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27 Jun 2017
posted by: Amanda

Consumer (user) V Shopper (chooser); what's the difference?


Decision making can happen any time, any place, anywhere...

Decisions about what to buy can happen at any time....a word of mouth recommendation from a friend, maybe you're on the bus and you notice a passing advert or you're in the store and see a new product or maybe a promotion catches your eye as you're waiting to pay. There are countless times & situations that drive our decision making.

What's more these can change. Today you might be looking for a quick meal for one whereas tomorrow you could be having your sister's kids round for tea.

As such, when we talk about consumers and shoppers and the fundamental decision to purchase, we ought to think of it in the context of the entire decision making process and not just the shopper bit or the consumer bit.

It seems logical therefore to have a fully connected & thoroughly researched P2P (Path to Purchase) journey within a business.

You will no doubt have seen various versions of the P2P and may well use a slightly different version to the one shown here; some have six step some have seven. Personally, I prefer to view it in a cyclical sense to really visually capture that decisions don't start and end but are changeable and can happen at any time in the P2P journey.

Cyclical P2P

Albeit I accept that 'Need' tends to be the logical start point and we'd all have had to have been there at one stage, i.e., when we NEED to use toothpaste for the first time or NEED our first car.

My husband likes to tell me that when it comes to my shoe shopping, there is no NEED, just WANT...but that's a whole other story!


What's really interesting (I think!), is that when you break the P2P journey down into key stages - like I've shown here - it becomes clear that two out of the 5 decisions are made in 'consumer land' and three in 'shopper land' and very few examples (pet & baby being two obvious ones), see the purchase decision being stuck in one land or the other.

So when it comes to answering the million dollar question of what is the difference between consumers and shoppers, it really boils down to where the person is on their P2P journey on any given day.

What does each decision stage actually mean?


Traditionally consumer land. This is where the idea is planted in the target's mind.... 'hhhmmmmm that looks interesting' or... 'I'd like one of those'. At this stage the potential sale of the product is passive as it's just in our heads and we haven't actually done something about it yet.

Goal? Mental availability; Get it onto their radar, create the desire & tempt them to buy.


When the idea moves from being passive to active as the target is now making a plan to buy, or at least look into the product or service further that has caught their attention, e.g., ....'right, I'm going to go to X store to have a look at which new TVs they have'... or 'I might just have a look at Brand X when I'm in Woolies this week'.

Goal? Call to action; give me a reason to buy it today. Aldi does this so well with their limited time offers such as the ski sale.


Well and truly in shopper land as the target is now physically on the path to buy, e.g., seeking it out in the store, clicking through online or thumbing through a magazine to 'shop' the options available.

Goal? Physical availability; good distribution & make sure when I go into a store I'm literally falling over it. There's a reason why Coke spends $$$ on field reps & merchandisers.


Commonly referred to as the first moment of truth. The shopper is now stood in front of the fixture or gondola end or hovering over the 'buy now' button and is weighing up the options; 'will I, won't I?' or 'should I? shouldn't I?'.

Goal? Standout; give me a reason to pick your brand over the others right in front of me. Think Easter and Easter eggs.


Commonly referred to as the second moment of truth. Now back in consumer land, this is the acid test as to whether the product actually delivers to expectations. If it does, it is likely that the shopper will buy again and could become a loyal supporter and advocate. A huge spike in 'trial' but no repeat tends to mean that the product hasn't lived up to expectations.

Goal? Exceed expectations; or in the words of Ronseal:

ronseal frame b 0

So what?

The key point is that the more you can understand about the entire P2P journey, the better sales will be because the more your business knows about the decisions that are made at each stage - and therefore what to influence, when & WHY - the more effective your brands will be in converting a passive idea into a solid sale that is then hopefully repeated week after week.

Good luck!