Schiaparelli is supposed to test new technologies for a rover that will be the first with the ability to both move across the surface of Mars and drill into the ground to collect and analyse samples.
Scientists said they had received data from the lander covering its entry into the Martian atmosphere and the deployment of its heat shield and parachute, which were designed to slow it from a speed of 21,000 km per hour.
But its thrusters appeared to have fired for only a few seconds, much shorter than expected, and scientists are not sure how far off the ground Schiaparelli was when they shut off.
"We need to understand what happened in the last few seconds before the planned landing," said David Parker, ESA's Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration.
Scientists will analyse all the data received so far, and also still hope to re-establish contact with the lander before its batteries run out in a few days.
Britain's Beagle 2 never made contact after being sent down by the Mars Express spacecraft in 2003 and failing to deploy its solar panels on landing.
Mars's hostile environment has not detracted from its allure, with U.S. President Barack Obama recently highlighting his pledge to send people to the surface by the 2030s.
Entrepreneur Elon Musk's SpaceX is developing a massive rocket and capsule to transport large numbers of people and cargo to Mars with the ultimate goal of colonising the planet.
ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, who is set to become the first German commander of the International Space Station in 2018, said the ExoMars mission would provide important clues on what conditions the first humans travelling to Mars would face.
"Eventually, though, we will need to go there ourselves as scientists to find out what is there," he told Reuters TV late on Wednesday.