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The consumer data give and take - Deloitte

A study by Deloitte and Ahold Delhaize into European attitudes on the use of consumer data by grocery retailers

Grocery retailers are the second most trusted organisations for Irish consumers’ data after medical services providers, and more than even government institutions, according to a new study by Deloitte and grocery retail group Ahold Delhaize.

But it is equally clear that consumers have high expectations about transparency, choice, and control over their data. Trust needs to be earned—and grocers have an important responsibility to maintain it.  

This new report by Deloitte Global and Ahold Delhaize, a leading global grocery retail group, sets out the findings from an online survey across 15 countries, including Ireland, and 15,000 respondents into European attitudes on the use of consumer data by organizations and grocery retailers in particular.

The introduction of loyalty programs, the growth of online shopping, and digital marketing are just some of the influences that have changed the face of retail. Grocery shopping data is a potential source of valuable insights into consumers’ lives, providing information, for example, about household composition, lifestyle preferences, general health, household wealth and dietary preference. Grocery shopping data used to be anonymous (largely based on basket composition), but the introduction of loyalty cards and the move to online has increased retailers’ potential understanding of the behaviour and preferences of individual consumers. “This increased ability to understand consumers needs to be used responsibly, with consumers’ preferences at the core,” says Daniel Murray, Partner and Head of Consumer at Deloitte Ireland. “Service providers should be aware of how customers feel about their data being used and the types of services that consumers are willing to share their data for.”

Consumers generally trust grocery retailers with their data
The research reveals a willingness among consumers to share their data with grocery retailers, who are generally trusted by consumers. With only 30% of respondents across Europe indicating they are unwilling to share their data, this is more favorable than for non-grocery retailers, financial institutions, digital platforms, and social media platforms. In Ireland, medical service providers are the only other organizations that consumers in Ireland trust more with their data, with grocery retailers ranking ahead of even government institutions in Ireland, UK, France and Belgium.

Age and current online behavior are the two parameters that have the strongest correlations to consumer data perceptions. There is a greater willingness to share personal data among younger consumers and those who shop online more frequently. Young people in the 18 to 29 age group are more willing to share personal data (an average of 3.1 on the scale 1 to 5) than those who are 60 years or older (2.6). Respondents who frequently conduct their grocery shopping online are more willing to share their information—the average for individuals who shop online on a weekly basis was 3.3 (on the scale 1 to 5), compared to 2.7 for those who never shop online. This could indicate a more relaxed attitude toward sharing personal information among younger people and as online grocery shopping becomes a more established practice.

There is no typical consumer
There are significant differences across Europe around the willingness of consumers to share data. Respondents from Romania and Greece are the most willing to share personal information: 38% and 35% respectively are “somewhat willing” or “very willing” to do so. Finland and Germany are least willing, with 8% and 15% respectively. Compared to respondents from Finland and Germany, those from the Netherlands (16%) and Belgium (21%) are a little more willing to share their data, followed by those from France (26%), Ireland (27%) and the United Kingdom (29%). This could be due to cultural differences between countries, local legislation, and the pace at which countries adopt and embrace technology.

What types of data are consumers most comfortable sharing?
Respondents were asked about their willingness to share 18 types of personal information, such as demographic data and information about health and income. In general, they are willing to share data on demographics and about the products they buy and how often—59% are “very willing or “somewhat willing” to share data on product purchase and their level of education. Almost 40% of respondents are willing to share detailed health information such as allergies and heart rate, but only 28% are willing to share location data. The strongest resistance is to sharing financial information, with two-thirds of respondents being “not at all willing” to share their bank account transactions.

Making ethical use of personal data in grocery retailing
The findings from this report show that although consumers generally trust grocery retailers with their data, they feel there is room for improvement when it comes to transparency, choice, and control over their personal data. The report also looks at how the industry may justify this trust and develop personalized marketing in an ethical way.

Creating trust in today’s digital society requires that companies pay attention to the emerging domain of “data ethics”—the ways in which they collect data, combine data sources, and use data with other digital technologies, for example, data-driven algorithms. “Data ethics should be at the top of the digital transformation agenda for all companies gathering consumer information. It’s important that companies are transparent about what data they are collecting, what they are doing with it, what third-party data they are purchasing, and how are they leveraging it,” says Daniel Murray. “Data-use allows for personalisation of products, enabling companies to be more efficient and create a better customer experience. But these benefits are only possible with trust: trust that the data economy is ultimately about serving the customer and not just about leveraging customer data for corporate benefit.”