The consumer & the shopper

3 years ago by in Research, The Fashion Retailscape

All of the innovations that have been mentioned are ultimately aimed at adding value for the consumer. However, not all consumers are the same. A party game that is just as entertaining as predicting technological developments is characterising consumers. This is not the exclusive domain of the retail sector, for visitors of museums and archives visitor types have been introduced such as sniffers, grazers, excavators, snackers, educators, nomads, butterflies and grasshoppers (Van Vliet, 2009). The shopping public has to put up with less poetic designations such as ‘the keeper’, ‘ the banker’, ‘the hunter’ and ‘the courier’ (Sansolo, 2012). Characterising the consumer or the shopper – the person who makes the actual purchase – has a history going back around 60 years. In Stone’s first typology from 1954 the characterisations of the economic shopper (oriented towards for price and quality) and the apathetic shopper (shopping is a necessity and a chore) had already popped up (Westbrook & Black, 1985). The importance of a shopper typology is that it gives the retailer the possibility of making better decisions about offered products and the special offers (Westbrook & Black, 1985).

An often recurring contrast in the characterisation of shoppers is that of ‘doing the shopping’ versus ‘going shopping’, which is the difference between: “Shopping for and the recreational shopping around; the latter being an autonomous realm of experience and action in which the economic (instrumental) aspect has been marginalized.” (Falk & Campbell, 1997, p. 6). This concerns the distinction between instrumental (doing the shopping) and recreational (going shopping) (Westbrook & Black, 1985; Hewer & Campbell, 1997; Molenaar, 2011): “Going shopping is a vague activity, an extravagance – literally, ‘wandering out’. It is open-ended, with no precise plans or destinations: you can spend all day or not, you may just look and not buy. Going shopping is pleasurable, and possibly transgressive and excessive: you may spend too much time or too much money. Doing the shopping, on the other hand, suggests an obligation or a regular routine. ‘The’ shopping implies something both planned and limited: the definite article, with no extras or deviations. Going shopping points to fashion, clothes and leisure; doing the shopping is food shopping, for the most part regarded as a chore. Food is necessary, fashion is fun and spontaneous.” (Bowlby, 1997, p. 102).

Lehtonen & Mäenpää (1997) described these two types of shoppers in more detail by contrasting them with each other (see Table 1). This distinction does not say that both forms cannot occur simultaneously: instrumental aims can play a role when going shopping, and when doing the shopping we can also amuse ourselves (Falk & Campbell, 1997). Incidentally, shopping for pleasure is not something that has only occurred recently due to the increase in affluence, it is already referred to in the classic figure of the flâneur/flânueuse and has a longer history than one often assumes (Stobart, 2008).


Table 1: Two types of shoppers


More than two decades later we continue to see the same characterisations in a Shopping2020/GfK publication (GfK, 2013). For example, the report makes a distinction between the shopper who regards shopping as a necessity and the shopper who regards shopping as a pleasurable activity. The study also raises an aspect that Lehtonen & Mäenpää (1997) used in their characterisation of these two types of shoppers and introduced them as a separate dimension: planned/prepared versus unplanned/spontaneous. The intersection of these two opposites or axes produces a profile of four types of shoppers (Figure 1):

  1. The calculating shopper: ‘shopping is like work’. This type of shopper includes men and women, and all age groups are represented in it, though the 40-64 age group is more prevalent. Average income is lower, as is the academic level. This shopper lives in a family with children more often than the average. Purchases are planned. The preference is for own brands, and they are not sensitive to fashion or new trends, they believe that accessibility and parking facilities are important and do not find small specialist business to be so important. Price is the general motive for product selection. This shopper shops in well-known retail chains and well-known webshops. Online, prices are mainly compared because it is easy to do so, and a quality mark is important, as is the ease of return. For reviews, those of acquaintances are preferred. In the future, this shopper will buy more online because of the decline in local retail offering. Typical stores that are visited are V&D, Wehkamp, Hornbach, C&A, Bonprix, Scapino,
  2. The deliberate shopper: ‘shopping is like sport’. This type of shopper also includes just as many men as women. All ages are represented, but, the average age is lower than in the other groups. Income is above average and academic level is relatively high. This shopper sets out well prepared, orientates himself/herself using the Internet, chooses quality, is brand sensitive, specialists stores are preferred and he/she likes to talk to experts in order to confirm their research. Online is easy to fit in with the hectic lifestyle – for comparing products and gathering more information. In the store, they seek the touch and feel and personal advice. Accessibility and a wide choice are important. Greater value is placed on experts than on own social circle. In the future online will be used even more for preparing for the offline visit. Typical stores visited are Duthler, We, de Bijenkorf, Cool Blue, Tommy Hilfiger,
  3. The passive shopper: ‘shopping is like a visit to the dentist’. This type of shopper is more often a man rather than a woman. All ages are represented, but, the average age is higher than in the other groups. Income is average and academic level is relatively low. This shopper only goes shopping when it is absolutely necessary – at well known retail chains in shopping centres or at local retailers where there is ample opportunity for parking. This shopper is sensitive to store staff recommendations or those made by acquaintances. Online is especially easy and well organised but the personal attention is lacking. This shopper goes for shopping convenience and few risks and mainly wants a simple buying process. Because of the decline in local offering this shopper will shop more online in the future, with a few well-known retailers that provide good service. Typical stores that are visited are C&A, Hubo, TerStal, Hema.
  4. The passionate shopper: ‘shopping is a hobby’. This type of shopper will more often be a woman rather than a man. All ages are represented, but, the younger age groups are more strongly represented within this group. Income is lower on average, and academic level is average. Shopping is a pleasurable activity, can be done anywhere, is a social experience and is relaxing. This shopper likes to be tempted and is driven by brand image, as well as price and quality. Prefers to shop where there are a lot of stores together, with major brands and retail chains present. Shops mainly have to provide atmosphere and inspiration. Shops online and offline, and likes a wide choice. Online mainly means reduced experience, time between purchase and delivery and a fuss about delivery and returns. Opinions of family/friends are important, also via social media. Typical stores that are visited are Zara, Action, Zalando, Primark, H&M, Vero Moda.




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Bowlby, R. 1997. Supermarket futures. In: P. Falk & C. Campbell (Eds). The Shopping Experience. London, etc.: Sage Publications. (pp. 92- 110)

Falk, P., & Campbell, C. 1997. The Shopping Experience. London, etc.: Sage Publications.

GfK. 2013. Dé shopper bestaat niet. Download

Hewer, P. & C. Campbell. 1997. Research on shopping – a brief history and selected literature. In: P. Falk & C. Campbell (Eds). The Shopping Experience. London, etc.: Sage Publications. (pp. 186-206)

Lehtonen, T-K. & Mäenpää, P. 1997. Shopping in the east centre mall. In: In: P. Falk & C. Campbell (Eds). The Shopping Experience. London, etc.: Sage Publications. (pp. 136-165)

Molenaar, C. 2011. Het einde van winkels? De strijd om de klant. Den Haag: SDU Uitgevers.

Sansolo, M. 2012. Illogic inside the mind of the shopper. In: M. Stahlberg & V. Maila (Eds.). Shopper marketing. How to increase decisions at the point of sale. London: Kogan Page. (pp. 39-43)

Stobart, J. 2008. Spend, spend, spend! A history of shopping. The History Press.

Van Vliet, H. 2009. De Digitale Kunstkammer. Cultureel Erfgoed en Crossmedia. Utrecht: Hogeschool Utrecht. (Cell Cahier #1)

Westbrook, R.A., & Black, W.C. 1985. A motivation-based shopper typology. Journal of Retailing, 61, 1, pp. 78-103.

Professor Cross-media at Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences

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