Tracking the trackers: UK retail brands use on average 10 online trackers (with half used to share info to third parties)

Fashion retail brands use the most online trackers for advertising, while the UK’s top retail brands are not trusted by one in five consumers.

Fashion retail brands have been found to use the most online trackers for advertising, at an average of 14, while supermarkets use on average half that number.

Meanwhile, Tesco tops the list of most trusted retailers for UK consumers, with 39% saying they trust the supermarket giant.

The new Retail Trust Index (RTI), released this week by, has tracked the online tracking practices across the retail industry, and the impact of data practices on customer trust.

It found that on average, the UK’s top retailers across all sectors used an average of 10 separate trackers to track consumer shopping, with more than half of those being used to share information to third parties for advertising.

Department store or home brands were just behind fashion in the average use of trackers, at 13.

Top retail ‘trackers’

The research showed that sports retailer JD Sports was found to use the most online trackers of all those analysed, followed by DIY store Wickes and Adidas. Footwear retailer Clarks and high-end department store Selfridges completed the top five.

Other notable names in the roll-call of top trackers included John Lewis (seventh place) and TK Maxx (10th).

At the other end of the scale, supermarket Morrisons and book chain Waterstones were found to use the fewest number of tracking activities, followed by Harrods, discounter B&M, Co-op and Wilko.

Intrusive cookie use dents trust

More than half of UK consumers quizzed said that they didn’t feel retail brands were doing enough to protect their online data, with almost seven in 10 (69%) saying they felt cookies and other online tracking practices were “intrusive”.

To counter the use of cookies, 50% of consumers said they were changing their online shopping habits to stop retailers from tracking their purchases.

Trust was also an issue for the UK’s shoppers, with 19% saying they don’t trust the nation’s top brands. Tesco topped the poll of most trusted brands, albeit with an underwhelming 39% of consumers saying they trusted the supermarket giant.

The podium of “trust” was completed by M&S and Boots in joint second place (34%). Most of the rest of the top 10 was made up of the UK’s supermarkets including Sainsbury’s in fourth place at 33%, Asda taking the sixth spot at 31% and Aldi and Morrisons also slipping into the top 10.

IKEA and John Lewis were also notable names in the top 10. At the bottom of the list were more specialist retailers including Puma, Gucci, Reebok and Hugo Boss all receiving scores of just 10% of consumers saying they trusted them – though this could be owing to familiarity with using the retailers in question.

Security in store

In a further warning to e-commerce, 70% of consumers said they felt their personal data was more secure when they shopped in-store, while 62% would shop in physical retail to avoid online tracking.

Angel Maldonado, CEO of warned:: “The continued use of such intrusive practices are having a clear and detrimental impact on retail brands' relationship with consumers online.

‘With almost 20% of consumers not trusting any of the UK’s leading retail brands, it’s clear that consumers simply don’t trust retailers. As retail becomes an increasingly digital industry, a new approach is needed to restore trust before it is irrevocably damaged.”