Consumers vs. Shoppers: What’s the Difference?

Wed Dec 19 2018 /
Diana Whitaker

Consumers vs. Shoppers: What’s the Difference?

Let’s talk about consumers and shoppers. People typically use these terms interchangeably, but shoppers and consumers have very different decision-making mechanisms.

Consumers have requirements that need to be fulfilled by the products they buy for themselves and families (healthy, durable, filling, tasty). Consumers are known as the users. They typically have an idea of what they want in a brand. Shoppers, on the other hand, have requirements that need to be fulfilled as part of the shopping process (variety, value, convenience, experience). Shoppers are known as the choosers.

Even when the consumer and the shopper are the same person, they behave differently with brands. As a shopper our decisions aren’t always about one brand or one purchase. We are often buying many things. Consumers can have very intense brand relationships, while shoppers have less brand love since they are usually in the shopping mode, not the loving mode. That makes the shopper a completely different target with a very different brand relationship. You can be part shopper, part consumer, and your shopping decisions are shaped by your experience of the brand as a consumer.

To take things a little further, let’s look at men vs. women. Men and women obviously think differently about things. When they are making decisions, there are different perspectives, motives, and considerations that affect that decision. Because women have a thicker nerve tissue running between the left and right side of the brain, they

typically use both sides of their brain when making decisions, while most men typically use the left side. The left side of the brain deals with logic and facts while the right side of the brain focuses on context and visual imagery. So, let’s see how that affects the shopping experience.

Generally speaking, women are the shoppers, while men are the consumers, but obviously there are exceptions here. In the context of shopping, this different brain structure leads to men (consumers) tending to be more task-oriented shoppers while women (shoppers) are more likely to be discovery-oriented shoppers who readily adjust their initial goals if this would result in a more satisfying outcome. To this point, there are two distinct shopping motives: utilitarian and hedonic. The utilitarian motive essentially means you’re shopping “to get something done”, while the hedonic motive relates more to the emotional responses where you are shopping because you love to, not because you have to. Men’s motives for shopping appear to be more utilitarian, whereas women’s shopping motives tend to be hedonic. On average, women prefer the hunt, while men want a quick and effortless process. The hunt is a much more comprehensive experience – both objective and subjective information taken into consideration, however the ability to get in and out quickly to solve the problem is a more popular option for men.  

The Share a Coke campaign did this well – blending the two factors together. t’s still Coke – quick and easy to identify, but it’s also personalized and appeals to the “hunt” aspect of the shopper vs. the consumer.

To learn more about Human Factors in Package Design visit the course at

Share The Knowledge

Who We Are

The Packaging School brings together the business, art, and science of packaging so you can lead projects, optimize supply chains, increase margins, and develop sustainable solutions.

Our company headquarters are located in Greenville, SC. Please reach out to us at 864-412-5000 or

Stay Up To Date

Be the first to know about new classes and the latest tools to maximize your knowledge.

By signing up you indicate you have read and agree to our Terms of Use. Packaging School will always respect your privacy.


Certificate of Mastery in Packaging Management

Certificate of Packaging Science

Automotive Packaging Certificate

Certificate of Sustainable Packaging

Food Packaging Certificate

All Courses




Food & Beverage



The Packaging School Logo
South Carolina Commission on Higher Education License #5400
Copyright © 2015-2022 The Packaging School, LLC. All Rights Reserved.