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Beyond price tags: European consumers prioritise social action in purchasing decisions

Olly Warren Account Director 03/09/2023
Consumers today are more conscious about their purchasing decisions than ever before.

The latest wave of Savanta’s Consumer Compass Europe explores the various factors that influence consumers’ purchase decisions.

The data provides a window into the complex world of consumer behaviour and uncovers how a range of factors such as working conditions, equal pay, accessibility, and social action can shape buying habits.

According to our most recent data, European purchase decisions are most likely to be affected by the adequacy of working conditions – with almost 7 in 10 (67%) stating this would have an impact. Following closely behind are more considerations relating to working conditions, including equal pay (66%) and accessibility (65%). Factors relating to social action outside of the company, however, are less top-of-mind for consumers – but they remain important. These include being responsive to social issues (57%), working with charities (48%), and representing diversity in their marketing (46%).

It is clear that consumers in the European market are deeply concerned about brands’ ethical practices – so much so that it dictates what and where they purchase from.

But how long will ‘working conditions’ and ‘equal pay’ remain the chief purchase drivers? With consumer understanding of GDPR on the rise, it might not be long until transparency about data handling overtakes other ethical considerations.


According to the latest Consumer Compass Europe report, less than half of consumers believe that collecting and analysing data is good for society. In fact, when we asked consumers about organisations that collect and store personal data securely, only 30% of respondents reported they trust them.

When it comes to public organisations, European consumers remain wary, reporting low levels of trust in the government to act in their best interest (45% across all markets). These levels vary across Europe, with the Nordics reporting the highest trust (60%) and France with the lowest (37%).

Academic researchers are the most trusted entities when it comes to acting in the consumers’ best interest, with 8 in 10 respondents placing their trust in them. On the other end of the spectrum is social media companies – trusted by only a third of respondents. These low levels for social media are a likely result of the various data breaching scandals that have plagued some of the biggest names in the industry. In 2018, allegations arose of Facebook permitting Cambridge Analytica to access the data of more than 80 million users. Not long after this in 2020, Instagram were fined more than €400m by the Irish DPC for violating children’s privacy.

Data breaches and mishandling of personal information can have extremely negative impacts on a company’s reputation, and in many cases can lead to an erosion of consumer trust. With a clear concern for data handling, consumers might be more likely to choose to buy from companies that have secure data protection policies in place, as well as a strong reputation for handling sensitive information responsibly.


Two-thirds of consumers (66%) placed high importance on consumer brands being transparent about their data collection practices.

At a total level, a majority of consumers have limited knowledge about how their data is collected and used, with 51% knowing a little and 13% knowing nothing at all. Furthermore, many reported not having read, seen, or heard anything about data use in the last six months, with 6 in 10 of the respondents falling in this category.

Consumers are more conscious of their purchase choices than ever before

The findings from our Consumer Compass Europe report highlight a need for companies to prioritise factors that are important to consumers when developing their marketing strategies. This includes ensuring that working conditions are fair, pay is equal, and social issues are taken seriously.

Consumers are not just looking for the best deal, but also for products and services that align with their values and beliefs. As data handling is quickly becoming one of these concerns, it will be vital that brands leverage their ethical data practices to gain a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining these privacy-conscious consumers.

But will data handling overtake working conditions as the chief purchase driver? Only time will tell – and we will be watching with interest.

For a more detailed insight into European consumer attitudes towards purchase decisions and data protection, download the latest European Consumer Compass report.

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