How Mobile Research Ensures You Understand Your Customers’ Path to Purchase

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by Kristin Harripaul


  • Only 20% of customers feel that the average brand understands them as individuals (IBM).
  • There are now 800+ unique customer journeys and counting (Cisco).
  • 70% of customers are leading their own customer journeys—becoming
    aware through means outside of brand & retailer advertising (Deloitte).

But, you can control this, start moving the needle on sales and regain control of your in-store performance. No more shooting in the dark or unpredictable customer behavior.

But how? How do you really get inside the head of your customers? And, how can you really close the gaps in understanding customer online-offline behavior along their path to purchase so you can better connect with customers at critical points of influence?

By using a tool that is already ingrained in customers’ daily lives: mobile. Mobile research lets you get in front of customers when it matters most—while they are actually in their path to purchase (online, on mobile and in store). And, it’s quick, easy and highly-actionable. Not to mention, we already know that 75% of customers are now using their mobile devices while in store, making mobile research a viable tool for collecting feedback from customers efficiently and cost effectively.
So, how does mobile research work? And, what are the benefits of doing research this way?
First off, we aren’t suggesting doing research through mobile phones alone. Mobile phones should be part of an integrated approach to conducting research so that you can get in front of customers when it matters most and collect a full view of the customers’ behavior. For example, InReality offers a blended research solution, called Reality Check, that integrates in-store mobile surveys with online focus groups, allowing you to gather customer perceptions, motivations and pain points while they are at the point of purchase and gain further insights and clarity on customer motivations later.
Understand Shopper BehaviorSo let’s talk benefits. Using mobile is the best way to get customer insights as it relates to the path to purchase—before, during and after a purchase—while they are in the moment. And, with features like InReality’s in-the-moment journaling, you can get a firsthand account of what customers experience with your brand enhanced with audio, photo and video recordings. Not to mention, you won’t have the issue of traditional focus groups or online surveys where the customer has to recall what happened, which often is not as accurate as in-the-moment journaling. (Get more details about how this process works here.) “Mobile journals” are kept as the consumer is going through their entire path to purchase—giving insights into questions such as:

  • If it’s not advertising, how do customers initially become aware of your brand/store?
  • Where, specifically, do customers start their journey with your brand/store?
  • What are customers’ pain points in their experience with your brand/store/online presence?
  • What products/competitors (both traditional and online) do customers consider, and why?
  • At which decision points do customers use digital tools, especially mobile?
  • What captures customer attention in-store and out-of-store?
  • What touch points are most important in influencing customer decisions or purchase?

At this point, you may be wondering: why include online research at all? The answer is simple. As we said before, there is no one research method that will give you everything you need to unlock what’s really going on with your customers. To do that, you’ll need to go hybrid. Mobile mainly allows for quick, short questions, photos, videos and critical in-the-moment insights. For a more in-depth understanding of the consumer’s experience and behavior, you’ll need to allow for further explanation—so that you can dig deeper and uncover consumer motivations, perceptions and behaviors. Asking open-ended questions is best suited for online discussions versus a mobile device, which only allows for short answers. And, with online discussions, customers can be more reflective and add more context to their answers.
The reality is, it’s not what you think that matters. Customers’ buying behaviors are changing rapidly and significantly, spurred by growth in digital technologies. Armed with these new technologies, customers no longer follow the same rules that they used use and they’re changing their behavior along the path to purchase. To keep up, you’ll need a regular window into the shopping behaviors of your customers’ along various paths to purchase so you can take action at the appropriate time, place, and situation in which the shopping journeys occur. Ideally, you want to be guiding customers along their path, rather than simply reacting to their journey choices. So, why not start using these technologies to figure out what’s really working and what’s not?
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