Understanding customer experience through in-context journey mapping

Via a multi-stage hybrid research program, AutoTrader was able to gain an in-depth, detailed understanding of the car purchase journey

The challenge

AutoTrader, the online marketplace for car purchasing and selling, wanted a deeper understanding of the car purchase journey: what are the main motivators, the deciding factors and possible barriers for consumers to complete the process? The vehicle vendor had pockets of disparate information available from previous studies but was lacking the full holistic picture.


Our solution

InSites Consulting developed a multi-staged hybrid research programme to help AutoTrader gain a better understanding of the car purchase journey.

Over four weeks, the researchers asked consumers in the process of purchasing a new or used vehicle to keep a media-rich diary of their experience.

Integral to the project’s success was the combination of several elements of its proprietary insight ecosystem: consumer trends reviews, mobile ethnography, in-home in-depth interviews, short-term online communities and a quantitative survey.


The impact

The research programme created a detailed picture of current experiences, motivations, efforts and feelings throughout the car buying process. Some 25 consumers uploaded nearly 400 posts comprising video, photos, screenshots and text.

In-home ethnography deep-dives allowed the research team to explore and reflect on individual journeys – triggers, mood states, barriers, influencers, improvements etc.

Mobile ethnography allowed us to gather ‘in the moment’ feedback and capture +400 ‘micro-moments’. Think for example about a consumer who – after weeks of research – has made up his mind to buy a BMW, and then switches to researching the newest Jaguar after seeing it drive by in the city.

The research results have influenced several areas of the AutoTrader business, including consumer audience growth, site development, product offering and marketing message. An example of the latter is how the brand tapped into their consumers’ need for simplicity by stressing in their TV advertising that the AutoTrader website makes finding the right car easy. Furthermore, this research also positioned AutoTrader as a thought leader to its advertisers.

Check out ‘The Car Buyers Report’, created by AutoTrader, based on the results of this study.

Autotrader quote

“We were delighted with InSites Consulting’s collaborative approach and, most importantly, the quality of their research and analysis. Having run multiple research studies into this area prior to commissioning this work, this approach is the first time we feel we truly got under the skin of the journey. Particularly illuminating were the c.400 car purchase ‘micro-moments’ uncovered by the in-the-moment app. The insights will help us improve the AutoTrader offer, benefitting both car buyers and our advertising clients.”

Head of Research and Insight, AutoTrader

The Power is in the Mix

The power is in the mix

Human behavior is a complex interplay between actions, cognition and emotions. In this bookzine, we showcase how to choose the right blend of ‘think’, ‘feel’, ‘do’ and ‘make’ research activities for the right business challenge.

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