Big data experts try to unlock secrets of consumer behaviour

Mark Birkin at Leeds UniversityMark Birkin at Leeds University
Mark Birkin at Leeds University
LEADING ACADEMICS are using big data to search for new insights into consumer behaviour.

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

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

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Major retailers, local government organisations and businesses will share their data with the centre to help understand complex patterns of consumer behaviour.

Backers promise that privacy will be protected.

The aim is to use the findings to inform efforts to tackle a wide range of social and environmental challenges.

These include 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 has set up CDRC Open; data which is publicly available to all for any purpose.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

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 Leeds University, 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.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“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 data service goes live today. The official launch will take place at the annual Demographics User Group Conference on Wednesday and will be introduced by Professor Jane Elliot, chief executive and deputy chair of the Economic and Social Research Council.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The event will discuss how data analyses can best be communicated to decision makers across various disciplines.

The Government-backed council is the UK’s largest organisation funding research on economic and social issues.

Any businesses or organisations interested in working with the CDRC should call 0113 343 0120 or visit the new website at