Is it Time to Kill the Term ‘Consumer’?

If we removed the noun “consumer” from the retail lexicon, what would we lose?

The reason I ask is because the participatory nature of social media has rendered the term invalid (or at least not as valid as it once was). In an era where people are no longer merely consumers of information, but purveyors of it, the appellation seems out of place.

In the mind of some, the word could even be considered offensive due to the fact that it pejoratively stereotypes people as little more than selfish materialists whose entire lives are bent on Conehead-like massive consumptive behavior.

In Search of a Better Word
If we cease to use the term consumer to describe those who purchase products, with what do we replace it? “Customer” is a better word, but that still doesn’t do it justice. Perhaps a more preferable term is “people.” 8thBridge was built on the conviction that brands should reshape themselves around people. Retailers should view their customers as real people, gauging the value of their influence beyond just the three transactional data points — name, product purchased and purchase amount.

People as Promoters
Speaking of assessing customer value, another “P” word — one that will appeal to retailers — is “promoter.” Not the “carnival barker” variety, mind you, but the term as found in Net Promoter Score (NPS), a management tool used to gauge the loyalty of a brand’s customer relationships.

NPS is based on the perspective that every company’s customers can be divided into three categories — promoters, passives and detractors — with the idea being that brands court promoters, who are those most likely to recommend the brand to their friends.

Commenting on the value of NPS, 8thBridge CEO Wade Gerten said, “From a retail standpoint, people are participants in and even controllers of the purchase process. Their influence and advocacy carries great weight, especially when they can easily share their brand and product preferences with friends and followers on social networks.”

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  • LemonFizzy1

    How about we stop considering ourselves "marketers" and begin referring to ourselves as "people"? After all, we are not only generators of marketing metrics, we are purveyors of them as well.

  • Thomas (Tom) Smith, III

    To me it’s all semantics — "prospects, cold leads, warm leads, customers, consumers, satisfied customers, detractors, passives, promoters, raving fans."

    The key is to agree on a definition that works in your company, particularly between marketing and sales, and provide an outstanding experience to all of them.

  • chilly girl

    I consider myself a partner to those I serve. We’re here to provide solutions in a way that benefits all parties. Some may consider it semantics, and in a way that’s true. In fact, its difficult to even write this post without trying to assign a label to each person including our own roles. That’s human nature, however, I’ve found that by truly forging close relationships, with integrity and follow-through being at the forefront, ‘partner’ is an apt term. It has served well in winning and growing business, as well as maintaining long-term loyalty.

  • Reggie

    Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard says "we are not citizens anymore, we are consumers". I like him because he also advertises "don’t buy this jacket if you don’t need it".
    Social networking’s influence just adds to the runaway "consumer" train, not slowing it. It’s a consumer world more than ever and if more cash was available, that would be more obvious. Facebook, Twitter, mobile services, Big Data, etc. completely OWN most of you and you don’t even see that. Unless of course you’re making money from it all with so-called "disruptive" marketing to the sheeple providing you income.

  • Barry Dennis

    "Consumers" didn’t start out with a negative connotation, it was actually a positive usage, used to describe loyal users of a product or service, and meant good people, buying good products and services, to enhance personal and family lifestyles. Media has changed consumerism to a negative, giving it a meaning of greed, unbridled enthusiasm for obesity, waste, and other media-defined negatives. It’s time to restore "consumer" to a positive meaning of "looking for, and supporting quality products and services, designed to further the lifestyle, happiness and satisfaction of individuals and families everywhere."
    Oh, and as I’ve noted before it’s way past time for a strong, positive non-government consumer "voice," one respected and credible in the eyes of consumers, one with national reach, one whose quotes and commentary will be considered and utitlized by mainstream media and national and local governments to do their job of enforcing transparency by business and institutions, forcing marketplace competitiveness and free access, and one on whom Citizen/consumers can rely.