The Consumer Data Research Centre

Global and Strategic Marketing Research Centre

The Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC) was established by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to: Contribute towards ensuring the future sustainability of UK research using consumer data Support consumer related organisations to maximise their innovation potential Drive economic growth The £11m Centre is led by Professor Mark Birkin at the University of Leeds and Professor Paul Longley at University College London, with partners at the Universities of Liverpool and Oxford. Creating, supplying and maintaining data for a wide range of users, the Centre works with private and public data suppliers to ensure efficient, effective and safe use of data in social science.

Consumer Data Research Centre logo

Vast amounts of UK consumer data are generated each day, providing valuable insight to help organisations operate more efficiently. However, it’s not just businesses that benefit. Researchers can utilise data to provide fresh perspectives on the dynamics of everyday life, problems of economic well-being and social interactions in cities.

Members of CDRC are working with a variety of commercial partners, including Zoopla, Appliances Online, Shop Direct and Heart Research UK, to make consumer data available to researchers for such projects. Below are some exemplar projects that are currently underway:

Do only affluent consumers buy green-labelled products?

A large proportion of the population claim that they are motivated to consume ethically, and it is estimated that the UK’s ethical market is now worth over £32 billion. However research shows that the number of consumers that consistently act on those ethical motives are much fewer. 

The current evidence on consumer buying behaviour and sustainability issues relies on attitudinal, self-reported or national sales data. This is often not close enough to real behaviour nor helpful at a company level.

However, with access to sales and demographic data, we are able to see the detail at a geographical, product or consumer type level that can only help decision making. This is only possible through collaborations across sectors, such as our recent collaboration with Asda and Callcredit

Can we use consumer data to better understand the obesity epidemic?

Overweight and obesity are a huge problem worldwide. The cost to the UK NHS is £5.1 billion annually with £11.5 billion annual cost to wider society, and this does not account for the significantly reduced health related quality of life for overweight or obese individuals. 

Dr Michelle Morris, a University Academic Fellow in the School of Medicine, based at Leeds Institute for Data Analytics, leads the Strategic Network for Obesity, which brings together experts from many disciplines within and beyond academia to explore how we can use data about us and our environment to better understand overweight and obesity. She has recently blogged about the topic - Is the environment conspiring against us to make us fat

Understanding the changing British high street

Data from CDRC partner, the Local Data Company (LDC), shows that in 2015 multiple retail and leisure occupiers closed a total of 1,043 high street stores. In contrast, 593 independent retailers opened in high street locations. 

But what does this actually mean? Is footfall really in decline or is it simply that the customer journey has changed? Do high street coffee shop brands really increase footfall? How do vacant units impact footfall?

The CDRC and LDC are hoping to answer some of these questions through the ESRC funded SmartStreetSensor Project.  The project will be the most comprehensive study or footfall patterns across Great Britain to date, with 1,000 sensors which will measure live footfall in 81 towns and cities across the UK.

Professor Paul Longley comments: “We think this project is an excellent example of how the worlds of academia and business can work together in the Big Data era. The same data that can tell a retailer how footfall translates into sales at the till can also contribute to a far better understanding of how people move around Britain’s towns and cities.”

Accessing data via the CDRC

The CDRC delivers a national service to the social science research community by providing access to a large volume of consumer data for research.  


Users can access our datasets either directly from our datastore or by application. Since launching in October 2015, users have downloaded in excess of 30,000 datasets from the datastore.

In order to keep our data safe we provide three different levels of access – Open, Safeguarded and Secure. Open data are freely available to all for any purpose, whereas Safeguarded and Secure require users to complete an application process.

Examples of popular open datasets include: 

Examples of safeguarded and secure datasets include:


CDRC map showing population change 2011 - 2014


Our mapping portal features visualisations created from key datasets available at our datastore. The interactive maps are created by our research team and the dataset behind each map are freely available to download for any purpose.

Some of our most popular maps to date include:

  • Dwellings: modal age
  • House prices
  • Top method of travel to work
  • Top industry of employment

Enhancing capacity in data analytics

As well as providing access to data, the Consumer Data Research Centre offers a range of activities aimed at enhancing capacity in data analytics and data visualisation methods.  These include:

  • MSc in Consumer Analytics and Marketing Strategy
  • Annual programme of training for data scientists
  • Internship and fellowship opportunities
  • Masters Research Dissertation Programme

Further information on each of these activities and general information on the Centre can be found at

Contact us

If you would like to get in touch regarding any of these blog entries, or are interested in contributing to the blog, please contact:

Phone: +44 (0)113 343 8754

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect the views of Leeds University Business School or the University of Leeds.