How to Leverage the Difference Between Shoppers and Buyers


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Some 18% of small-business owners surveyed in April said they are working a second job, according to the latest findings from the American Express Open Small Business Monitor. It’s an indicator that many business owners are experiencing challenges in an economic environment that they haven’t faced before. It also sheds a new light on the lead generation process. The media landscape has expanded with a proliferation of channels touting more eyeballs and deeper customer engagement. More eyeballs and deeper engagement are both great. But when sales are down and you are forced to stop drawing a salary in order to deal with reduced cash flow you’ve got to be asking yourself;

“Where are the local customers who are ready to buy right now?”

According to research from comScore, Knowledge Networks/SRI, and other leading consumer media usage organizations; technology has dramatically improved the ability for consumers to research and shop before purchasing, causing previously used benchmarks like circulation to become weak indicators of expected sales. So, without relying on circulation numbers to derive a semi-accurate measure of expected sales how does an advertiser know where to spend their advertising dollars in today’s mix of print and online local business directories?

The key is to understand how online vs. offline media behavior differs between shoppers and buyers. Though online and offline behavior are not mutually exclusive of each other, each follows a different progression through the four primary phases of the buying cycle according to research from comScore and TMP.




Need Definition



Research & Consideration



Intent / Shop



Local Business Selection



So, how does this data translate for the advertiser? TMP expresses it as, “When it comes to researching and purchasing, offline search is used overwhelmingly when a business has already been identified and consumers are ready to purchase. Online search, on the other hand, is used earlier in the buying process.” That means when putting together your directory ad, know that most consumers already know what they are looking for. They’ve decided to buy; now it’s more about informing and educating them quickly and making it easy for them to contact and do business with you.

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Alan See
Alan See is Principal and Chief Marketing Officer of CMO Temps, LLC. He is the American Marketing Association Marketer of the Year for Content Marketing and recognized as one of the "Top 50 Most Influential CMO's on Social Media" by Forbes. Alan is an active blogger and frequent presenter on topics that help organizations develop marketing strategies and sales initiatives to power profitable growth. Alan holds BBA and MBA degrees from Abilene Christian University.


  1. Alan, I don’t know if in the title of your article, “How to Leverage the Difference Between Shoppers and Buyers” is question or a suggestion or instruction. You wrote, “know that most consumers already know what they are looking for.” which I disagree with. Most people do not, specifically, know what they are looking for other than they are looking for something to fit their “shopping situation” – to go with what they are doing, planning to do, would like to do should they run into it. They, holding the important title of “shopper,” call, phone, enter a business or web site or allow a resource into their environment hoping that it will be called or be made available is logical – to their way of thinking and not resources way of thinking.

    To be promoted to the highest title in business, that of Buyer from Shopper, it is because they are looking to reorder something they’ve used/used up, have heard of or read about, found and they pay with cash, check, credit card, complete a shopping cart. Until that takes place they still are shoppers.

    How to leverage the difference is an interesting question or suggestion. Either one, in my way of thinking, it comes down to four factors:

    1. “Awareness” that the resource exists, the product/service exists, that it is more than a “one size fits all, ” and that it can be used to make what they do do better and/or do differently, or do both.

    2. Numbers. . . if enough people learn about something that fits their buying situation, the chances for their advancing from shopper to buyer will improve.

    3. Understand that some will buy/buy into, but more will not, until they can determine that it fits into their budget of time, effort, space and/or money.

    4. To never assume that people know what they are looking for. It is a business’s task is to teach shoppers to know what they didn’t know so they believe that they can talk with intelligence and confidence that by becoming a Buyer, they will be a better person in their own and well as others eye for their decision to buy.


    Alan J. Zell, Ambassador of Selling, Attitudes for Selling
    Recipient of the Murray Award for Marketing Excellence
    Attitudes for Selling offers consulting, workshops and speaking on all business topics that affect sales.
    He can be reached at [email protected] or through his web site,

  2. are consumer insights different from shopper insights’? – Well they couldn’t be more different. Simply put, consumer insights are what helps create products, basis the needs and wants of the consumers. Consumer insights are an understanding of the behaviour of the consumer, her usage patterns, her attitudes, motivations, etc. Shopper Insights on the other hand are about, understanding the various drivers with respect to shopping – i.e., shopping motivation, store choice, category choice, other purchase decisions and the purchase experience itself.


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