19 Common Customer Needs (With Definition and Types)

Updated February 3, 2023

Two shoppers admire products in a retail store.

Different customers may have unique needs depending on their shopping goals and expectations. Each customer need presents an opportunity to build relationships and increase sales. This means, if you work in sales or customer service, learning about common customer needs can help you identify what you can do to improve customer relationships and company success. 

In this article, we define customer needs, discuss 19 common customer needs and explain how different sales and customer service professionals can use that information to help customers.

What are customer needs?

Customer needs are the motives that inspire individual customers to make a purchase. Those motives might be physical needs or psychological. For example, the physical need to eat might encourage a customer to purchase a sandwich at lunchtime. The psychological need to save time on a busy day might result in a customer choosing a sandwich shop that advertises speedy service. 

Related: A Look into Customer Needs and How To Identify Them

19 types of customer needs

Customer needs are the factors that influence people to purchase products or services from a company. Here are some of the most common types of customer needs you might experience:

1. Product features

A feature is the component of a product that provides benefits to a customer. Customers may look for a product that offers features to fulfill their specific needs. As companies may offer similar products, providing unique features can encourage customers to choose one over the other. For example, a customer may choose a laser printer that can use different paper types over an inkjet printer for its high-quality image printing features.

Related: How To Prioritize Product Features (And How To Define Them)

2. Time

Companies can meet customer needs with convenient products that save time. Sometimes, choosing a product that's easy to use may be very import to some customers, particularly if the product can replace or simplify tasks they've previously done manually. For example, customers may select food delivery services that prepare ingredients for cooking. This can save customers time grocery shopping and preparing meals.

3. Cost

An item's cost can often determine whether a customer is likely purchase a product. Many factors, including economic conditions, can influence consumer spending and alter their pricing needs. For example, if a customer shops for new clothes, they may choose off-brand clothing at wholesale stores rather than luxury department stores if they hope to spend money elsewhere.

Related: 16 Tips To Meet Customer Needs

4. Friendliness

Friendliness is a customer need in several consumer areas, like restaurants and retail stores. A friendly experience can include:

  • Positive greetings

  • Kind service

  • A willingness to help

For example, if there are two similarly priced grocery stores in an area, a customer may choose to shop at the one with a more friendly checkout experience because of the positive attitude of its employees.

5. Product design

Product design involves both the functionality and visual design of a product. Customers might want modern designs with easy-to-use features for their products. For example, if a customer might hope to find a kitchen appliance, like a refrigerator, that matches their decor and has special features, like an ice maker.

Related: Product Design Skills and How To Improve Them

6. Environment

A positive shopping environment can influence where a customer makes a purchase. Factors that might influence a company's environment, include:

  • Team member attitude

  • Lighting

  • Cleanliness

  • Layout

For example, a customer might prefer retail stores or restaurants that are clean or well-lit to ensure a positive experience.

7. Understanding

Understanding is a need allows customers to feel like a company is willing to listen to their needs. A customer might be more likely to shop with a company whose customer service department listens to their concerns and expresses concern.This requires active listening on the part of the sales or customer service team. To help demonstrate understanding, these professionals can listen to the customer and consider carefully how they might help. 

For example, if a customer at a restaurant says the food is too cold, the server might show understanding by apologizing and asking if they'd like the kitchen to heat it up. 

Related: 11 Ways To Deliver Excellent Customer Service

8. Clear terms

Customers might want to know the exact terms and conditions when purchasing a product. This might mean learning about:

  • Functionality guarantees

  • Return policy

  • Warranty information

Displaying this information clearly can build trust with customers when they're shopping. For example, if a customer is uncertain about purchasing a new laptop, they might purchase the one that has a clear return policy knowing they can try it before committing.

9. Control

Control means making a customer feel empowered to make their purchasing decisions. To help the customer experience control, a sales professional might allow the customer to explore their product options, ask questions and decide what to buy independently. This can help alleviate the pressure of a business transaction while still allowing the sales professional to help fill the customer's needs. 

For example, a retail store clerk that allows customers to shop while remaining available for questions creates an environment where the customer is in control and the clerk is there to support them and their shopping desires.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Customer Satisfaction

10. Innovation

Innovation means providing customers with solutions they might not have thought of themselves. Customers might expect companies to innovate in ways that make their lives easier. For example, a customer might shop for a smartphone with video calling, then purchase one with innovative technology that minimizes data use while on the call.

11. Options

Options can help customers evaluate their needs by comparing them to different product offerings. Differences might include:

  • Price variations

  • Unique models 

  • Different purchasing channels 

Providing choices to a customer can increase the likelihood that they purchase an item. It may also increase their feeling of control when shopping. For example, a grocery store that offers off-brand and brand-name cereals can encourage a shopper to return regardless of their economic situation.

Related: 21 Benefits of Using a Product Catalog

12. Reliability

Reliability is how well a product matches the expectations of the customers. This can include the functionality and design of specific products. Reliability can also allow customers to have a consistent shopping experience, which many customers may appreciate. For example, if a company advertises a cell phone with 24-hour battery life, a product that matches that can encourage a customer to purchase that brand again.

13. Details

Product and company details can be important to a customer, especially if they perform a lot of research before purchasing a product. This information can include details about:

  • Parts

  • Ingredients

  • Company values

  • Product lifespan

Companies might provide these details throughout their marketing materials and during a sale to maintain transparency with their customers. For example, a customer might purchase a food product that has artificial flavoring and clearly states that over a product that brands itself as natural with many unknown ingredients.

Related: Customer Expectations: What They Are and How To Improve Them

14. Collaboration

Customers may appreciate that sales or customer service professionals at a company want to work with them to find a solution to their needs. Sometimes, customers might know exactly what they want. Other times, they might be interested in a professional opinion. Either way, collaborating with sales representatives can help them identify their needs and build relationships. 

For example, if a customer hopes to return a clothing item and a customer service representative works with them to ease the process and find similar items, this could fulfill their needs.

15. Purchase ease

An easy purchasing processes can fulfill the needs of customers that know what they want. Simple checkout procedures at both retail stores and online shops might encourage customers to make a purchase, even if they're busy. For example, if a user can save their shipping and payment information on an online shop, they might be more likely to shop at that store again.

Related: 21 Best Practices for Improving Your Pricing Pages

16. Identity

A customer's identity is how they view themselves. If they connect with a company's identity and vision, they might choose to shop there rather than at a store with different values. For example, a consumer passionate about the environment might be more likely to shop at a clothing retailer that uses recycled materials and practices sustainable waste removal processes.

17. Competitive knowledge

Competitive knowledge is an awareness of a company's competition and how its products compare. Many customers know about their choices with different companies, so understanding what others offer and why they might appeal to customers can be useful. Sales professionals can address the competition directly, showing industry knowledge and building trust. 

For example, when a customer is shopping for a car, a care salesperson can describe how their vehicle's features differ from the competition's to convince the customer to purchase their car.

Related: How To Conduct a Competitor Product Analysis (With Example)

18. Accessibility

Accessibility means how easily a customer can find and purchase products and services. Having various options for where to make a purchase can make a company more accessible. These options might include:

  • An online store

  • Retail locations

  • Telephone services

For example, if a customer sees a souvenir in a store while on vacation, they might browse online when they get home to see if there are shipping options available.

19. Confidence

Confidence is when salespeople believe their product is the best solution for their customers' needs. When a company representative shows confidence it can inspire the customer to feel confident too. To display confidence, you might:

  • Display detailed product knowledge

  • Show knowledge of escalation paths

  • Provide clear reasons a product is better than the competition

For example, a server confident in their restaurant's specials might be more likely to sell the dish than one unsure about the options.

Related: 41 Sales Techniques That Can Help Turn Leads Into Clients

Meeting customer needs

If a sales team can identify customer needs, they can create products and services that fulfill those needs. This may encourage customers to make purchases with those sales teams. Marketing professionals can also use this information to create advertisements that are most likely to appeal to potential consumers. Customer service representatives who are familiar with common customer needs may be more likely to understand and assist the customer quickly, which may improve that customer's experience.

Related Articles

What Is a Weekly Sales Report? (Plus How To Format One)

Explore more articles

  • How To Avoid Careless Mistakes at Work in 11 Steps
  • 88 Motivational Quotes on Growth in Business To Inspire You
  • 11 Safety Incentive Program Examples (With Tips To Implement Them)
  • What Is a Secondment? Definition and Advantages
  • Methods of Job Analysis (With Definition, Benefits and Uses)
  • How To Calculate ROI Using Excel in 6 Steps (With Example)
  • 25 Leadership Words to Use on Your Resume
  • 10 of the Best Beginner IT Certifications for Your Career
  • 8 Characteristics of a True Leader
  • 46 of the Best Pieces of Career Advice To Help You Grow
  • 30 Leadership Performance Review Examples (With Definition)
  • How To Organize Departments (With Steps and Examples)