Mapping purchase journeys



By using cutting-edge technologies – coupled with sophisticated data triangulation – we devised a powerful new method for mapping the online and offline factors that define why, how and when different customers decide to buy products.


Modern purchasing decisions are influenced by a complex range of online and offline triggers – creating new challenges for those looking to understand consumer decision-making.

With both big data and traditional ‘self-report’ research limited in their ability to reveal the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’, Google commissioned an experimental study – trialling various new methods for tracking and interpreting customers’ digital behaviours.

Our approach was rooted in multiple ethnographic visits, complemented by wearable cameras to film everyday activities when researchers were absent. These were triangulated with psychometric tests and bespoke research exercises, including audits of customers’ web histories, product purchases and online ‘wish-lists’.

With customers granting us 24/7 access to their lives, we combined these digital and non-digital datasets to achieve a 360 view of their journeys to specific purchases.

By the end, we were able to distil the detail of different journeys into a simple set of visualisations. These highly accessible maps illustrate how a person’s propensity to buy develops over time in response to numerous, often unexpected, triggers.

The result is a scaleable method that has the potential to transform how firms interpret customers’ behaviour – identifying where, why and how the strongest possibilities exist for influencing purchasing decisions.