What is the Difference Between Customer and Consumer?

by / ⠀Entrepreneurship Finding Customers / January 12, 2023
customer vs consumer

You may not think it, but consumer and customer are words that we often use interchangeably. However, that is not always the case. Both relate to your business in different ways and both are important to understanding how they work.

Let’s get started to know the difference between a customer and a consumer.

What is the Difference?

First, we need to know the difference between consumer and customer. A consumer is someone who uses a product or service. Whatever they use can be for either personal use or professional.

A customer is someone, usually a person or even a business who buys a product or service. There are two types of customers. The first is the trade customer who doesn’t use what they buy. Then there is the final customer who does use what they buy. Regardless, both are important because they make you money!

But there are other differences between products and services. For instance, a consumer is someone who uses the product or service, but this does not mean that they originally purchased it. A customer can become a consumer if they buy the product or service and then use it themselves.

To better understand this, think of buying a gift. The person who buys the gift is the customer because they bought it. The person who receives the gift is the consumer because they actually use the gift. Other times, a customer may resell the item to make money themselves or even use it for business use. In this case, an Internet cafe buying computers would be the customer while the users of the cafe would be the consumer.

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The line between consumer and customer often blends, making it hard to distinguish the truth. For example, a person at a bakery buys a muffin. If the person buys the muffin for themself then they are a customer than a consumer. But, if they buy the muffin and give it to their friend then they remain the customer while the friend becomes a consumer because they “used” the product.

Easy right?

The Key to Distinguishing Customer and Consumer

There are usually three ways to tell the difference between the consumer and the customer.

The Customer

  • Who: Anyone such as an individual or a business that purchases a product or service.
  • Why: To consume, gift, or resell the product or service.
  • Pay Method: Typically in the fashion of a monetary transaction, but always pays.

The Consumer

  • Who: An individual or group that uses a product or service.
  • Why: To use the product or service. Very rarely ever resells or gifts. Customers become consumers when they pay and use the product or service.
  • Pay Method: Usually does not have to pay for a product or service.

Customer Support vs Consumer Support

A business will always have customers, but not every business has a consumer. Knowing and understanding the difference is important due to the fact that it assists you in your business practices such as logistics and support.

To put this into perspective, imagine a supplier of fruit to grocery stores and restaurants. Those would be the supplier’s customers. The supplier is better off with having a customer support team to work with their buyers rather than a consumer support team as that does little to help with things like deliveries.

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A business is able to have both consumer and customer services, but they need support practices that help with both cases. To have both is like when a business buys software for their computers. Because the business uses it, they become the customer and the consumer.


It is quite important to know the difference between the customer and the consumer. Not all customers are consumers and not all consumers are customers. Understanding this is key to a successful business.

To recap, a customer is someone who intends to buy a product or service but does not always use it. However, if they use it for themselves, then they become a consumer. They are always the buyer. The customer also has the option to resell or gift the item rather than use it themselves.

A consumer is someone who receives a product or service but sometimes is never the buyer. A consumer can be a customer.

Knowing the key differences helps businesses understand their customer database. They know what works as gifts and what is used for the customer themselves. Knowing the difference is key to your customer support and your consumer support. Identifying the major differences allows you to modify your business practices and your support to ensure happy customers.

By taking care of your customers in this way, you are giving yourself a surefire way to retain your customers for years to come.

About The Author

Tristan Anderson

Hello! My name is Tristan Anderson and I live in Manhattan, Kansas. I enjoy being in nature and animals. I am also a huge geek who loves Star Wars and has a growing collection.


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