Tuhin Ray

Decoding Shopper – Consumer Dichotomy

Written by: Tuhin Ray
About the author: CEO, Malbros Group (Africa) | Vice President, Future Group (India) | Vice President, Aditya Birla Group (India) | Business Head, Spencer’s Retail Ltd (India) | Leadership Role (more than a decade) in Sales, Consumer & Customer Marketing, Colgate- Palmolive (India)



When we speak about the market dynamics and the consumption behaviour, there needs to be a deep understanding about the difference between Shopper vs consumer. Generic marketing will draw upon consumer insights that relate to the perception of the product and the likeability of the product depending on product attributes.

In the new age of shopping, the in-store environment has triggered a sense of choice among shoppers. We know consumers are decision makers and they are the sole individuals that consume the products. But the shoppers are not only doing the purchasing for the consumer but also making decisions on behalf of consumers. The retail environment at in-store level is now more interactive which works on the 5P execution. The dominant P of 5P is the POP/POSM fixtures (communication) across all retail environments, predominantly in the modern trade format.

The key product attributes from brand to functional benefit to packaging to size to colour etc. are more vivid in form of communication on product, category shelf and off category coupled with experiential sampling. The digital push through social media and endorsement / reviews by bloggers and opinion leaders are the new catalysts for the shoppers to make a decision to buy. 

The dichotomy in marketers mind is that in this digital age, the shoppers are becoming more important than consumers, and a shift is happening. The shopper behavior and the ease of shopping sometimes bulldozes the consumer likeability where shopper and consumer are not the same person. 

Now all merchandise is more exposed on product reviews through digital (Instagram, WhatsApp, twitter etc.), hence the product experience is more evaluated on product benefit vs price.The functional benefit and in some cases the emotional benefit attached to product will be more important than only packaging and price. Initial buying and consumption triggers among shoppers may be on the basis of packaging, price and size content but the likability trend is shifting towards product benefit.

The shopping experience and the in-store engagement keeps alive the brick and mortar architecture. The new millennials will move more towards e-commerce in the days to come. Content will play a big role and along with product reviews will act as a recommendation mechanism for buying. 

In the emergent future the digital platform is where the shopper and the consumer will converge.

While we debate “Who comes first, Shopper or Consumer’’, the imperative for the marketer is to provide value that delivers promise and experience with a high quality quotient. The purchase decision hierarchy study on key attributes which enabled a shopper to buy will increasingly be dominated more by product benefit that is communicated effectively In-store as well as through other shopper touch-points on the decision journey.

2 thoughts on “Decoding Shopper – Consumer Dichotomy

  1. Especially in Digital platform… People buy product only after reading customer experience… Correct Observation…👍

  2. Very interesting article – quite intriguing on how the entire consumer/shopper experience is changing. Content will remain the king and the reviews will matter to trigger buyer behavior. The debate between Shopper or Consumer on who comes first shall continue across digital platforms and new motivators/triggers will play a key role to trigger decision making

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *