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Customer vs. Consumer: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 18, 2023
A customer buys goods or services; a consumer uses or consumes them.

Key Differences

A customer is an individual or entity that purchases a product or service from a business or a seller. In contrast, a consumer is someone who uses or consumes the product or service, regardless of whether they bought it.
While a customer initiates the transaction and might make repeated purchases, a consumer is the end-user who derives benefit or utility from the product.
For instance, a parent (the customer) might buy a toy for their child, but the child, who plays with the toy, is the consumer. It's important to note that sometimes the customer and the consumer can be the same person. For example, if an individual buys a cup of coffee and drinks it, they are both the customer of the coffee shop and the consumer of the coffee.
Businesses often target their marketing strategies towards the consumer, even if the consumer isn't always the one making the purchase, since understanding the consumer's needs helps in product development. In some industries, the distinction between customer and consumer becomes vital, especially when the purchasing decisions and consumption behaviors differ.

Comparison Chart

Basic Definition

Person or entity who purchases a product/service.
Person or entity who uses or consumes a product/service.


Engages in a transaction.
Derives benefit from a product.

Purchase vs. Usage

Buys the product/service.
Uses or consumes the product/service.

Relation to Transaction

Directly involved.
Might not be part of the purchasing decision.

Can they be the same?

Yes, one can be both a customer and consumer.
Yes, a consumer can also be a customer.

Customer and Consumer Definitions


A customer is an individual who buys products or services.
The store offered a discount to its loyal customers.


The behavior and needs of consumers guide product development.
Understanding the consumer's needs is paramount for successful marketing.


A customer can be a business, individual, or organization.
The wholesale distributor had several large businesses as customers.


Consumers derive utility or benefit from consumption.
The energy drink was popular among consumers looking for a quick boost.


Customers are entities engaged in transactions.
The software company signed a deal with a new customer.


Consumer rights protect the interests of the users of products/services.
As a consumer, she knew her rights and demanded quality service.


The customer's satisfaction often drives business strategies.
Feedback from the customer helped the brand improve its product.


Consumers may or may not be the ones purchasing the product.
The toy was bought by parents but the children were the actual consumers.


Customers are often the direct source of a company's revenue.
The cafe appreciated every customer who walked through their doors.


A consumer is an end-user of a product or service.
The latest smartphone appealed to young consumers.


One that buys goods or services, as from a store or business.


One that consumes, especially one that acquires goods or services for direct use or ownership rather than for resale or use in production and manufacturing.


(Informal) An individual with whom one must deal
That teacher is a tough customer.


(Ecology) A heterotrophic organism that ingests other organisms or organic matter in a food chain.


Can someone be a consumer without being a customer?

Yes, for example, a person who receives a gift is a consumer of the product but not the customer who bought it.

Are customers and consumers the same?

Not always. A customer buys the product, while a consumer uses it. They can be the same person or different individuals.

Can a business be a customer?

Yes, businesses can purchase services or products from other businesses.

Do companies focus more on customers or consumers?

It varies. Companies often focus on consumers for product development and on customers for sales strategies.

Who benefits from consumer protection laws?

Consumers are the primary beneficiaries of consumer protection laws.

What's an example of a situation where a customer isn't the consumer?

A parent buying a toy for a child; the parent is the customer, and the child is the consumer.

How do consumer trends influence businesses?

Consumer trends dictate demand, guiding businesses on what products or services to offer.

What do businesses mean by "know your customer" (KYC)?

KYC refers to the process businesses use to verify the identity of their customers, often for regulatory reasons.

How are consumer preferences identified?

Consumer preferences are identified through surveys, reviews, market research, and analyzing purchasing patterns.

Is customer service only about addressing problems?

No, customer service also encompasses enhancing the overall customer experience, answering queries, and building relationships.

Why is customer feedback crucial for businesses?

Feedback from customers helps businesses improve their products, services, and overall customer experience.

Are all customers consumers?

No, for instance, a retailer might be a customer of a wholesaler but not the end consumer of the product.

Why do companies have customer loyalty programs?

Loyalty programs aim to reward repeat customers, encouraging them to continue purchasing from the company.

How does a business identify its target customers?

Businesses use market research, demographics, and consumer behavior analysis to identify target customers.

Can the consumer's role change over time?

Yes, consumers' preferences, behaviors, and needs can evolve, influenced by trends, technology, and societal changes.

Who has the responsibility to ensure product safety?

While consumers should be cautious, businesses have the primary responsibility to ensure their products are safe.

How do companies gather consumer insights?

Companies use surveys, feedback forms, market research, and data analytics to gather insights about consumers.

What's the focus of consumer behavior studies?

Consumer behavior studies aim to understand how consumers make decisions and what factors influence their choices.

Are consumer rights the same in all countries?

No, consumer rights can vary significantly between countries.

Why might a business focus on customer retention?

Retaining existing customers is often more cost-effective than acquiring new ones, and loyal customers can become brand advocates.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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