Digital Marketing Roles

In all our days as marketers, we’ve learned to differentiate between the two crucial roles: the consumer and the customer. As you know, the customer is the person who purchases the good or service, and the consumer is the one who uses it. Now that we’ve introduced a digital component to the equation, we’ve had to add a new role. We need to consider the user.

I won’t waste your time and we will just jump right in and talk about it with an example that I received from José M. Lavín, one of my marketing teachers, that will surely provide the needed clarity.

At Christmastime, parents are customers and children are consumers.

José M. Lavín

That’s how it’s been for decades, but by adding the digital into the equation, we have to consider that both of them can be users of the digital platform.

In digital marketing, the user is the person who visits the website or opens up the app. It’s the person who interacts with the digital platform, and, depending on the platform and circumstances, the user may also be the customer and/ or the consumer. In our example, the child may search online for a game that they want and send the link to their parents, who then use the site to complete the online transaction. Mommy puts it on her credit card, and Susie gets to open the package on Christmas morning.

While our previous formulae for marketing can easily categorize one as the consumer and one as the customer, we need to pay close attention to their shared role as users.

The site needs to be easy enough for Susie to find the game and tempting enough that she’ll want to get it, while it also must be simple and safe enough for her mother to finish the purchase. All of this is compiled into User Experience, a.k.a. UX, or UE, and, unfortunately, too many sites know nothing of this at all.

As for the consumer and the customer, these are hardly new roles in marketing, and they’ve stayed pretty much the same in the digital world. Nonetheless, studies about them and their behaviours have proliferated in the last few years.

According to some accomplished folks, the study of customer behaviour began more than 300 years ago with Nicolaus II Bernoulli and his work on probability theory. You shouldn’t worry, though, as we won’t get into this long and tiresome history.

However, it is important to consider that our conceptions of the customer and consumer have evolved over the years if only just a bit. This is because new sources of information, new products, and new necessities appeared, and this caused a transformation in customer behaviour regarding their needs and purchasing decisions.

You, me, and everyone else that we share this planet with; we’re all customers. Each one of us moves along a series of steps to find our way and make decisions about what products and services we purchase. This is what we call the Customer Journey and you can bet that, to a certain extent, we’re all users as well.

Our experience as users is all a part of that journey. In digital marketing, the “coffee for all” is not an option, and defining the Customer Journey, both online and offline is, or should be, the very first step of our Marketing strategy today.