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Consumer vs Customer: Why They're Different

        posted by , February 17, 2013

Consumer is an unfashionable word — for good reason.

The dictionary definition of consumer "a person or thing that consumes" isn't exactly inspiring. It sounds greedy and functional.

Customer on the other hand, sounds like a person worthy of respect.

The following four differences are key to understanding consumers vs. customers:

1. A consumer is a statistic, a customer is a person

The word consumer makes frequent appearances in statistics such as economic reports (e.g. consumer confidence).

Indeed, when marketing teams analyze customers as a group they often refer to them as consumers (e.g. consumer behavior).

Customer sounds more individual. A customer is someone you might meet for lunch or send a Christmas card.

You're certainly not going to meet a consumer for lunch.

2. A consumer is a transaction, a customer is a relationship

The word consumer is suggestive of a transaction. If you view your product as a commodity you don't much care about establishing relationships with customers. You only care how much of your product is consumed.

Customer is suggestive of a relationship. If you view your product as unique, something that people might get excited about, you want to establish relationships with customers.

3. Consumers use things, Customers have experiences

Consumer is a static term that focuses on the use of a product or service.

Customer is a more flexible word that can be used for experience marketing. You don't go to a fine French restaurant to consume food, you go for the total experience of the food, drink, people, decor, atmosphere, aesthetic and service.

4. Consumers are the end of the line, Customers are end-to-end

A consumer is the person who actually consumes your product or service. If you buy breakfast cereal for your kids they are the consumer and you are the costumer.

A better word for consumer is end-customer. Kids don't typically buy their own breakfast cereal. However, every breakfast cereal company wants to connect with kids as customers.

Otherwise, why would there be free toys at the bottom of every box?

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