8 Types of Customers: How to Work with Them

By Thomas Bennett Financial expert at Priceva
Published on October 17, 2023
Without a doubt, we're all unique. Yet, when we catch a cold and consult a doctor, they can treat us, even if they're seeing us for the first time. Sure, we're one-of-a-kind, but illnesses are often quite typical.

The same holds true for consumers. Even though every customer is distinct, by examining their behavioral patterns, we can identify several common types. Why understand customer typologies? To grasp how best to approach each type.

In this article, we'll delve into:

The various customer types;
Guidelines on how to best engage with each type;
Examples of how leading brands effectively manage these segments.

Approaches to Customer Classification

The number of customer types isn't a fixed quantity; there are numerous ways to categorize them.

One study identifies five customer categories based on how they voice complaints. Another offers a typology grounded in buyers' needs and preferences. Some frameworks assess the link between purchase intent and brand sentiment. Others apply the DISC psychological personality typology for a deeper understanding of buyer psychology.

In this piece, we'll spotlight the most prevalent types of customers frequenting online stores and marketplaces. These types are organized based on their position in the sales funnel. It's essential to note that clear-cut categories are rare. Boundaries between these types can blur, but at any given time, a customer predominantly aligns with a particular category.

A typology tied to the sales funnel will illuminate how each customer type thinks and behaves. Such insights pave the way for tailoring approaches that effectively convert these individuals into loyal purchasers and brand advocates.
The needs of a loyal customer differ from those of a new one. That's why you can't treat everyone the same. If you aren't addressing the diverse needs of your clientele, you risk alienating even your most devoted followers. According to PWC, 33% of customers will leave a brand after just one bad experience. Given the ever-increasing cost of customer acquisition each year, such losses are a luxury no business can afford.

To effectively cater to your customers, it's crucial to understand the primary characteristics of different client types.

1. Browsers

These folks are at the top of your sales funnel. If you can effectively engage them, they're your first potential buyers.

Browsers scan your website, looking at products or services, but they aren't quite ready to make a purchase. They're trying to solve a problem and might be researching competitors to see if you provide the best solution.

Some might be seeking inspiration from your site. They have a vague idea of what they want and hope to find it in your online store. They're not likely to buy now, but if you leave a positive first impression, there's a good chance they'll be back.

Your goal with browsers is to grab their attention and convince them that you have the right solution to their problem, without any high-pressure sales tactics.

How to Engage Browsers:
- Don't Push Too Hard: Instead of being overly salesy, make your website inviting. A clean design and user-friendly experience are a must, coupled with content that meets the expectations of your target audience. Aim to guide browsers further down the funnel, keeping them engaged.
- Eliminate Obstacles: Pop-ups, excessive ads, confusing navigation, or a lack of prompt customer support can drive them away disappointed.
- Be Proactive: Proactive customer service means you're the first to approach site visitors.

Some may decline, while others will appreciate the gesture. For instance, offer help through a chat function. But ensure it's not just a checkbox feature – it must deliver prompt responses to user queries. Take Netflix as an example; their proactive approach is commendable.
This is a premium streaming service for subscribers, boasting thousands of movies and shows. Despite its vast offerings, navigating through the platform is incredibly intuitive, and its text is user-friendly.

They offer a risk-free 30-day trial with no strings attached, a transparent pricing structure, and multiple payment options. They also anticipate and address most questions visitors might have right on their homepage, all in a bid to convert potential customers into paying ones.

2. Impulsive Customers

Impulsive shoppers can make split-second purchasing decisions. They're not on the lookout for a specific product, so your product benefits might not always sway them.

Customers who act on impulse are sensitive to trends, recommendations, and special offers. Their decisions are largely emotion-driven. They represent one of the most valuable segments in terms of revenue. Many e-commerce stores, especially those involved in dropshipping, heavily rely on them. Statistically, impulsive purchases account for 40% of e-commerce. Up to 20% of the average household grocery bill is spent on items bought on impulse alone.

Profile of an Impulsive Shopper

According to data aggregated from various studies by Invesp, single shoppers make 45% more impulsive purchases than married couples. Of all generations, millennials are the most prone to sudden buys, with 52% admitting they enjoy unplanned, impulsive shopping. Interestingly, 46% of men regret their purchases, while this figure is slightly higher for women at 52%. Yet, Brandongaille reports that 75% of shoppers feel elated after making spontaneous purchases.

Regarding the emotional state at the time of purchase, joyful and elevated moods lead the way: 50% of women and 46% of men make impulsive purchases when they're feeling good. Boredom-induced shopping is reported by 32% of women and 28% of men. Intriguingly, sadness spurs more women to shop than men: 28% versus 14%. However, the tables turn when alcohol is involved: 13% of men make impulsive buys under its influence, compared to just 5% of women. In fits of anger, 10% of men and 13% of women are prone to spontaneous shopping.

How to Sell to Impulsive Customers:

1. Clear the Path: Eliminate any distractions that might come in the way of impulsive buyers. You must ensure their buying impulse is not wasted when it arises. Streamline the steps needed for placing an order and make the checkout process swift and smooth, lest they change their mind.

2. Inject Some Urgency: Time-limited offers work wonders with impulsive buyers—they thrive on adrenaline. Scarcity tactics, strong Call to Actions (CTAs), and well-articulated product benefits can also be effective.

3. Stay Connected: Periodic offers sent via email, messengers, and SMS can keep the interests of impulsive customers piqued. They aren't the most loyal bunch, so nudging them with reminders of your attractive deals can only be beneficial.

4. Limit Choices: All types of customers can be overwhelmed by too many options. When faced with excessive choices, they might postpone their buying decision, perhaps to another time or another place. A fascinating study by Sheena Iyengar illustrated this phenomenon. In her experiment, she presented two groups with 6 and 24 different varieties of jam, respectively. While 60% were attracted to the larger variety and only 40% to the smaller, the actual purchasing was higher for the group with fewer choices: a whopping 30% compared to a mere 3% from the other group. The takeaway? The likelihood of purchasing jam was six times higher with the 6 varieties than the 24.

5. Leverage Social Media: Platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are perfect for tapping into buyers' impulsive emotions. If they like what they see, you're likely to notch up another sale.

3. Researchers

This is another customer archetype. These buyers compare products and seek the best value for money. While they are price-conscious, they equally value design, usability, technical specifications, and product relevance.

They're willing to pay a premium for a branded product, recognizing the guaranteed quality, reliability, and convenience that come with a well-known brand. To win them over, underline your authority and demonstrate the product's value.

To compete beyond just price, a company must offer a genuinely unique, high-quality product that meets the customer's desired characteristics.
How to Sell to Researchers:

Turning researchers into buyers can be achieved through a variety of strategies tailored to your business objectives.

1. Brand Building and Authority: Boost your brand's recognition and authority. Consider carrying products from well-established brands in your online store.

2. Non-Price Benefits: During interactions with customers, highlight the non-monetary benefits of purchasing your product or service. This strategy is ideal for building an email list for subsequent newsletters detailing your brand, product specifications, unique selling points, and how it stands out from competitors.

3. Chatbots for Engagement: Another way to engage with these consumers is by using chatbots to reduce cart abandonment rates. Activate a customer service bot to intervene after a period of inactivity on the checkout page. Use the bot to underscore the merits of your offering, possibly sweetening the deal with additional discounts.

There are many resources available in the market to help you create a chatbot; choose one that aligns best with your preferences and budget.

4. Discount Seekers or "Cherry Pickers"

At some point in our shopping journeys, we all hunt for bargains. A study by Forrester Consulting revealed that 77% of consumers admitted discounts influence where they shop. Two-thirds of those surveyed were on the lookout for discounts even before initiating their shopping. And 48% indicated that a discount expedited their buying decision.

Such customers have been aptly named "cherry pickers," an allusion to the practice of "cherry-picking" or choosing only the best parts, similar to savoring the cherry on top of a cake.

The proportion of "cherry pickers" is on the rise, a trend exacerbated by recent economic conditions.

These customers are primarily attracted to your product due to a markdown. It's unlikely that discount seekers would purchase it at its regular price.

They are analytical, always on the hunt for the best deals available. Cherry pickers are excellent researchers and might make impromptu purchases simply because they've been offered a tempting discount.

To foster loyalty among discount seekers, ensure your website always features a section dedicated to attractive discounts and deals. This can convince them to stay loyal to your business.

How to Sell to Discount Seekers:

1. Highlight the Benefits: Discount seekers want to be assured that by shopping with you, they're saving money and reaping real benefits.

2. Special Deals: Always have enticing offers on hand for this segment. Engage with them through personalized email campaigns or on social media platforms.

3. Promote Discounted Items: This group of customers prioritizes convenience. Ensure your promotional items are easily noticeable. Initially draw their attention with a discounted item, and then attempt to upsell.

5. Need-Oriented Customers

Need-oriented customers shop with a clear intention in mind – they have a specific need and aim to satisfy it. They visit online stores, seek out the exact item, make the purchase, and leave without any further interactions. This singular focus makes cross-selling to them a challenge.

Generally, their purchase decision is already made. While need-oriented customers might consider one or two alternatives, they are primarily at the bottom of the sales funnel.

These are consumers who visited your website sometime in the past, familiarized themselves with your products and services, and returned to make a purchase when it became necessary.

How to Sell to Need-Oriented Customers:

1. Personal Connection: Engage in consistent communication to foster a strong bond. Need-oriented customers want assurance that you have everything they require.

2. Top-Notch Customer Service: Stellar customer support can set your brand apart from the competition. Regularly train customer service staff in customer-centric service to handle even the most demanding of clients. According to an Oracle report, 73% of customers remain loyal due to positive interactions with customer support. In other words, investing in training your team directly impacts customer retention.

3. Guide Their Purchase Journey: Optimize your website for mobile access, allow guest checkout, and integrate as many payment methods as possible. Simplify the purchase process to its bare essentials. Furthermore, remove any navigational elements from the checkout page to keep the focus solely on completing the purchase.

6. New Customers

A new customer is someone who has just made their first purchase with you, experimenting with your product or service, and navigating its usage.

Such customers represent the potential to bolster your customer base. Thus, your objective should be to retain them as long as possible and enhance the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). The key lies in delivering a stellar post-purchase experience. Customer satisfaction is crucial to converting these first-timers into loyal patrons.

However, a mere 12% of companies succeed in upselling or reselling to new customers.

To avoid missing out on the remaining 88% of new clientele, focus on omnichannel customer support, consistent engagement, and feedback collection. In the SaaS industry, new customers need proper orientation to effectively utilize your product. This is where a thorough and thoughtful onboarding process – acquainting users with the product – becomes paramount.

The Ideal Approach to New Customers:

1. Empower Them: Help new customers fully experience the benefits of your product or service. Retention can be improved by clearly explaining the functionalities of your product and its optimal use. Employ educational tools, such as a series of instructional emails, product demonstrations, video tutorials, or blog posts.

2. Engage Effectively: While there are various means to customer service, digital channels have the upper hand. Ensure you're poised to address any queries they might have.
3. Value and Build Relationships: Customers drift away from brands when they feel unappreciated. Thus, provide impeccable service, offer training, and seek feedback through customer satisfaction surveys.

4. Foster Social Proof: To encourage new customers' loyalty to your business, cultivate social proofs. People often mirror others' behaviors and subconsciously seek external validation. Many companies capitalize on this by roping in celebrities as brand ambassadors, presenting case studies, showcasing testimonials, inviting existing customers for product testing and reviews. In many online stores, you'll find product reviews on each product page. Furthermore, genuine customers often upload photos of their purchased products, sharing comprehensive accounts of their experience.

7. Dissatisfied Customers

In the retail sector, encountering disillusioned, dissatisfied, or even angry customers is inevitable. How you handle these situations can significantly shape your business's reputation.
At the heart of their discontent, customers often feel the company wastes their time, and consequently, disrespects them. While your patrons might forgive many transgressions, they won't stand for negligence or being ignored. In this age of multiple communication channels, failing to address customer complaints is a glaring oversight.

Dissatisfied customers are a goldmine for feedback. When they voice their concerns, they're pointing out areas that might require your immediate attention. For instance, there might be lapses in customer service you weren’t even aware of.

Approaching Dissatisfied Customers:

1. Listen Actively: The wisest step you can take with unhappy customers is to truly listen to their grievances. Following that, your customer support team should attempt to rectify the situation.
2. Understand the Stakes: Research by Esteban Kolsky for ThinkJar revealed that a staggering 91% of dissatisfied customers would silently switch to your competitors without complaining. Hence, you'll never truly grasp the root of their discontent.

3. Respond Promptly to Criticism: Negative reviews spread like wildfire and can deter potential customers. Before a disgruntled client voices their concerns online, send them an apology letter and propose a satisfactory solution.

4. Prepare Your Team: Equip your employees to handle the grievances of unhappy customers so they aren't caught off guard during challenging situations. Developing complaint handling scripts and service scenarios can be beneficial.

5. Provide Prompt Feedback: In most scenarios, all your clients seek is attention to their issue and swift feedback. Their frustration escalates when they feel neglected.

To diffuse tense situations and gauge a customer's sentiment, employ empathetic phrases like:

- "Could you tell me a bit more about the issue, please?"

- "Can you describe exactly what transpired?"

Request customers to give you a detailed account. They can shed light on how the problem affects their daily lives. Once you understand the core of their dissatisfaction, extend apologies and offer a suitable solution.

While gathering positive feedback is one task, addressing the grievances of irate and indignant customers is another. These discontented customers have nothing to lose, and they may very well give it to you straight. This presents a prime opportunity to obtain candid and straightforward feedback.

8. Loyal Customers

Loyal or repeat customers undeniably represent your most valuable consumer segment. They contribute a significant portion of revenue through repeat purchases and by recommending your brand to others.

These loyal patrons can become your brand evangelists, reinforcing awareness and trust in your offerings.

One of the most effective ways to nurture relationships with loyal customers is to recognize and reward them. Loyalty programs and other gestures that showcase your appreciation are perfect tools for this task.

To retain this category of consumers, adhere to your core values and maintain consistent quality in your products and services.

You might have personally experienced the joy of delicious meals and attentive service at your favorite restaurant, only to be deeply disappointed on a subsequent visit due to a culinary or service lapse. Regardless of whether the chef had an off day or the waiter had a personal issue, the chances of you revisiting that establishment diminish significantly.

Engaging with Loyal Customers:

1. Place Them Front and Center: Solicit their feedback or reviews. If you're in the B2B sector, collaborate on a case study. This not only reinforces their trust in you but also provides them exposure to a broader audience.

2. Connect Personally: Reach out to them to understand how your product has benefited them. Leverage this insight to replicate the experience for all your clients.

3. Offer Reciprocity: If you haven't already, implement a loyalty program. What most customers desire from a brand relationship is acknowledgment for their loyalty and support. Rewarding them via loyalty schemes is an effective way to convey your gratitude. This can be in the form of intangible gestures like a unique birthday wish or granting a prestigious status, as well as tangible benefits for their allegiance.

4. Adopt Modern Tactics: Brands like Taco Bell and other major restaurant chains are vying for customer loyalty with digital rewards and convenience. They've invested in digitizing their loyalty programs, with apps that track purchase histories, enabling a more personalized customer experience.

Key Takeaways

Rarely will you encounter customers that fit neatly into a single category. Most will embody a mix of various types. Moreover, depending on their needs and objectives at different stages in the customer journey, their type might evolve. However, understanding these classifications helps you tailor your approach accordingly.

No matter the customer type you're dealing with, your goal should be to adapt your communication and support in a way that transforms them into repeat patrons.

Personalization, excellent service, clearly articulated product value, and a focus on your clients' success are the pivotal factors that will bolster the satisfaction and loyalty of your consumers.

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