featured image: Consumer vs Customer- The Difference and Why it Matters

Consumer vs Customer: The Difference and Why it Matters

So, you’ve probably heard the terms “consumer” and “customer” thrown around a lot, right? They might seem like they’re interchangeable, but guess what – they’re not the same. It’s actually really important for businesses to understand the difference between these two terms.

In this article, we’re going to help clear up any confusion you might have about consumers and customers, and why it’s crucial for businesses to treat them differently. By the end of this article, you’ll see how understanding this distinction helps businesses.

Defining a Consumer

In simple terms, a consumer is the person who actually uses a product or service, the end user. They’re the ones experiencing the benefits (or drawbacks) of whatever they’re consuming. It’s important to remember that consumers can be individuals or even businesses, depending on the context.

For example, let’s say you bought a new smartphone. You’d be the consumer because you’re the one using it to make calls, send texts, and browse the internet (and probably spend way too much time on social media, but hey, we’ve all been there). Another example could be a restaurant that buys fresh produce from a local farm. In this case, the restaurant is the consumer because they’re using the veggies to whip up some delicious dishes for their customers.

So, when we’re talking about consumers, we’re really focusing on the end-users – the people (or businesses) who are directly experiencing and benefiting from a product or service. Got it? Great. Now, let’s move on to defining a customer.

Defining a Customer

A customer is someone who actually buys a product or service. They’re the ones making the purchase and exchanging money for goods or services. Just like with consumers, customers can be individuals or businesses.

You might be thinking, “Wait a minute, isn’t that the same as a consumer?” Well, not always! While sometimes the customer and the consumer are the same person (like when you buy a cup of coffee for yourself), there are times when they’re different. For instance, if you’re buying a toy for your niece’s birthday, you’d be the customer (you’re making the purchase), but your niece would be the consumer (she’s the one playing with the toy).

Another example could be a company that purchases software for its employees to use. The company is the customer, but the employees who actually use the software are the consumers.

So, the key takeaway here is that customers are the ones making the purchase, while consumers are the ones using the product or service. Sometimes they’re the same person, but other times they’re not. Now that we’ve got that sorted out, let’s explore some of the key differences between consumers and customers and why it’s essential for businesses to understand these distinctions.

Types of Customers in Marketing

In the world of marketing, understanding the various types of customers is crucial for developing targeted campaigns and effectively growing your customer base. Each type of customer has different needs, preferences, and motivations for making a purchase. Understanding these differences lets you create better, refined customer acquisition strategies. Let’s explore some common types of customers and how marketers can address their unique characteristics:

  1. Need-based Customers: Need-based customers are those who make purchases to fulfill a specific requirement or solve a problem. To appeal to these customers, marketers should emphasize the benefits and features of their offerings, as well as the value they provide in addressing the customer’s needs.
  2. Discount Customers: These customers are always on the hunt for the best deals and promotions. They’re motivated by saving money and may not be as brand loyal as other types of customers. To attract more customers in this category, businesses can generate QR codes to offer limited-time discounts, seasonal sales, or bundled deals. Tailoring your marketing strategy to highlight these promotions can help reel in discount customers.
  3. Loyal Customers: A loyal customer is someone who consistently chooses your brand over competitors and is likely to recommend your products or services to others. They’re a valuable asset to any business, as they contribute to repeat sales and positive word-of-mouth advertising. To nurture and grow your loyal customer base, consider implementing loyalty programs, personalized communication, and exceptional customer service.
  4. Insistent Customers: Insistent customers are those who have very specific expectations and demands when it comes to purchasing products or services. They often require a high level of attention and may need customized solutions to meet their needs. To cater to insistent customers, marketers should focus on providing excellent customer service, addressing individual concerns, and demonstrating flexibility in accommodating their requests.
  5. Impulsive Customers: These customers make unplanned purchases, often driven by emotion or a sense of urgency. They can be attracted by eye-catching displays, limited-time offers, or persuasive marketing messages. To capitalize on impulsive customers, businesses should create a sense of excitement and exclusivity around their products or services.

At the heart of understanding a customer is the concept of the “Ideal Customer Profile” (ICP). An ICP is a detailed representation of the perfect customer for your product or service. It goes beyond basic demographics and dives into specifics such as their behavior, purchasing patterns, pain points, and motivations.

By creating an ICP, businesses can streamline their marketing and sales efforts, ensuring they target individuals or entities most likely to convert and bring value to the company. To use an ICP effectively, gather data from your best existing customers, market research, and industry insights. Once established, this profile acts as a guiding star, helping teams align their strategies to attract, engage, and retain customers who fit this mold, optimizing resources and increasing ROI. An ICP is a go to market strategy that every business needs in their toolbox.

Major Differences Between Consumers and Customers

infographic showing major differences between consumer and customer

It’s important for businesses to recognize and understand the difference between consumers and customers, as it can impact their strategies and success. So, here are five main differences between consumers and customers:

  1. End Users and Usage Remember how we talked about consumers being the end users of a product or service? Well, that’s one of the big differences between consumers and customers. Customers may purchase a product or service for themselves or for someone else, while consumers are the ones who actually use and benefit from the product or service.
  2. Decision-Making Process When it comes to making purchasing decisions, customers are the ones calling the shots. They’re the ones choosing which product or service to buy, comparing prices, and considering options. Consumers, on the other hand, may not always be directly involved in these decisions – especially if they’re not the ones making the purchase.
  3. Business Relationships Businesses often build different types of relationships with customers and consumers. With customers, the focus is usually on transactions, loyalty programs, and customer service. With consumers, businesses might focus more on user experience, product feedback, and creating a community around the product or service.
  4. Targeted Marketing and Messaging Marketing strategies can differ quite a bit when targeting consumers versus customers. For customers, marketing efforts might focus on pricing, promotions, and convenience. For consumers, the messaging might emphasize the benefits and features of the product, as well as the overall experience of using it.
  5. Value Propositions The value that businesses create and deliver can also differ between consumers and customers. For consumers, value might come from the product’s performance, quality, or how it solves a problem. For customers, value could be tied to factors like competitive pricing, customer service, or ease of purchasing.

Why Distinguishing Between Consumers and Customers Matters

Why does it actually matter for businesses to distinguish between the two? Great question. In fact, it’s super important, and here’s why:

Firstly, when businesses accurately identify both their consumers and customers, they can develop more effective strategies for product development, marketing, and customer service. It’s important for businesses to figure out who is using their products and services, and also who makes the purchasing decisions. This helps them make better products that fit what the people want and need.

For example, if a company knows that parents are the customers who buy their toys, but the kids are the consumers who play with them, they can create marketing campaigns that appeal to both groups. Parents might be interested in safety features, durability, and educational value, while kids would probably care more about how fun and exciting the toy is.

Then, Understanding the difference between consumers and customers can help businesses improve their overall customer experience, especially in the context of NPS B2B, can help businesses improve their overall customer experience. When businesses know who their end users are, they can gather valuable feedback from them to make improvements to their products or services. At the same time, they can also focus on building strong relationships with their customers through loyalty programs, customer support, and personalized communication.

Finally, distinguishing between consumers and customers can help businesses identify new opportunities for growth and expansion. Businesses can learn about different groups of people. They can use this information to make special ads, offer new products or services, or even go into new markets.

In a nutshell, being able to distinguish between consumers and customers is crucial for businesses looking to grow and succeed. It helps them better understand their audience, tailor their offerings, and ultimately deliver more value to both groups. Now that’s what you call a win-win.

Case Studies: Companies Excelling by Differentiating Between Consumers and Customers

Now that we’ve talked about why it’s important for businesses to distinguish between consumers and customers, let’s look at some real-world examples of companies that have mastered this art and reaped the benefits. These case studies will show you how understanding and catering to both groups can lead to great success.

Case Study 1: Apple

apple logo

Apple is a prime example of a company that knows how to differentiate between consumers and loyal customers. They understand that their consumers are the ones using their devices (iPhones, iPads, Macs) and focus on creating user-friendly products with sleek designs and innovative features. On the other hand, they also recognize that their customers (the people who buy the devices) care about factors like pricing, customer service, and the overall shopping experience.

By targeting both groups effectively, Apple has managed to create a loyal fan base of consumers who love using their products, as well as satisfied customers who appreciate their attentive service and easy-to-navigate stores.

Case Study 2: Procter & Gamble (P&G)

p and g logo

As one of the world’s largest consumer goods companies, P&G has a wide range of products that cater to various consumers and customers. They have successfully differentiated their marketing strategies and messaging for each group. For instance, P&G might target consumers by emphasizing the benefits and features of their products, such as the cleaning power of Tide laundry detergent or the softness of Charmin toilet paper.

At the same time, they also cater to their customers (retailers and wholesalers) by offering competitive pricing, promotional support, and efficient distribution channels. They recognize and address the needs of both consumers and customers, so P&G has been able to maintain its position as a market leader in the consumer goods industry.

Case Study 3: Lego

lego logo

Lego is another great example of a company that excels at differentiating between consumers and customers. Their consumers are the kids (and adults!) who enjoy building and playing with their iconic plastic bricks, while their customers are often the parents or gift-givers who purchase the sets.

To cater to both groups, Lego focuses on creating engaging and educational toys that appeal to consumers, while also providing excellent customer service, easy-to-use websites, and attractive packaging for their customers. This dual focus has helped Lego maintain its popularity and keep both consumers and customers coming back for more.

Consumer Customer Wrap Up

In this article, we discovered that while sometimes these terms can overlap (you can be both a customer and a consumer), they often refer to distinct groups: trade customers who make the purchases, and end users who actually use the products or services.

When you know the unique needs and preferences of final customers and end users, businesses can develop more effective strategies in the ever-changing business world. They can create better products, tailor their marketing efforts, and ultimately build stronger relationships with both groups.

So, next time you find yourself in a situation where you’re both a customer and a consumer, take a moment to appreciate the delicate balance businesses must strike to keep you happy. And if you’re a business owner or marketer, remember that recognizing and catering to the differences between consumers and customers is essential for success.

Understanding the difference between customers and consumers is indeed a crucial aspect of business strategy. But to take it a step further, you might also want to delve into the concept of the customer life cycle. It’s a fascinating process that covers the journey of your customers from awareness to advocacy.

Rukham Khan

Rukham Khan, is marketing writer and specialist. He writes about email, content, and lead generation tactics in an effort to help and inform entrepreneurs and small businesses. In his free time, you can find him playing squash or managing his personal blog on Medium.