In this world, everyone is either a consumer or a customer or one person can be both at the same time. When it comes to business and marketing, customer and consumer are two terms you must have come across regularly. Surprisingly, people have been using these two terms interchangeably without giving them much thought but these two terms even though they sound similar have very different meanings. These terms are often misunderstood and it’s important to know the difference between them, which is exactly what we will be explaining in this article.
Customer vs. Consumer
The main difference between a customer and a consumer is that a customer buys the goods and a consumer consumes the goods or uses the goods for personal use. A customer and consumer both deal with goods but what separates both is the intentions behind dealing with these goods, the said intention is that a customer intends to resell those goods while a consumer plans to consume the goods. The customer is indeed the main target of the business but a consumer is the one who consumes the products of those businesses so a consumer is the one who has the power to give their opinions on it. A consumer decides whether the quality of the products that the businesses produce or manufacture is good enough to pass the test or not.
Difference Between Customer and Consumer in Tabular Form
|A customer is the one who purchases goods
|A consumer is someone who consumes goods
|A customer purchases goods and can resell them
|A consumer cannot resell the goods purchased
|A customer purchases goods to resell them
|A consumer intends to consume the goods purchased
|The customer pays for the goods purchased
|The consumer doesn’t have to necessarily pay for it since it can also be a gift given to them
What is a Customer?
A customer is someone who purchases goods from a third party like an organization. Their sole purpose of purchasing goods is to resell them to another party. Customers are very important to businesses, even going to the extent of regarding them as gods because customers bring in revenue to the businesses, without it a business wouldn’t survive. Their importance cannot be overstated, the motto “customers are always right” is taken seriously because a happy customer is more likely to buy the company’s products and that is exactly why many businesses pour in resources to keep the customers satisfied.
Customers are usually classified into two groups, external customers and internal customers. External customers are the ones who do not participate in the operations of the business and are usually interested in the purchase of the final goods that are produced by the company. Internal customers are the ones who join the company often as existing employees and are involved in business operations, these customers are directly connected to the company. 
Once a customer is interested and lured in to buy a product, then only it can be shifted forward to the consumer in the chain. On top of that, a good marketer will always try to influence the customer’s preferences first. This leads them to purchase the goods and return for more. Because once these marketers know how to motivate the customers to regularly visit and purchase their products it will help boost their sales and revenue quickly. 
Types of Customers
These customers are very common, they usually look for new products to get into and would require guidance to help them get accustomed to products that might seem foreign to them. Helping and guiding these customers through the products and informing them on the said products will help gain the customer’s affection and help build loyalty among them. Giving the customers a very good first experience will turn them into repeat customers, which is why these types of customers are usually with the largest potential.
Impulse customers as the name suggests are the customers who buy something as soon as it catches their eye, they do not properly look and research on the products they want to buy. These types of customers are very prone to returning goods they purchased since they have a habit of buying them impulsively and do not take their time considering the things they are about to purchase. These customers can be a hassle to deal with since they are usually not satisfied with the product they bought and one has to be patient when it comes to engaging with them.
These customers are usually not friendly, they might be going through a bad day or very dissatisfied with something which might lead them to be in such a temper. Customers like this will need to be talked to calmly and slowly even though they might not do the same and one should listen to what they have to say and be very informed on what these customers ask since not being informed on the stuff they are looking for will frustrate them more. Being Empathic will play a big role in dealing with these customers.
These customers are very knowledgeable before buying their products as they have already researched the said products. These customers are very stubborn and will always claim to know more about the products than the seller itself. One has to be a very good listener and also very well informed on their product since if these customers even get the hint that they know more about the product then they will overpower the seller. They need to be conversed politely and be smoothly guided in such a way that satisfies their influential needs otherwise they can turn into an angry customer.
These customers are favored by the company because of their loyalty. They are the favorites because they always bring in revenue for the seller, but they will also always expect a high standard of treatment due to their loyalty status. The pressure is always on the seller to satisfy their needs and provide them with the best service because of their importance since a happy loyal customer will mostly likely talk good about a company to others, which can help bring in more customers like them. Sometimes there might be issues faced by both which will not be entirely the fault of the company, so to retain their trust one can provide them with discounts or other offers.
What is a Consumer?
A consumer is an individual who purchases goods for their personal, social, or household use, rather than for resale, they are the end users of these goods. The main intention behind purchasing goods would be to consume those goods, they don’t have to necessarily purchase these goods as they can also be given by a third party like a family member as a gift. Every person entering a store with the sole intent of consuming the goods is a consumer, the payment of which is paid in full or promised to pay or partly paid and partly promised.
Consumers are very important to the economy, as they bring in revenue as they are also the ones purchasing the goods and they make sure the goods purchased are not wasted as they are the ones who consume them, also Without the demand of the consumers, the producers will lack a key element that motivates them to produce goods i.e. consumers’ willingness to buy or to sell to consumers, so it can be said that consumers encourage demand. Consumers not only create demand but also create demand for various types of groups since different consumers have different demands and needs for various products.
As per the Consumer Protection Act, of 1986, a person who purchases the goods to add value to it or resale for any commercial purpose is excluded. But, a person can use those same commodities as a means to earn a living or for self-employment. Other than the buyer, any other user who purchases the goods, and consumes those goods with permission of the buyer will come under the category of consumer. It also includes the person who avails those services for any consideration and also the beneficiary of such services will be regarded as the consumer. There are three Consumer protection councils in India:
- At the national level: the Central Protection Council
- At the state level: State Protection Council
- At the district level: District Protection Council
Types of Consumers
These consumers will always be trying to get the best and lowest deals and will be willing to even argue to bargain for a lower price. They are impossible to convert into loyal customers unless it is in the company’s plan to always offer the lowest deals to these types of consumers.
These consumers are usually most the time just there to look at the products, they are attracted to the idea of looking around without any intention of purchasing these goods. Since their mind is already made up on just looking and wandering through the store it is very hard to convince them to buy anything but not impossible.
As the name suggests, these consumers are adamant about buying a specific product. These consumers are completely focused on buying goods that relate to their needs. But these consumers usually make an instantaneous purchase of these goods once they find what they need, these consumers have a high potential to be converted into loyal consumers if they are always provided with the goods they need.
Inferior Goods Consumer
These consumers do not have the luxury of choosing between what goods to buy because of their low income and have to settle for low-priced goods.
These consumers usually buy goods in large quantities but are the end users of these goods. These consumers at times also associate their needs to specific products.
These consumers prefer to shop discreetly and have a unique buying habit. These consumers will spend large amounts of money on specific products like jewelry, cosmetics, etc., and will steer away from thrifting in other categories.
Extroverted consumers are the ones who prefer to buy branded goods and no one type of goods and will continue to do so and also will be keen on becoming loyal consumers. They have a high potential to become branded supports if they are provided with good and high-quality products as they always seek unique brands.
Main Difference between Customers and Consumers in Points
- A customer is someone who buys goods from a seller for resale whereas a consumer is someone who buys goods for personal use.
- A customer is known as the buyer or client and a consumer is known as the end user of the product.
- A customer is or can be an individual or a business entity while a consumer is or can be an individual or a family or a group of people.
- A customer usually pays the price of the product purchased but a consumer doesn’t have to necessarily pay for the product, it can always be bought for them by a third party.
Looking back it can be really easy to be confused between customers and consumers as they are very similar in some regards and also because both customer and consumer can be found in the same person. But as said before the main takeaway is always the intentions behind those goods, and what both plan to use those goods for. The impact both customers and consumers have is undeniably huge as they are the main source of revenue for businesses; they are also very influential when it comes to producing goods as businesses will look at the different needs and wants of both these groups. It’s up to the businesses to figure out and prioritize all these factors and also provide services that will cater to both these groups, the outcome of which will determine its standing in the competitive market.