Customer at the market

A note on terminology: While you are reading the various texts about buyer behaviour, you may be puzzled about the difference between the terms “customer” and “consumer”. This is because they are sometimes used interchangeably and are sometimes used to mean different things.

Here are three different examples of how these words are used:

  • The most frequent distinction made is that a customer is the person who buys a product or service, while the consumer is the one who uses it. (Of course, in many cases the customer is also the consumer, but not necessarily.)
  • Another definition says that a consumer is a potential customer to a firm and the customer is someone that already consumes the goods a specific firm produces. For example, if you regularly purchase shoes from Nike, you are a Nike customer. But if your friend does not shop at Nike, then Nike would consider him a consumer (i.e., a potential customer). Businesses often target consumers and existing customers differently.
  • In the reading below, the word consumer is used differently – to distinguish an individual (or group) buyer from an organizational buyer.

So, just be aware that it is best to judge from the context as to what the words consumer and customer are intended to mean in a particular case – and if you are using these words, make sure you define them carefully.


Consumer behaviour

  1. Read this extract on consumer behaviour, taken from Chapter 4 of Core Concepts of Marketing by John Burnett.
  2. Make a WEnote on your thoughts about why understanding consumer behaviour is essential for marketing success.
    • Understanding consumer behaviour is essential because …

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