At first the question appears nonsensical. But only if you assume that buying and purchasing are synonyms. Most financial systems treat them as exactly that because, from their perspective, the result is the same. Income. But there is a difference – and being able to define and quantify that difference is important.
Semantics doesn’t just split hairs. It splits customers. It isolates loyalties and behaviours. And in so doing, it potentially defines different actions. But it only does so for those prepared to look for the nuances.
As big data hands marketers and decision makers more and more detail, the ability to read between the lines and find the nuances of behaviour in the numbers will be more important than ever.
In this case, being able to tell the difference between your buyers (“the people who actively choose to buy from us”) and your purchasers (“the people who happen to have bought from us”) reveals two very different parties in terms of inclination.
The first will be back. The second may not.
Things become a little more complicated when trying to read between the lines of more abstract decisions. Here, nuance offers opportunities to isolate and granularise priorities that, just like the numbers, can easily be swept up in generalisations.
Which would you rather have?
A workforce. Or staff.
Reasons. Or purpose.
Suppliers. Or providers.
Obligations. Or responsibilities.
Story. Or history.
Social media. Or social interaction.
Conversations. Or dialogue.
What do you have right now? And more particularly, can you tell or have you never asked?
Photograph of “Mystery Shopper” by John Goode, sourced from Flickr