Customer Success | 8 MIN READ

Consumer vs Customer: What is the Exact Difference? Why is it Important?

Consumer vs Customer: What are the difference in the definitions and usage. Although interchangeably used in the common context, they are not the same.

Simran Mohanty
Oct 7, 2020


Consumer vs Customer
Source: Pexels

Often the two terms, consumer vs customer are interchangeably used in the common context. In simple vocabulary, a consumer is someone who consumes a product. Similarly, a customer is the one who buys or purchases a product. Despite the exact definitions, both the terms are deemed essential in the economic ideology of consumerism.

So, what is the difference between a consumer and a customer? Nevertheless, it is true that a customer is a prime target in the world of business. But, it is finally a consumer who consumes or uses the product. He is the one who has the power to unearth the verdict. A consumer decides whether the quality of the product or service has passed the test or not. Here is a glimpse of some of the topics we shall be highlighting on:

  • Who is a Consumer?
  • Types of Consumers
  • Who is a Customer?
  • Types of Customers
  • Key Differences: Consumer vs Customer
  • Why is it so important?
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Before proceeding, know that the consumer and the customer may or may not be the same person. Also, the consumer has the leverage to influence the buying decisions of the customer. So, what are the exact difference and why is it so important? Let’s dig in to explore.

Who is a Consumer?

The definition of a consumer could get subjective as well as tricky sometimes. In any given business, the one who consumes the service or uses the goods is said to be a consumer. Note that a customer could be a consumer at certain times, but not always.

Simply put, any entity who does not have the choice to resell the product or service and use that for its purpose is a consumer. Or in even simpler terms, every end-user in the chain of buying or using services of products is a consumer.

Let’s take an example here. Say, you are the head of the family and you purchase some milk packets from the retailer. Till the time you buy those packets, you are a customer. But when that is consumed by you and your family that is where they are the consumers.

This is when you are entitled to discern the genuine nature and quality of the product. Hence, surveys and consumer reports have a huge demand for businesses. To truly sustain in the business world, the quality of your services and the impact it leaves on the consumers makes or breaks the deal.

Types of Consumers

  • The Extrovert Type: The kind of consumers who fall in this category are the ones who have a thing for branded items. They will most likely stick around to them and will strive to become a loyal ones. If met with high-quality products and services, they have a good chance to convert into brand advocates.
  • The Inferior Goods Type: They are the ones who face a considerable dearth of money and are a part of the low-income status. Hence, they are bound to purchase only those products that are needed for mere survival.
  • The Commercial Type: No matter their actual requirement of purchasing items, this category of consumers will buy goods and products in a bulk. This may or may not be used for commercial purposes.
  • The Discrete Type: As the name suggests, these kinds of consumers will opt for a discrete mode of buying habits. Simply put, they will consider spending a handsome amount on some of the specific items only, say, cosmetics, jewelry, or apparel. And will mostly steer away from thrifting on the other categories.

Who is a Customer?

Again, the definition of a customer is similar to that of a consumer, but not in its entirety. He is the one who purchases a product or service followed by a monetary transaction. Note that a customer is not exactly a consumer at all times.

This can be better elaborated on with this example. Say, a mother bought some candies for her kids. In this case, the mother is the customer, while her kids are the consumers. 

The common thread that unites every business is wooing the customer.

Once a customer is enticed enough and lured to buy a product, then only it can move next to the consumer in the chain. Over and above, a good marketer always tries to influence the customers first. This induces them to purchase and revert for some more. As they know that once they motivate the customers to frequent and purchase, thereby triggering sales and revenue.

Types of Customers

  • Resell Customers: They are the ones who initially buy a product with a motive of reselling it to draw a profit. Wholesalers, manufacturers, trade customers, and retailers fall in this category. Here, they are not the end-user of the purchased goods.
  • Final Customers: These types of customers are the end-users of the product that they buy. They purchase an item for their personal ingestion and do not resell it for generating profit.

Key Differences: Consumer vs Customer

Key Differences: Consumer vs Customer
  • Meaning: While a consumer is the one who consumes goods or services and is the end-user, a customer is the one who actually buys it. A consumer can be a customer but the reverse is not true.
  • Target Audience: A consumer could be anybody. Be it an individual, or a company, maybe a family or a mass. But a customer is more like a single entity or a company as a whole.
  • Selling Purposes: While a consumer does not hold the right to sell the product, he got to someone else. However, a customer is eligible to do so.
  • Reason: While the reason behind a consumer purchase is consumption, exclusively, on the other hand, the reason behind a customer purchasing it could either be consumption or sell it again to someone else.
  • Transaction: A consumer might or might not have to hold a monetary transaction for the purpose of getting the goods. Nonetheless, a consumer must undergo a transaction if he wishes to take the product or service.

Why is it so Important?

In various walks of life, there is umpteen importance of both these terms. The absence of consumers or customers in the economy chain or the country can get very difficult to monitor. Here are a few points that get us to thinking:

  1. Develops service divergenceConsumerism is a vast concept in itself. It just does not restrain itself to the food and beverage industry. Most of the tertiary services we use, be it the grooming industry, pharmacy, transport, communication, and/or educational systems are deeply wired to the development of the economy. Somewhere or the other, all of these are linked in a vicious circle.
  2. Balances the Demand-Supply graph: Economics states that the supply is directly proportional to the demand. It is essential to maintain a balance between both. Else, a dearth in any of the above will lead to enormous unemployment, recession and many such inadvertent issues can pile up.
  3. Augments Demands: All of the goods, services, or products around us are the final result of demand. Demand is the main root behind the emergence of any service or product. Different consumers have different interests in various segments of products. It is the demand that encourages the manufacturers to bring it to the market.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Is there any difference between a final customer and a final consumer? If so, what is it?

    Yes. The difference being on basis of price. A final customer will always pay up the price for an item. However, on the other hand, a final consumer may or may not pay up for the price. Say, User A gifts a clock to User B. In this case, the end-user is User B, even if he or she did not pay for it.

  2. Are all Consumers Customers, but not the vice-versa?

    Not necessarily. In order to be qualified as a customer, you must purchase a product or service. Nonetheless, a consumer might not really be the buyer of the product. Like mentioned earlier, if an item has been gifted to someone else, in that case, the consumer is still not the buyer. On similar tracks, a customer who buys a product with an intention of reselling for future benefits, is not called as the end-user or consumer of the given item. Hence, all customers are not necessarily consumers.

  3. If User X purchases milk with a purpose to resell and User Z purchases milk for his kids, who of the following is a customer or a consumer?

    As stated earlier, User X purchased the milk with an intention of reselling it to other people, thereby making him a customer. And on the other hand, User Z has the purpose of using this milk by making a purchase, thereby making him a consumer.

That’s a Wrap

It’s a given that any business XYZ runs on the demands of a user. The stiff selection between a consumer vs customer is finally led to the type of service or product to choose upon. They are the real drivers behind the system. Or in even simple words, they are the real CEO of your company and decide what kind of profit or loss you make.

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Originally Published October 7th, 2020, Updated October 8th, 2021

Simran Mohanty

Simran hails from the content marketing backdrop with extensive knowledge in blogs, articles, and technical whitepapers in the non-fictional domain. She uses her 'gift of the gab' to explore new possibilities on her way and to make an exquisite impact on her readers. In her spare time, she likes to read journals on artificial intelligence or play with her cute kittens.

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