What Are the 5 Types of Consumers?

by Kay Balbi; Updated September 26, 2017

Determining the type of consumer you are marketing to is not as easy as you would think. Consider these variables when identifying consumer types.

Understand the normal logical thinking process of what someone goes through when buying. Depending upon the risk of purchase and type of product, these steps may be combined, approached illogically, or skipped.

Segmenting consumers into buyer types is also based upon demographics including income, socioeconomics, age, gender, residency location, lifestyle, family status, and perception of products' value.

Timing is another factor to consider when segmenting customers into types.

Timing of Purchase

Consumers can be grouped into the following 5 categories: Suspects, Prospects, First time buyers, Repeat buyers and Non-buyers, based upon where they are in the buying process.

Suspects are people that aren't even thinking about buying, prospects are those that are thinking about it, first time-buyers have decided they are going to buy, repeat buyers have bought before, and non-buyers are never going to buy.

Communications and support are often approached differently with these consumer types based upon the timing of their potential purchase.

Steps in Buying Process

There is normally a six-step process that consumers go through when buying something. First they recognize a need, then they do research, they evaluate their research and look for alternatives. They then make a purchase decision, they go through the action of purchasing, and then they examine what they purchased after the fact.

Understanding the steps of the logical buying process doesn't always mean that every consumer will go through each of these every time. Factors that influence customer behavior include their need, the risk, and the type of good purchased.

For example, picking up gum or a newspaper is a fast moving, non durable good. Chances are likely that the consumer will recognize a need, make the decision to buy, buy and not give it a second thought. Buying a house or a large ticket luxury item like a cruise for 10 days, however, will most likely cause the consumer to take their time through each step, as they wade carefully through all the details and alternatives.

Knowing what kind of product you have (durable, non-durable, soft goods, services or luxury item) is important to know so you can fine tune your sales and marketing plan accordingly.

Demographics and Influences

Breaking consumers down into types is also done based upon demographics, including income, social status, age, gender, location, lifestyle, family role, culture, and perception of products or brand name value.

Using shoes as an example, we can break this down into several niche markets:

1) Female finance executive who lives in New York City and lives near the Fashion Industry 2) Male farm worker in Idaho who is barely making it, and doesn't want to lose his dad's farm 3) Teenage male who lives in a commune in Haiti

Each of these consumers will be influenced by something slightly different. Understanding the demographics of your consumers and how your product falls in the general market, should influence pricing, product, placement and promotion.

About the Author

Kay Balbi began freelancing in 2009 and is now a business management consultant teaching Six Sigma/Lean. Her written work appears on various websites, focusing on business, health and family lifestyle concerns. Balbi has worked in the corporate world for over 30 years. She received her Bachelor of Science in marketing and a Master of Business Administration in global management from the University of Phoenix.

Photo Credits

  • crowd at the stadium image by Christopher Meder from Fotolia.com