Customers, buyers and shoppers

One framework for thinking about customers is the shopping and buying spectrum. 

Sometimes customers want things as simply as possible. Utilities are one example. Ideally water, electricity and WiFi arrive as needed as necessary. In return, the payment process should be as easy as possible too.

Sometimes customers want things to be more immersive. We want to educate ourselves on the features. We want to “feel it in our hands”, “sit on it first,” or “try it on”. In these situations we do more shopping. Clothing stores are for shopping. Monthly boxes like Stitch Fix are for buying.

Apple stores are for shopping.

In his book, Insanely Simple, Ken Segall writes about Apple’s guiding principle of simplicity. Safari had to be fast. The iPhone had to be all screen. The Apple Store had to be shopping. Segall wrote,

“Apple had just started its online Apple store and that was a convenience but not a personal experience.” A decade after the stores opened in 2001, a post on Macworld reflected, “Around the turn of the century, Apple had been plagued with a decade of bad retail experiences at the hands of others.”

Online created the best way to buy Apple products. Retail created the best way to shop for them.

Marketer Tom Goodwin said, “Shopping is making something so good that if you're bored you might decide to go there and buy something. It's entertainment.” Whereas, “Buying is making sure that someone owns something without thinking about it. It's the complete removal of experience and it's competing mainly on simplicity.”

What do your customers want?

AirBnbs are shopping. Harley Davidson is shopping. IKEA is shopping.

One framework for thinking about customers is the shopping and buying spectrum. 

Sometimes customers want things as simply as possible. Utilities are one example. Ideally water, electricity and WiFi arrive as needed as necessary. In return, the payment process should be as easy as possible too.

Sometimes customers want things to be more immersive. We want to educate ourselves on the features. We want to “feel it in our hands”, “sit on it first,” or “try it on”. In these situations we do more shopping.

Apple stores are for shopping.

In his book, Insanely Simple, Ken Segall writes about how Apple returns to the guiding principle of simple. The first Safari browser had to be fast, the simple goal. The first iPhone had no keyboard, the simple goal. The first Apple store had to be more like shopping, the simple goal. Segall wrote,

“Apple had just started its online Apple store and that was a convenience but not a personal experience.” A decade after the stores opened in 2001, a post on Macworld reflected, “Around the turn of the century, Apple had been plagued with a decade of bad retail experiences at the hands of others.”

Apple wanted to provide a shopping experience but when they were in someone else’s building it was a buying experience.

Marketer Tom Goodwin said, “Shopping is making something so good that if you're bored you might decide to go there and buy something. It's entertainment." Whereas, "Buying is making sure that someone owns something without thinking about it. It's the complete removal of experience and it's competing mainly on simplicity."

AirBnbs are shopping. Harley Davidson is shopping. IKEA is shopping. Instagram is shopping.

Hotels are buying. Amazon Subscribe and Save is buying. Online reviews are buying.

So, do your customers want to shop or buy?