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Half of UK shoppers unwilling to share their personal data with retailers – but still want a personal experience

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Half of UK consumers are unwilling to share their personal data with retailers over concerns about how this is being used, with those aged over 55 revealed to be the least willing to provide any data (56%).

The independent research carried out by the global retail IT consultancy and technology firm REPL Group, also found that despite this reluctance of sharing data, 24% of shoppers said they would be drawn to those retailers that provide personalised in-store offers. 

Mike Callender, executive chairman, REPL Group, explains what is going on: “Much of this is about convenience. Consumers want a personalised and seamless shopping experience, which many now receive online. This is something that consumers will have become particularly used to over recent months when their only option has been to shop digitally. However, consumers must understand that this level of personalisation requires them to share their data with retailers.”

According to Callender, to encourage this, brands must be more open about what data they are collecting, how they are storing it and what they are using it for. Once they have achieved this, they should look to implement technologies such as AI and ML to deliver value back to their customers, by ensuring they have the right products in stock or providing offers tailored to the individual.

“This,” he says, “will be extremely useful in helping to draw people back to the high street when it is once again safe to do so.”

Moving forwards, retailers should look to join up the data they collect instore and online in order to gain a better understanding of their customers, their current shopping habits and how to engage with them.

“For instance,” says Callender, “for many confined to lockdown, social media apps are now more than ever providing a ‘window shopping’ service for customers with almost half (46%) of 25-34-year olds having bought something directly through social media, compared with 15% of over 55s.”

Data collected by retailers could be used not only to improve the instore shopping experience, but it could also help other areas of the business, such as returns. Online shopping has been a vital lifeline for consumers during the pandemic, however, the current model isn’t sustainable in the long-term as over a third (36%) of consumers reveal that they have bought multiple items online in one order with the intention of returning some. This figure rises to over half (56%) among 25-34-year olds. 

“Shopping with the intention of returning items is having a significant environmental impact, however, very few seem to be conscious of this, with 60% of consumers saying they don’t consider it when purchasing,” Callender says. “This approach isn’t sustainable and must change. Prior to deliveries becoming essential, we started to see retailers like ASOS introducing returns policies, which deactivate the accounts of serial returners if there’s a pattern of them deliberately buying multiple items and returning them.”

Callender concludes: “Other retailers should follow suit and use the data they have available to them to identify serial returners and explore ways in which they can appeal to these customers and help cut this down. For example, if the customer appears to be buying the same item in multiple sizes, using product information, customer data and AI, the retailer could make recommendations about which size is likely to be right, reducing wasted returns.”

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