refers to individuals or households
that use goods and services
generated within the economy
. The concept of a consumer is used in different contexts, so that the usage and significance of the term may vary.
Consumer in economics and marketing
A consumer is a person who uses any product or service. Typically when business people and economists talk of consumers
they are talking about person as consumer
, an aggregated commodity
item with little individuality
other than that expressed in the buy/not-buy decision. However there is a trend in marketing
to individualize the concept. Instead of generating broad demographic profile
and psychographic profiles
of market segments
, marketers are engaging in personalized marketing
, permission marketing
, and mass customization
In free market or capitalist economies, consumers are presumed to dictate what goods are produced and are generally considered the center of economic activity. Individual consumption of goods and services is primarily linked to the consumer's level of disposable income, and budget allocations are made to maximize the consumer's marginal utility. In 'time series' models of consumer behavior, the consumer may also invest a proportion of their budget in order to gain a greater budget in future periods. This investment choice may include either fixed rate interest or risk-bearing securities. ....
Consumer in law and politics
Within law, the notion of consumer is primarily used in relation to consumer protection
laws, and the definition of consumer is often restricted to living persons (i.e. not corporations or businesses) and excludes commercial users. A typical legal rationale for protecting the consumer is based on the notion of policing market failures and inefficiencies, such as inequalities of bargaining power between a consumer and a business. As of all potential voters are also consumers, consumer protection takes on a clear political significance.
Concern over the interests of consumers has also spawned much activism, as well as incorporation of consumer education into school curricula. There are also various non-profit publications, such as Consumer Reports and Choice Magazine, dedicated to assist in consumer education and decision making, and Consumer Direct in the UK.