Using Mobile Ethnography to map an omnichannel, Path to Purchase journey

Category : mobile ethnography ; path to purchase

Thinking of changing car? You will likely spot your preferred model on the street, review it online, check out how much it costs (and where you can buy it) using an app and then test drive it at a dealership before you buy it. Thinking about changing the sofa or your mattress. No matter how awesome the website and customer reviews are, would you really part with your cash without the chance to sit or lay on it? 


Increasingly, how people buy happens across multiple channels and platforms over various durations of time. Increasingly mobile is playing a dominant and core role. This meandering, multi phased, iterative, many touchpoint journey is known as the omnichannel purchase journey and the journey buyers go on before they finally buy is referred to as the omnichannel path to purchase. 

In this post we refer to shopper and shopping, but in reality, we are referring to any buyer or any purchase. If you are in the business of selling i.e. are a retailer, ecommerce brand, enterprise SaaS company, travel company, booking engine, automotive brand, events company – in fact sell any product, experience or service – your buyer’s path to purchase is likely an omnichannel one. 

Whether they are discovering, researching, validating or ordering, understanding their path to purchase is critical to your business and if you are KPId with increasing revenues, then you need to understand how to accurately map this omnichannel path to purchase in order to optimise and improve it. 

This is part 1 of a 2 part series on using Mobile Ethnography to better understand your buyer’s omnichannel path to purchase. Part 2 focuses on how you should use Mobile Ethnography for omnichannel path to purchase research.

This post focuses on why. 

Mobile has changed shopping - forever. 

How we shop is evolving at a pace which is leaving brands and retailers struggling to play catch up. Digital by default and e-commerce businesses are disrupting traditional incumbents at an alarming and accelerating rate. 

The new normal for today’s digitally native buyers is always on, delivered on demand with a socially validated 5* customer experience. 

Smartphones give the buyer more control than ever over all types of shopping; fashion, car buying, booking flights, booking holidays, groceries and even software. 

how do you use your smartphone in store.png

We’re increasingly using our smartphones in store.

Mobile literally put the internet in the hands of the buyer. Mobile means they can search on the move, check and compare products while standing in-store and at the real moment of truth – the point of purchase. Furthermore, where they are located no longer dictates where they buy: although they might be standing in your store, they are increasingly likely to buying from an online competitor. Is it 

The net result, traditional brick and mortar retailers are increasingly being disrupted by the likes of Amazon, ASOS and Warby Parker.

Many platforms – one buyer

Digitisation FOMO typically results in myopic board rooms investing billions in digital transformation without first understanding the needs of the mobile empowered buyer. In a rush to Amazonify their offerings, incumbent brands and retailers prematurely rush into online / app based / social e-commerce offerings.  

Too often however, these platforms are funded and resourced as separate business divisions under the same brand umbrella. Sometimes they operate in independent teams, separate from their brick and mortar divisions even though all platforms serve the same buyer.

omnichannel path to purchase reasearch app using mobile ethnography.png

As a result, sellers end up with a fragmented, disconnected purchase journey where the same buyer who moves at will between their online and in-store offerings is treated as two separate individuals and consequently encounters a completely fragmented and disjointed purchase experience.

This fragmented purchase journey not only creates a suboptimal shopper experience, and a consequent loss of revenue, it creates a plethora of purchase journey blind spots on the part of sellers and retailers. 

Online traffic rarely converts as much as anticipated and it is extremely difficult to attribute online activity to in-store purchases (or vice versa). When online / ecommerce investments don’t take off with the expected parabolic, Amazonesque growth, businesses typically turn to analytics to figure out why. 

Analytics are great – but they have human blind spots.

Online businesses are up to their eyes in analytics and big data: Point of Sale data, Goolge Analytics, App Analytics, Facebook Analytics... Analytics are great at telling you where your online shoppers came from, what page they land on, what percentage bounce, what journey visitors take on your website / app and when they convert – or more likely – when they churn. 

The problem with data and analytics however, is they can never explain why. 

mapping omnichannel path to purchase using mobile ethnography.png

Understanding the ‘why’ can be impossible when relying solely on analytics.

In a quest to find the human why, some brands turn to traditional research methodologies such as accompanied shopalongs, in-store intercepts, in-store observation or IDIs to try and figure out their buyers’ in store decision making and purchase bahaviour. 

However, these approaches only give researchers a glimpse into discreet phases of the buyer’s purchase journey. What you observe in store or in a UX lab represents just one interaction of a multi touchpoint, non-linear journey and, in reality, what respondents say or do in these contexts rarely reflects how they really behave at the point of purchase.

Mapping the online and offline path to purchase into a single cohesive timeline can be difficult to achieve using traditional approaches. 

Using Mobile Ethnography to map your path to purchase.

Innovative businesses are rethinking their approach to researching the buyer’s path to purchase and many are increasingly adopting a mobile first approach.

Think about it: what is the one device we always have with us? Our mobile phone.

Mobile Ethnography is an emerging research methodology that brands and retailers are adopting to reorient and redesign their purchase journey from a siloed, board room centric perspective to a personalised buyer centric one. 

Where you shop no longer dictates where you buy.
— Eugene Murphy, Founder & CEO, Indeemo
omnichannel path to purchase digital ethnography.png

By leveraging the capabilities of smartphones, Mobile Ethnography enables Experience Designers and UX Researchers to incentivize respondents to map their online and offline behaviours at each milestone of their purchase journey.

According to Google, buyers typically search first on mobile. Not only do they shop online using their smartphones, shoppers are using their smartphones when they shop offline!

Shoppers typically first discover products and services on their smartphones, use their smartphones to browse product information sites and customer review platforms and increasingly transact on mobile. 

In the path to purchase projects we support, we see daily examples of shoppers standing in-store but buying on Amazon because it was either more expensive in store, or out of stock in store – or increasingly – both. 

Look at the explosion in pre-order apps for example. No time to wait in line, order online and pick up in store. 

This is the challenge that researchers face when trying to accurately map an omnichannel purchase journey and this is why Mobile Ethnography can help. 

Map your path to purchase journey with Indeemo

Indeemo’s unique blend of remote, ethnographic, in-the-moment data capture and mobile screen recording enables researchers and designers to walk in the shoes of the buyer at every trigger, barrier and milestone of their purchase journey.

Mobile Ethnography is a highly complementary methodology that augments existing data sets and methodologies. It adds colour and life to analytics and quantitative data. It shows you the people behind the pie charts and increases empathy across your design and development teams. As a qualitative research methodology, it transports you into the purchase moments that matter and enables you to understand why buyers behave the way the analytics highlight.

When Autotrader & Join the Dots won a gold medal at the AURA awards for their automotive path to purchase research, they credited the Mobile Ethnography component for giving them the impactful, break through insights. 

automotive path to purchase using mobile ethnography.png

Indeemo’s Mobile Ethnography app enables buyers to record what they are doing in offline contexts using videos, photos or text. At-shelf, in-store videos show you exactly how shoppers behave at the point of purchase. 

We have seen countless videos of shoppers struggling to see our client’s brand in a shelf filled with other brands. Video in particular enables you to experience how buyers feel about their shopping experience and understand what’s influences their decision making and why. 

On smartphones, Indeemo’s Mobile Screen Recording capability enables you to record the interactions and voice of your buyer while they browse any website or app on their smartphone. We help you record the entire purchase journey including the shopper’s voice as they narrate their experience. 

As shoppers journal their purchase journey, all of their offline and online posts are seamlessly organised into a single, shopper centric timeline on our Pinterest style insights dashboard for researchers and designers to observe, moderate and analyse. 

It’s even more powerful if you are covering a number of markets or multiple countries. Mobile Ethnography enables you to research buyers in any location without the need for expensive and time consuming travel. 

Let us support you:

Indeemo is a Mobile Ethnography Platform that is at the forefront of helping sellers and retailers map their buyer’s purchase journey. Our platform enables you to seamlessly map online and offline touchpoints in a single, contiguous, buyer centric timeline. 

We’ve supported hundreds of path to purchases studies. Using Indeemo, our clients get to capture and experience online and offline buying moments every day. They see people researching in-store, they capture them tracking deliveries at home, they experience them buying groceries at their local shop or ordering back to school supplies from Amazon (sometimes while they are standing in Target)! 

If you’re looking for tips and strategies for using Mobile Ethnography to better understand your omnichannel path to purchase, part 2 of this post will be of interest.

Alternatively, enter your details in the form below and one of our Strategists will get back to you asap. 

Tags : Omnichannel Customer Journey

Name *
Nature of your inquiry *

Contact us

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.

Need A Deeper Understanding Of Mobile Ethnography?

Learn how Mobile Ethnography can supplement your research projects and generate richer contextual insights for your brands.

indeemo white paper