How Does the Buyer Journey Differ Between Mobile and Physical Storefronts?

Smart organizations are always learning from the ever-changing commerce landscape. As mobile consumption grows, it’s important for brands to understand how to translate the in-store conversion process of visitors to customers, to the mobile landscape. In this post, we’ll highlight how the buying process on a mobile device is similar to physical stores, and how it’s different.


Customer Acquisition


storefront clipart

Before mobile, even before web, customer acquisition was simple, but personal. Not only did businesses care about how new visitors became customers (or what restricted that conversion), but they also cared about how people found their way to the front door. Businesses couldn’t just track customers like they now can through an analytics tool, so they had to ask the question, “How did you hear about us?” In-person or via a questionnaire, this was highly effective; the average customer doesn’t feel the need to skirt such a simple question. After documenting enough of these responses, the brand could start to pinpoint which methods of customer acquisition lead to the highest number of visitors, and more importantly, more revenue per customer.


In many ways, mobile consumption is similar, but the metrics have changed a bit. User acquisition can be tracked, depending on device type and by a unique identifier, thus revealing whether a customer came from a paid acquisition campaign, or through more organic means. So far, the level of detail is similar to physical store data seen above, but mobile analytics tools can go deeper. By segmenting by acquisition source, your brand can not only see if a user became a value-driver, but you can also see which factors led to a conversion bottleneck, and what non-converting users did instead of purchasing. This information tells marketers not only which acquisition channels deserve more investment, but also which characteristics of an app need to be improved to resolve any bottlenecks.

Mobile buyer's journey


Buyer Journey


Perhaps the most pronounced difference between the physical store buyer journey and the mobile buyer journey is how much of the process happens right in front of a brand. In fact, both a physical store and a mobile app cannot see the complete process from independent research to purchase, but access to the details of the buyer journey is much easier to track via app analytics than manual in-store knowledge-gathering.

mall shopping

For example, if a customer walks into a store, the only way a company representative could see exactly which products that customer viewed before deciding which one to buy would be for him or her to follow (or spy on) the customer from the moment they enter. A bit creepy, right? Still, you might think, it’s possible to completely track that buyer journey. But what about the items the customer doesn’t pick up or review closely? It would be impossible to perfectly follow the customer’s sight line. That’s where mobile analytics holds another advantage.


App analytics can see exactly what a customer views, from the moment they enter the app. By tagging user actions as events, brands can see which items were viewed before and after a purchase. As behavioral data is gathered, app experiences can be tailored to previous behavior to improve the likelihood of future purchases. A grocery store can group items together that most customers purchase at the same time, like cereal and milk, but an app can personalize the user experience several levels further.

Buyer's journey on mobile devices


Customer Loyalty


Customer loyalty is extremely important both for physical stores and brands leveraging mobile apps, but the process for retaining customers can be very different. Physical stores leverage things like reward cards, coupons, and direct mail to keep top-of-mind for their customers, and re-engage clients as much as possible. These methods can have mixed results. While it’s easier to create personal relationships via face time in a brick-and-mortar store, coupons can be lost, direct mail can be discarded or ignored, and reward cards take a while to pay off in customers’ eyes.

feedback card clipart


Retaining customers is more of a challenge in the mobile environment, but the tools to do so are far more advanced. Instead of passive coupons and calls-to-action, brands can make use of in-app and push messaging to encourage user behavior in the right place at the right time. For example, you can re-engage latent users with a push message for an offer that is relevant to their previous purchasing behavior, so you have the highest potential for a conversion. With hundreds of thousands of apps competing for a user’s attention at any given moment, the stakes are higher for brands to employ the proper tools to build a loyal customer base.


Blending Strategies

The game may have changed, but the branches of mobile commerce come from the same tree as in-store consumption. By understanding which elements of a brick-and-mortar sales and marketing strategy can translate to mobile commerce (or which can work in tandem to drive more revenue), and which tactics must change, organizations will be in the best position to acquire, convert, and retain the greatest number of customers.

What are some of the ways you’ve seen your mobile strategy relate to your in-store buying process?

New Call-to-action