31 October 2012

Consumers, Shoppers and/or People

Consumer or Shopper?
Words mean things.  When you have a choice among two or three words to describe something, the word you choose directs your meaning.  We have a lot of choices in the advertising industry.  Media or Channels.  Media agnostic or Media neutral.  Creative or Content.  Then there’s Consumers and Shoppers.

Consumers and Shoppers

For decades, most advertising people referred to their client’s customers as “consumers”.  There were exceptions, like the mobile phone maker who sold handsets to retailers so they could sell to “end users”.  Of course, every company defines their own target, like the QSR chain who wanted more SHUs (Super Heavy Users) or the brewer who really understood KBDs (Key Beer Drinkers).  The industry generic term, however, was “consumers”.

Not many years ago, the rise of shopper marketing created an industry trend seeking to distinguish “consumers” from “shoppers”.  The thought was that “consumers” see your advertising, but by the time they reach the store, they are “shoppers”, prone to forget what you told them once they see a special offer, display or demonstration.  The store was a medium and its audience was shoppers. 

Mobile Changes All That

We used to distinguish between Consumers and Shoppers but that’s no longer helpful because it’s no longer a distinction.  The shopping process starts at home, when the Consumer sees your advertising and starts researching or even shopping online.  If a trip to the store is involved, the research may even continue at shelf.  The advent of Near Field Communication is going to propel that behavior.

In other words, a Consumer becomes a Shopper much earlier in the purchase process.  (We could go a step further and say that a Shopper was always a Consumer in the end.)

Why It Matters
  • Marketing has to be integrated just like the purchase cycle.  In the early days of IMC, marketers and agencies made matching luggage, and in more recent years discovered channel planning.  Often, though, we were artificially connecting the channels.  The mobile device makes that connection more genuine than ever.
  • Mobile’s influence will always exceed its budget.  There’s a lot of industry discussion about how Mobile’s enormous usage “deserves” a much greater percentage of the marketing budget.  I would argue for Mobile’s cost-efficiency:  You spend less because it’s targeted to people who ask for the messages.
  • Consumers, Shoppers and/or People.  Consumer insights and Shopper insights all come from people.  It does little good to segregate consumer insights from shopper insights because it's all part of the same, continuous purchase cycle.  You have to understand the whole consumer.

Or the whole person.  As a creative director once asked me:  Why can’t we just call them “people”?

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