Customers vs Users: The Difference and Why it Matters.

July 17, 2022
Listen to Article
Play button for article audio.Pause button for article audio.

Hello, and welcome to the island. Let’s dive in.

If you’ve worked in almost any kind of product or service business then you’ve surely heard the terms customer and user get thrown around a lot and often times interchangeably. However, what if we told you this is not only bad practice, but that it could impact your business? In this article, we’ll discuss customers versus users, the difference and why it matters.

First, let’s grasp the concept that there’s a big difference between a customer and a user, and it’s important to know what that difference is. So, what makes the two different? Let’s break this down, so we can understand it without too much fluff.

The Customers

So, who or what is a customer then? In short, customers are the individuals or companies who buy your product or service. They’re the ones with the purchasing decision and power. Here are a few examples:

Parent to a child. Let’s say you’re a maker of children's toys. Well, in that case the parent is your customer, not the child.

Human to a pet. Let’s say you sell custom doggy and kitty condos. In that case, the human or pet owner is your customer, not the dog or cat.

Okay, so that's all fine and dandy, but why do you need to know this. Well, the fact is your customer is the only one who will invest in your product or service. Knowing who they are enables you to keep their needs front of mind, allowing you a greater chance of convincing them that your product or service is worth their money or time.

The Users

Now that we understand a bit about what a customer is, what about a user? Who or what is a user? Simply put, users are the people or companies who actually use your product or service. They’re the ones who give you feedback, tell you what they like and don’t like, and help you make your product or service better. Let’s look at some examples here too:

Nike to its employees. Let’s say your company is Apple and Nike decides to upgrade their employee’s laptops with the new 14-inch Macbook Pro M1 Max. In this case, the employee’s are the users of Apple's product, not Nike.

Husband to wife. Let’s say a husband decides to buy his wife a new Chanel perfume as a gift. In this case, the wife is the user of Chanel's product, not the husband.

Okay, clear enough, right? But, why does this matter? Knowing who the user is critical. They’re the ones who are responsible for making your business a success – or not. So, it’s important to make sure you keep them happy by addressing their pain points or providing them with a pleasant experience through your product or service. If Nike’s employees all hated the experience of their new Apple laptops, that could result in a lot of lost business and revenue for Apple since those people are less likely to recommend or tell others about the product. The reverse is also true, however. If the experience is positive, then that could result in more adoption and increased revenue overall.

In Conclusion

The distinction between customers and users matters. Your goal should be to make it easy for customers to see the value of your product or service and to make it easy for users to adopt it. Consider both the customers and the users needs to create a holistic strategy.

You should help the customer make the buying decision by incorporating a clear value proposition in your communication strategy. At the same time, you should consider reducing the pain for the users better than what they have now.

When thinking about how to market your product or service, you should focus on the customer when creating your marketing and communication strategy by empathizing with them and offering a clear value proposition in order to help them make the purchase decision. At the same time, you should make sure that the user experience is as optimal as possible, to make it easy for them to integrate it into their day-to-day in place of what they currently have. A well designed experience will encourage users to recommend your product or service. Keeping both the customer and user in mind will make it easier for your business to grow and succeed.