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Unlocking the secrets of consumer behaviour

Unlocking the secrets of consumer behaviour

The Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC) launches its data services today, offering new data for researchers to garner unprecedented insights into consumer behaviour.

The multi-million pound Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC) initiative, commissioned by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), is a collaboration between the UK's leading universities and a growing list of industry partners to better understand the millions of data points we generate each day. 

Bringing together the universities of Leeds, Liverpool, Oxford and University College London, the CDRC has created a safe and secure data infrastructure which seeks to share these insights with academia, industry and the public at large.

Whilst protecting privacy, data will - for the first time - be routinely collected and shared with the CDRC by major retailers, local government organisations and businesses across the UK to improve understanding of these complex patterns of consumer behaviour.

The aim is to use these findings to inform efforts to tackle a wide range of social and environmental challenges, such as improving transport planning, studying the latest ethical consumer trends to help companies understand how people are making buying decisions, or identifying different ways of encouraging people to lead more healthy and active lifestyles.

To maximise potential of research for the research community the CDRC have set up CDRC Open; data which are publicly available to all, for any purpose. 

Examples of data include UK market research from the Ethical Consumer Research Association, which is the only comprehensive data set on the purchase of ethical products and services in the UK. There are also models representing retail catchment areas, which can show the most probable shopping destinations in communities.

Other tiers of data have restricted access based on the sensitivity of information, which include CDRC Safeguarded, a remote service, and CDRC Secure, which requires researchers to access the data at one of three secure facilities located in London, Liverpool and Leeds. 

Professor Mark Birkin, Director of the CDRC at the University of Leeds, said: “We’re here to partner with policy-makers, organisations and businesses to analyse these huge data sets, as they contain really valuable information which can offer significant insights into our society. We’ve set up the centre to develop a professional, world-class service and resource, which offers incredibly high standards of secure data storage, access and analysis.”

Professor Paul Longley, Director of the CDRC at UCL, added: “We need to harness the potential of consumer-related data so we can support and guide policy-makers, service providers and commercial organisations. Insights drawn from these data sets mean they can implement new approaches, develop best practice and evaluate impact.”

The official launch of the CDRC data service took place at the annual Demographics User Group Conference on 7 October 2015 and will be introduced by Professor Jane Elliot, Chief Executive and Deputy Chair of the ESRC. Sponsored by the CDRC this event will discuss how data analyses can best be communicated to decision makers across various disciplines. 

Examples of current CDRC work and insights into consumer behaviour are: 

a) maps.cdrc.ac.uk The CDRC has classified every neighbourhood in England according to how those who live there use the internet for consumer purposes. Key attributes to this Internet User Classification (IUC) include: education, employment, engagement with new innovations in information and communications technology and locally available broadband infrastructure. Associated data packs: https://data.cdrc.ac.uk/product/cdrc-2014-iuc-geodata-pack

b) The CDRC will host a new Strategic Network for Obesity, which brings together experts combined with different datasets to help organisations responsible for public health tackle unhealthy eating and activity patterns. These datasets include lifestyle and activity statistics, such as the number of gym memberships in an area or proximity to green space; consumer behaviour trends, such as retail data on food purchases; and health data, such as the annual Health Survey for England. The aim is to help identify different kinds of lifestyles, environments and behaviours that may increase the likelihood of becoming overweight or obese. 

Further information

CDRC Open data are free and available to view now at cdrc.ac.uk

For more information, contact the University of Leeds press office on pressoffice@leeds.ac.uk 

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