By Kelly Fuson, MBA in Global Management 2011
An interesting debate arose during a meeting today at the office about the appropriate use of customer as compared to consumer. I hadn’t really thought about it before. I suppose it’s one of those things you choose based on what sounds right, like most things in the english language. So I’m opening this up for a public debate to set the record straight.
To provide some context to the situation, I’ll add that the discussion was in reference to a client whose business is both B2B and B2C. Does that even make a difference?
When I took a second to think about it, I decided that I tend to use consumer when referring to the end-user — the one who will be “consuming” the product/service. So when I use customer I am referring to someone who is purchasing the product/service but not necessarily “consuming” it (for example, a manufacturer purchases raw materials to make a finished product and then sells that to retailers who then sell it to me — who in that scenario would be a consumer and who would be a customer?).
Are they interchangeable? You tell me. I’d like to know.