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The consumer data give and take 

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

11 August 2020

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.”


Issued by Murray on behalf of Deloitte Ireland
For Further Information Please Contact

Orna Clarke
01 498 0300
087 677 0360

Fiona MacCarthy
086 825 0027

About the survey

The target group for this study are European consumers who are at
least 18 years old and who are either responsible for or influence the choices
of their household’s grocery purchases. The online survey was distributed in 15
European countries (Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France,
Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland,
and the United Kingdom) across a representative group of 15,000 consumers in
March 2020. In this report we share the results of the survey—what it could
mean for Europe’s leading grocery retailers and how they define or refine their
own data ethics principles, strategies, and processes.

About Deloitte

At Deloitte, we make an impact that matters for our clients, our people, our profession, and in the wider society by delivering the solutions and insights they need to address their most complex business challenges.

As the largest global professional services and consulting network, with over 312,000 professionals in more than 150 countries, we bring world-class capabilities and high-quality services to our clients.

In Ireland, Deloitte has approximately 3,000 people providing audit, tax, consulting, and financial advisory services to public and private clients spanning multiple industries. Our people have the leadership capabilities, experience and insight to collaborate with clients so they can move forward with confidence.

In this press release references to Deloitte are references to Deloitte Ireland LLP. The information contained in this press release is correct at the time of going to press. Deloitte Ireland LLP is the Ireland affiliate of Deloitte NSE LLP, a member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee (“DTTL”). DTTL and each of its member firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL and Deloitte NSE LLP do not provide services to clients. Please see to learn more about our global network of member firms.

The consumer data give and take
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