Mobile Ethnography strategies for omnichannel Path to Purchase research.

Category : Mobile Ethnography; path to purchase

Mapping the omnichannel path to purchase can be a difficult task. As shoppers use more and more tools, sites, apps and platforms to inform their purchase journey, it’s physically impossible to map this journey using traditional approaches. Technologies that sniff and log traffic on buyer’s devices may tell you what sites and apps they use and for how long. The problem is, they do not give you visibility into how the shoppers interact and behave on these websites or apps. 

As a result, researchers need to adopt a new, buyer centric, mobile first approach to capture key online and offline touch points. 

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At Indeemo, we believe that no single methodology can give you the depth of insight you need to fully understand your customers’ purchase journey and their shopping experience. There is no silver bullet. 

A multi method research strategy that blends analytics, quantitative data, in-person methodologies and mobile ethnography is without doubt the best approach. You can then layer different sources of data and insight on top of each other and get a deeper understanding of the journey. 

However, the luxury of using such a multi method research strategy is beyond the budget of the majority of businesses. As a result, digitally enabled sellers tend to rely heavily on analytics to help them understand and map the purchase journey. The problem with this analytics only approach is that it is limited to online only and it only tells you part of the story. It will certainly tell you what sites they visit, how they navigate and for how long.

The problem is it doesn’t help you understand why.

Complimenting your analytics with a mobile ethnography research component that leverages the capability of mobile screen recording can be an impactful and agile approach to illuminate the human blind spots that analytics fail to explain. This is the approach taken by most of our clients. 

Our clients come from all sectors of the research and design ecosystem. Qualitative Researchers, Ethnographers, Anthropologists, User Researchers, Experience Designers, Strategists and Digital Transformation Consultants. We work with freelancers, agencies, consultancies and end clients. 

The common goal they all share is the need to better map the increasingly omnichannel purchase journey and better experience how shoppers behave at the point of purchase. Being able to follow the shopper seamlessly as they shift between online and offline platforms is critical to achieving this goal.

Our approach

If you haven’t already read our post on Using Mobile Ethnography to map the omnichannel Path to Purchase, we recommend you do so before reading on. 

When clients approach us about the possibility of using mobile ethnography in their path to purchase research, we always start with a concierge call. On this call, one of our Strategists will gather as much information as possible about the brief. 

Once we understand the commercial context and research needs, we then work hand in hand with you to develop a tasking strategy that maximises the benefit you get from using the Indeemo Platform. We will also guide you when it comes to recruitment and incentives and can make introductions to the right recruitment partners as needed. 

Every project brief is different. There are always specific client needs and commercial nuances that make it difficult to simply template a methodology. This is why we believe in the necessity of our concierge approach, especially for clients who are new to this methodology. Doing so has taught us a lot about what the brands and retailers need and the key purchase journey touchpoints they need to understand. 

Clarifying the brief. 

The usual blind spot for our clients is mobile. They typically are knee deep in data and analytics and may have done some desktop UX research. But understanding the role mobile plays in their purchase journey is something they haven’t succeeded in doing.  

Specifically, they need to better understand the role of search on mobile, the use of product review and price comparison sites, the role social media apps plays in influencing purchase decisions, how consumers seamlessly go from mobile to online to instore (and back again) and what their experiences are both online and in store. 

The experience doesn’t end at the purchase.

Increasingly, the research doesn’t stop at the actual purchase event. The transaction is no longer the finish line. It’s just an interim milestone. The innovators we work with are looking to go beyond the point of purchase and truly understand the actual customer experience. This includes delivery, the out of the box experience and how customers actually use / consumer the product or service. 

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The real experience happens after the checkout.

Essentially, the goal is to understand every micro moment and touch point from trigger to transaction and beyond. 

Clients might need to see how shoppers behave in store, ask them about their purchase experience and sometimes contrast that in-store experience with a simple online shopping experience. 

The reverse may be true of a brief as well - show us your online ordering experience then show us your delivery experience, condition of delivered goods and a video detailing the whole experience.

We sometimes do deprivation studies: got a respondent who typically only shops in store? Send them online for a week and vice versa for the digital natives. The results can be extremely revealing. 

Some of the most successful online / offline experience briefs are the ones where the clients look at the online ordering experience and contextualize it with where the customer is at the time e.g. take a selfie of where you are when you order your online grocery shop, now use Mobile Screen Recording to show us the actual experience of the online ordering.

The same shopper browsing your website on their sofa in the evening has a completely different set of needs to when they are urgently searching your website while standing in the shopping aisle in a mall. 

Same user. Completely different needs. 

Context is everything. 

Strategies for path to purchase research

When designing your tasking for a path to purchase research project, the following considerations should be taken into account: 

A. Purchase Journey Tasking Strategies

In path to purchase research projects that use Mobile Ethnography, the researcher sets the respondent a series of tasks or activities. These tasks are the spine of the project and are designed to capture the key moments and experiences that are core to the study. 

It can be something quite open like understanding daily shopping routines. It can be something a bit more complex like accurately recording an in store check out experience, how long it took and what could be improved. It can be something specific like understanding why the abandonment rate is so high in their mobile ecommerce offering. 

Well designed, context aware tasking is critical to the success of your path to purchase study. It should align the study with your business / research requirements. If you’re new to this, it can be difficult to get right. That’s why we take a concierge approach and collaborate with our clients on tasking strategy to ensure the best outcome possible.

At the end of the day, a tool is just a tool. Getting the strategy right is key to de-risking your research investment. 

When designing a project to better understand an omnichannel purchase journey, it is essential that you pursue a non-invasive, non-persuasive tasking strategy in order to remove as much bias as possible. 

Our case studies section has several examples of different use cases. For online / offline studies, the best approach is to be shopper centric and direct your tasking to understand the context of online behaviors and add more color and depth to offline touchpoints.

Be agile – go where the shopper takes you

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Agility in tasking is key and at Indeemo, our platform gives you the ability to adapt your tasking as the project unfolds. 

It’s impossible to have everything perfect at the very outset. The very fact you are doing this form of research confirms you have blind spots. As a result, it’s perfectly ok (and possible with Indeemo) to amend your tasking to follow the trends in the data and the behaviors you are noting. We call this data driven tasking.

It is a lean approach that enables you to learn as you research and modify your tasking based on the data you capture. This allows you to iterate your approach and evolve your understanding as the project progresses. 

Furthermore, if you have time, we recommend that you do your research in multiple phases of fieldwork. This enables you to integrate your learnings from the first phase of fieldwork and evolve (and sometimes pivot) your tasking strategy for the subsequent phases.

This lean and agile approach to path to purchase research can significantly increase you return on research (ROR). 

B. Be conversational – use probing to dig deeper

Next, your research needs to be a two way dialogue. 

The best Mobile Ethnographic Research studies we support are dynamic, conversational, contextual and experiential. With Mobile Ethnography, the researcher has the ability to virtually accompany the shopper the whole way through their purchase journey. Using the smartphone as the lens into real life, researchers can moderate projects while respondents are participating and can even ask questions or set new tasks in real time. 

Probing is a key component to the success of any Mobile Ethnography path to purchase research project. It enables the researcher to truly experience the micro moments of the shopper’s purchase journey and better appreciate the nuances in their decision making.

Good probing is about trying to dig deeper into what is really going on and get under the skin of what influences the shopper. Therefore, in your project, be sure to ask questions or comment on the respondents’ uploads. 

Introduce yourself with a selfie video. 

Start the dialogue immediately. 

Thank them for their posts. 

Use emojis. 

Be yourself. 

Ask them to elaborate, clarify or quantify. 

Challenge their responses!

If you don’t feel they are genuine or don’t go far enough. Ask for more content. There is no limit. Ask them to show you more. 

In a way, probing is a form of personalised tasking. Not all respondents behave the same way, so use probing to go on an individual journey with each buyer and follow them in whatever direction their purchase journey takes them.

However, if you do find yourself recording similar behaviors and asking the same probe of each respondent, you should create a new task that directs each respondent to go into greater depth on that particular behaviour or experience. This will allow you to more easily analyse this data as a separate task once the fieldwork concludes. 

Keep it real – presenting the data

At Indeemo we constantly advise clients to take the medium into consideration when presenting the data. 

When presenting the data, try to integrate the methodology. It makes the de-brief less scripted and more real. Open up the Indeemo dashboard in your debrief. Get your client to lean into it and watch the respondents in-dashboard. 

Use tags to identify the key videos that you want them to watch. Play these videos in their raw and real format. Nothing resonates more deeply and broadly in a boardroom than watching real people behave in a real way in a real world context. 

Present the data directly from the Mobile Ethnography Platform and describe the tasking and probing strategies you used to genuinely help your client experience the purchase journey.

This is a really powerful way of getting the client to understand the approach and engage in the research. It also showcases your expertise for future projects. 

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We believe that the methodology brings a raw and real validity to the data. Showing them the data in-dashboard has a grittiness that moves the results away from conjecture and interpretation into genuine raw, real world data and insights. 

Sometimes it takes a 60 second clip from a real person, in their everyday context to bring your 60 slide debrief home to the client. 

Why you should consider Mobile Ethnography

Mobile Ethnography is unique in the way it captures real life insights. No other methodology gives you the geographical reach, contextual richness and rawness of behaviour. 

When analysing the data collected, you will quickly realise that Mobile Ethnography is as authentic a window into a buyer’s purchase experience as you are ever likely to get. The shopper’s experience is captured in the shopper’s own time, on their own schedule, at a place of their choosing. More importantly, when taking part, they are on a device which is personal to the them and no one is looking over their shoulder. 

This is critical. 

Our consistent client feedback is that respondents are more authentic, more open, more confessional using Mobile Ethnography compared to in-person methodologies. 

As one of our clients recently remarked, when a respondent is sharing their emotions and feelings in a selfie video, there literally is nobody else in the room.

If you are looking to experience your path to purchase in an authentic, in-context and in the moment way, Mobile Ethnography has to be part of your research methodology. 

Tags : Mobile Qualitative Research; Omnichannel Customer Journey

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We’ve supported researchers trying to understand the path to purchase for everything from smartphones to domestic appliances to cars to hotels to garage doors and aquarium filtration systems!

The one thing they all have in common is that the journey is non-linear, random and omni-platform.

If you’d like to discuss how we might be able to support your next project, please submit your details here and we will be in touch ASAP.

We’re looking forward to speaking with you.

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