Shoppers vs. Buyers. What’s the Difference?

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Shoppers vs. Buyers. What’s the Difference?

Some people use the words ‘shoppers’ and ‘buyers’ interchangeably, but the two words do not mean the same thing. Yes, both are interested in purchasing products, but their reasons for doing so are very different.

When retailers are busy negotiating with their suppliers, they sometimes forget to keep the needs of the shoppers – millions of them – who come to the supermarket every day, in mind. It’s no wonder the retail buyers are distracted, they are shopping the brands they need and their main focus is finding brands that will provide new revenue streams. Meanwhile the brands are concentrating on retaining margins.

In the buyer-brand tango, it’s all about the numbers and getting as much as they can, for as little as they can, but the shoppers are the ones who will benefit (or not) from the choices they make. The shoppers should be at the forefront of the minds of the buyers, because they are the cash flow source for the supermarket executives, the brand account managers and, well, for everyone involved in grocery retail.

Think about it – does your typical modern supermarket really focus on the needs of shoppers? It might be a model of efficiency with well-stocked shelves and plenty of special offers, which is ideal from the buyers’ point of view, but what do shoppers really think? Does it appeal to shopper engagement, loyalty and spend?

First off, it is common for a store to offer around 50,000 products to its shoppers. Do they really need so much choice? How many cheese or coffee choices does a shopper really want or need before they become overwhelmed? 300 types of cheese, over 90 different pizzas, hundreds of boxes of cereal? Discounters do very well with a much smaller range because it is just more manageable for the shopper’s mind.

Next up, when you are looking for a bottle of champagne or a great pair of shoes for your cousin’s wedding, should the shopping experience be the same as when you are shopping for a sack of potatoes? I don’t think so but the reality is, these are sold in the same retail environment.

We all love a bargain, but if 20% of SKUs are on special offer and, assuming there are 50,000 products, that means there are 10,000 special offers at any given time! Now, suppose that the typical shopper is in the store for 40 minutes and sees just half the special offers available – that still adds up to 5,000 different offers (or one offer every half second), which makes the special offers, well… a bit less special!

Retailing is no long a shopper and retailer partnership or a retailer and supplier agreement. It is a 3-way relationship among shopper, retailer, and supplier. This is something we need to understand so that the emotional needs of shoppers can be fully met.

For more details, visit my website: or read my book ‘Shoppology, The Science of Supermarket Shopping’.

Phillip Adcock

Shopping Behaviour Xplained