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Grocery retailers: Consumers trust you with their data, to a point

Grocery stores have been venturing into the digital world for years now. It’s almost unthinkable to walk into a grocery store without a loyalty card these days. And during this pandemic, we’ve seen how online purchasing of groceries has stepped up and is going to be further refined. These two digital forays alone offer grocers a wealth of personal data to use. The question, then is, should they, and to what extent?

To answer this, Deloitte Global and Ahold Delhaize embarked on a study of consumer attitudes toward personal data collection and usage. The results open a window into the striking opportunity grocers have when it comes to using personal data: 70% of respondents said they were willing to share their data with grocery stores, after hospitals and government institutions. That’s more than for non-grocery retailers, financial institutions, and digital and social media platforms.

Simply put, consumers trust their grocery store. It’s not hard to see why. There’s probably no other retailer that figures more in the routines of a consumer’s life than a grocery store. Everybody has to eat. They’re familiar and constant. And that trust could be the key to a grocery retailers’ quest to translate consumer data into a personalised, differentiated shopping experience.

But grocers need to tread a fine line. Consumers are smart. They want the usage of their data to improve their lives—along with transparency and control. The survey points to some key do’s—and one major don’t—when it comes to personal data. Do 100% guarantee the safety of consumers’ data. Do make it easy for them to choose what kind of data they share. Do allow them to decide the level of personalisation. But don’t share their data with any other third party without explicit consent.

To capitalise on this digital opportunity, grocer retailers need to think creatively. Product, price, promotion, and placement are no longer enough to inspire customer loyalty and help retailers stand out from the crowd. They also need to recognise that one size does not fit all. There is no “typical” customer, as the survey reveals. Attitudes toward how data is used range considerably across countries, ages of respondents, and comfort level with online transactions.

The beauty of data, though, is that it now enables grocers to tailor their digital products. Hyper-personalisation is rapidly becoming a reality. Retailers just need to figure out what matters to their customer. Health? Sustainability? Ethical sourcing? Convenience? Affordability? With hyper-personalisation, grocers can target any one of these.

No doubt it’ll be tempting for grocery retailers to barrel forward with these new capabilities and go for the easy win of simply selling more. Not only will that impact the ultimate differentiation of a retailer in the market, it could undermine the trust a consumer has in their store. Consumers want to see demonstrable advantages in exchange for that trust—and their personal data—not a just a thinly veiled sales pitch. As long as grocery retailers remember that, personalised digital products could very well be the next big trend to hit the aisles.