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Customers and Consumers

Author: Jim Riley  Last updated: Sunday 23 September, 2012

A common question that arises when studying marketing is the following:

What is the difference between a customer and a consumer?

The following distinction should help:

• A customer – purchases and pays for a product or service

• A consumer – is the ultimate user of the product or service; the consumer may not have paid for the product or service

Consider the following example:

• A food manufacturing business makes own-label, Italian ready meals for the major supermarkets.

• So far as the business is concerned, the customer is the supermarket to whom it supplies meals

• The consumer is the individual who eats the meal

In terms of its marketing effort, who should the business above target?

In reality – it needs to understand the needs and wants of both the customer and the consumer.

It needs to develop a strong understanding of the needs of the supermarkets in terms of their requirements for ready meals (e.g. packaging, recipes, price & delivery).

It also needs to understand (perhaps with the help of the supermarkets) the needs and wants of the consumer. How are tastes changing? Are consumers happy with the standard / taste of the product?




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