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Shopping online? This is what retailers know and do with data

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

Sep 2, 2020

The convenience of online shopping has changed the world of e-commerce and how we shop for clothes. Online sales have been a lifeline to many retailers when physical stores were forced to close during the pandemic, but what are they doing with the data they collect from shoppers?

From every ‘add to a wish list,’ basket or payment, the world’s top clothing retailers are collecting data that potentially may be sold or shared with third parties. Information such as inferring your annual salary and profession, your size, your preferences, can be valuable insights for advertisers. When we make a purchase, or sign up to a newsletter, we agree to the terms and conditions set by online retailers. A study by Rightly.co.uk analysed the privacy policies from the UK’s biggest players in retail, including Amazon, Asos, Zara, Nike and H&M, showing exactly what data the retailers gather, and, more importantly, what they do with such information.

Amazon

When it first launched, it earnt most of its profits from selling clothing and to date 70 percent of apparel shoppers have bought clothing or footwear from Amazon in the past 12 months.

Which data does Amazon collect?

Some examples of the data Amazon collects on include: name, age, email and location; voice recordings and interactions with Alexa; credit history; your interactions with their ‘subsidiaries’; downloads on Amazon Prime and searches.

Do they share your data for advertising purposes?

Yes. Although their privacy policy says they don’t ‘sell’ your data, they do share data with aadvertisers, publishers, social media networks, search engines, ad serving companies, and advertising companies working on their behalf.

ASOS

As one of the largest online retailers ranked 4th by SimilarWeb for largest user traffic, it comes as no surprise that ASOS has a surge of data to influence its marketing and business activities.

Which data does ASOS collect?

Some examples of the data ASOS collects include size; estimated price range; social media accounts if you’ve linked to ASOS; order and search history. ASOS stipulates in its privacy policy that they don’t ‘sell’ your data, but they do share it for advertising and monetary purposes.

ASOS says they share data with ‘marketing agencies, advertising partners and website hosts…affiliates who help us reach out to potential new customers or promote our products on their websites…also provide third parties with aggregated and anonymised information and analytics about our customers’.

Zalando

Berlin-based Zalando is one of the largest European retailers, having reached revenue of 6.48 billion euros in 2019. As such, they collect enormous amounts of data from its customers.

What data do they collect?

Name and contact details, age, gender and region; brands and styles you’re interested in; your social media if you connect to it; any public profile information ‘from external advertising partners’

Do they share your data for advertising purposes?

Yes. Although Zalando’s privacy policy is quite hard to understand as they don’t use the words ‘share’ or ‘sell’, it’s definite that they at least share your data. They state that ‘We…use your data for personalised advertising presented to you in Zalando’s services and on other providers’ websites and apps’. Zalando’s privacy policy says they share data with ‘advertising partners’. A helpful list of all the cookies they use also shows Google, Facebook, Adobe, Bing, and Econda- all of these companies use marketing cookies on Zalando for advertising purposes.

Boohoo

With over 5 million UK customers, Boohoo is an extremely popular clothing retailer known for being affordable and up-to-date with the latest fashion trends. Less positively, Boohoo has recently made a couple of big news headings (unrelated to data protection) about its worker exploitation in sweatshops and lack of sustainability.

What data do they collect?

How and when you use the site; name, gender and contact details; occupation and location; social media if you log in using it; order and search history, and your style interests; browser type and version; weblogs and other communication data

Do they share your data for advertising purposes?

Yes. Again, they don’t ‘sell’ your data, but they do share it. In their privacy policy they say that they use a variety of analytics and targeted advertising tools in order to serve ‘relevant’ ads to you on other websites and apps. For example, if you click to view a yellow pair of shoes on the Boohoo site, then move on to read an online article on a different site next without buying them, an ad for those yellow shoes might pop up on the side of the site you’re now on.

H&M

In 2018 H&M was the web’s most popular fashion and clothing brand, and today it still ranks on YouGov highly, as the world’s 13th most popular fashion and clothing brand. It targets mainly young women and has over 5,000 stores worldwide.

What data do they collect on you?

Some examples of the data H&M collects on you include: name, address and contact details; IP address; gender, age and location; interests.

Do they share your data for advertising purposes?

No. Their privacy policy is well written and states clearly that H&M ‘never pass on, sell or swap your data for marketing purposes to third parties outside the H&M group’.

Zara

Some examples of the data Zara collects on you include: Name and email, language and country; payment details and your orders and returns; browsing data; tastes and preferences.

Do they share your data for advertising purposes?

Yes. They state in their privacy policy that they share your data with ‘advertising and marketing related partners and service providers’.

Nike

The American sporting giant collects an astonishing amount of data, including: weight, height, and body measurements (like estimated stride and shoe/foot measurements or apparel size); name, hometown, contact details and age; purchase history and payment details; fitness activity data (provided by you or generated by the platform like time, duration, GPS, heart rate, distance, calorie count, pace); interests and preferences.

Do they share your data for advertising purposes?

Yes. Nike shares your personal data ‘for example [for] advertising’ but they specify that they don’t ‘sell’ your data but share it with ‘service providers processing personal data for business purposes on Nike’s behalf’, including as we said before, advertisers.

The findings from the Rightly report concludes H&M is the only retailer out of those analysed that will not share or sell user’s personal information. Ebay, on the other hand, is the only retailer, out of the 10 that Rightly looked into, that will sell their shoppers’ data. The remaining retailers will share users data for various reasons that include monetary benefit.

For more information or to read the full report go to www.rightly.co.uk.

Image courtesy Rightly