Google Analytics 360 suite. You can create your own branded reports and dashboards and share it with your team. It seamlessly integrates with Google Analytics 360, Google Sheets, Google BigQuery, YouTube Analytics, databases and more. Data Studio converts the analytics data into informational, easy-to-understand reports through data visualization. Users can choose the types of visualization, such as charts, graphs, geo-maps, tables, etc.

A sample Google Data Studio dashboard (Link)

A sample Google Data Studio dashboard (Link)

Google Data studio is currently available in 37 languages and supports number, date, and time formats in those locales. Data Studio can also handle 59 international currencies. It is available in selected countries (list of supported countries) and will be made available in more countries moving forward.

Next Steps

  • Head to the official Google Data Studio website (link) to find out more about its features, resources, and examples.
  • Read through the official blog post from Google on the removal of the reports limit (link).
  • Contact Sparkline on how to make the best use of Data Studio with Analytics data!
Sparkline helps insurance meta search engine ​GoBear nail data analytics from the outset

Sparkline helps insurance meta search engine ​GoBear nail data analytics from the outset


In the first few years of setting up a business, there are so many things for a fledgling company to think about – hiring, managing cashflow, growing sales to name a few. The notion of analysing their customer data from the outset by making sure they have the right measurement tools and processes in place can appear just too daunting or is unlikely to register as a priority. However, taking steps at this early stage in a company’s development to get data analytics right can pay dividends and avoid a lot of headaches further down the line.

As a start business, GoBear had the foresight and engaged the technical and analytical support from analytics consultancy Sparkline, to enable them to get it right from the outset.

Sparkline helped GoBear in building dashboards and setting up Google Analytics Premium to gain deeper insights on user behaviour on the GoBear website.


Launched in early 2015, GoBear is an insurance search engine that allows users to browse for car, travel and health insurance via price and usage. It does not sell insurance directly – users are automatically transferred to the insurer’s or agent’s website to make their purchases. GoBear is headquartered in Singapore and its team has been chosen based on experience, knowledge and ambition to actively transform the process of online shopping by offering a fast, concise and coherent comparison of car and travel insurance plans.

Headed by Andre Hesselink, this free service compares hundreds of insurance policies, providing users with a transparent and unbiased comparison of prices, coverage and other policy features in just a few seconds.

GoBear realised that Singaporeans were not just interested in the cheapest plan, but the plan that represented the best value for their needs. This, coupled with a user-friendly site (both on mobile and desktop), is the heartbeat of GoBear’s vision and strategy. The mobile and tablet-friendly GoBear platform allows users to compare the car and travel insurance offerings of a variety of companies and then purchase the chosen plan, all on a single platform. Some of the insurers on GoBear’s platform include Citibank, UOI, MSIG, QBE, NTUC Income and Great Eastern to name a few.


Having worked in previous online ventures for many years, Hesselink was already aware of the importance of data analytics to the growth of the GoBear business.

However, there was a recognition that greater customization of their analytics capabilities was necessary to ensure a positive online experience for customers from the outset, particularly as purchasing insurance online is still a new concept for many Singaporeans used to buying insurance through a physical broker.


To help them develop the level of customization required, GoBear brought in the team at Sparkline. Sparkline implemented Google Analytics Premium as the central analytics platform to provide a greater understanding of customer behaviour and preference. The implementation was customised to align with GoBear’s key business objectives.

Sparkline then created a customized dashboard for GoBear, built on top of the Google Analytics Premium (GAP) API, simplifying the monitoring process and enabling the team to analyze customer behaviour as they navigate through the site.

The dashboard provides a visualization of how users are interacting with the GoBear website and which areas of the user experience require attention.


What began as an engagement for Sparkline helping GoBear to implement Google Analytics Premium, grew into a consultancy which helped GoBear leverage actionable insights from the data to improve customer and business intelligence.

As a result of having access to Google Analytics data and dashboards, GoBear now has insights into how users are interacting with the site, thereby offering GoBear users an even more enriched experience.

The dashboard provides the GoBear team an overview of the key metrics, with presentation customised to their business model, that has helped in quicker and more relevant decision making.


As a company that’s based online, understanding user data is a key component in our business in order to get insight into what our users want, and how we can improve to help them even more efficiently. Sparkline has been integral in supporting our growth.

Andre Hesselink, CEO

Online shopping in Indonesia is booming. Are you ready to take advantage?

Online shopping in Indonesia is booming. Are you ready to take advantage?

$3.5 billion: the amount in sales e­commerce sites in Indonesia are set to generate this year. A princely sum, and one that is expected to grow further. 16% of Indonesia’s population purchased something off the Internet via a PC, and 9% did so over their phones, in just December 2014 alone (We Are Social). These numbers are only going to go up as Indonesians become more Internet savvy.

This boom in online shopping heralds an exciting time, but how then, to keep the good times going? The marketplace is teeming with businesses being labelled ‘the next big thing’ like Jualo, Fabelio and HappyFresh (Tech in Asia). To stay ahead of the competitive curve, you need to understand your customers’ needs and desires, and data analytics is an invaluable tool to help you do this.

The world of data can appear overwhelming, but with the right kind of help, you too can boost your business intelligence. And it’s not always about huge changes. As a first step, here are the top four areas you should start measuring to ensure you stay one step ahead, by giving customers what they want, when they want it.


Indonesia had 83 million internet users in 2014, and SingPost eCommerce predicts that number to swell to almost 103 million by 2016. Just 4.6 million Indonesians made a purchase online in 2013, but twice as many will be shoppers in the online marketplace by 2016. Huge potential for attracting new customers. But could you be spending your marketing budget more wisely?

Data analysis can help you pinpoint audience segments more likely to convert into loyal paying customers, and the platforms where you can reach them. Undertaking an analysis of the characteristics of this customer pool and playing to this can also help your business stand out. Your data might show you that a customer has been looking for a particular product, so you can personalise advertising and site content that pushes this, or similar products they might be interested in.

Similarly, more Indonesians are taking their shopping online while stuck in traffic jams to save time, spending on average two and a half hours on mobile internet per day, so are you targeting these people the right way? Rather than wasting your money on people who aren’t interested, getting to understand where your most valuable potential customers are spending their time and how best to reach them there will help your marketing budget work harder for you.


So now you’ve got your audience, how do you convert them to paying customers and retain them? Churn, or your customer attrition rate, is the percentage of visitors who never return to your site. Data analysis can pinpoint what makes people leave, providing the insights you need to address specific concerns. It could be something as simple as a button in the wrong place that is turning your customers off. It could also mean you need to put more effort into re­targeting your audience.

Pitching them again can also make them aware of current and future products you have available, and drive demand. A ‘test and iterate’ approach using data analysis is crucial here ­ baby steps! ­ to identify what’s going wrong, and where. Making targeted improvements can help keep customer satisfaction high across the board, so you retain more customers, and, crucially, keep them coming back for more.


Placing an item in the shopping cart signals an intent to buy, so it can be frustrating when customers don’t take that final step to make an actual purchase. Where are people dropping off in the sales process and why? People give up their decision to purchase for all kinds of reasons, like when confronted with complex payment processes or unexpected shipping fees.

Data analysis can help you find out exactly where and why customers abandon ship, so you can fix these issues and provide adequate support that will drive more purchases. By making the purchasing experience a smooth and user­ friendly one, you’ll be able to convert more people into paying customers, and entice them to stay rather than go elsewhere.


As a retailer, your Average Order Value (AOV) is an absolutely key metric you need to measure. Paying attention to how much each customer spends on average will give you a good idea of how much revenue you can generate. The higher this number is, the better. Watch your AOV closely, and diagnose any changes you see. It might have to do with your checkout process, the items you’re selling or the marketing acquisition process.

One simple trick can also make this measurement work even harder for you, and help you identify where your best customers are coming from. Segment your visitors and marketing campaigns in your AOV measurements, and compare that to a baseline AOV from your current volume of traffic. That way, you can see where your marketing money is best spent, and focus your future attention on campaigns that will help you capture more big spenders.

It’s clear that there’s a world of opportunity out there for ecommerce businesses. But if you don’t make the change to a data­ driven strategy, you won’t see the best results. In a mobile driven market, brands can become more accessible by investing in digital ­ will you join the ranks of the top Indonesian brands who have already done so? You don’t need to feel left behind. By adopting the tactics outlined above you can gain a competitive advantage.

You don’t have to go it alone. There are experts out there who can help you navigate and understand your data, by helping you to pick out the best in breed solutions and technologies that best fit your particular business. Then you too can be part of the ecommerce boom.

Vinoaj Vijeyakumaar

Managing Partner & Co-Founder


Vinoaj Vijeyakumaar is Managing Partner and Co‐Founder of Sparkline, one of Asia’s fastest growing integrated data analysis consultancies, working with some of the world’s biggest brands to help them effectively manage, and interpret their customer data, enabling them to better understand, engage and communicate with their customers. Clients include e‐commerce success story Luxola, dtac, Bangkok Airways, IKEA and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.