Amid Change in Shopper Behavior, Consumers Seek Data Protection, Transparency

More than half of consumers say the COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed the way they shop. But e-commerce’s rise has also led many consumers to change their opinion on data sharing.
Shopping data

That’s according to findings from a study on digital trends from digital marketing agency Adtaxi. The study, “Data, Digital Trends & the Reopening,” examined consumer habits and preferences in e-commerce and data privacy--two key areas for retailers adapting to the evolving retail landscape coming out of the pandemic.

The study comes as Apple’s update to its OS14 operating system for iPhone and iPad asks users to opt into being tracked by other companies and apps. 

“We are all undergoing a period of immense transition, balancing the meteoric rise of digital commerce, communication and entertainment with the realities of data privacy and security,” Chris Loretto, executive vice president of Adtaxi, said in a statement. 

According to the study, 45% of respondents say they generally allow apps or websites to collect their data. However, 60% say companies are not working hard enough to protect their personal information. Plus, 72% of respondents say companies’ data privacy disclosures are purposefully misleading. 

That distrust among consumers is bad news for companies as e-commerce continues to grow. 

“On one hand, there’s an understandable mistrust of data collection and privacy policies--yet a growing number of consumers value individualized content and willingly share information when asked,” Loretto said. “iOS14’s privacy rules are an important step in bridging this divide and building consumer trust, but it’s also up to each individual business to prioritize transparency and education within its first-party data practices.”

Consumers are somewhat split when it comes to data collection, as 44% say their online experience is better when apps and websites collect their personal information. However, 49% don’t agree, and 7% say they weren’t aware their information was being collected. Younger consumers between 18 and 29 were more likely to say their e-commerce experience was better when their personal information was collected compared to older generations. 

How shoppers are looking at e-commerce has changed since the pandemic, with 63% saying they will prioritize shopping at small and local businesses. Another 74% of respondents said they plan to shop small and local for the holiday season.

“Despite the steady rise of e-commerce, our data shows that many consumers are eager to support small and local businesses,” Loretto said. “This isn’t an inherent contradiction--with the right digital strategy and e-commerce capabilities, small businesses have an exciting opportunity to grow and thrive as the economy reopens. Getting organized with smart data practices and responsive online offerings is a strong first step for businesses of all sizes.”

For retailers looking to capture consumers, shipping was critical to respondents. Nearly three-quarters of respondents (73%) said they wished shipping were rolled into the price of a product, and a whopping 96% of shoppers said free shipping is important. Another 93% said free returns are also important, compared to 74% who said loyalty programs are important and 70% who said same or next-day delivery is important.