What Is an End User?

The term "end user" refers to the consumer of a good or service, often who has some innate know-how that is unique to consumers.

In a literal sense, the term end user is used to distinguish the person who purchases and uses the good or service from individuals who are involved in the stages of its design, development, and production.

Key Takeaways

  • An end user is a person or other entity that consumes or makes use of the goods or services produced by businesses.
  • In this way, an end user may differ from a customer—since the entity or person that buys a product or service may not be the one who actually uses it.
  • Delivery to the end user is often the final step in manufacturing and selling products.
  • End user experience and support are crucial for the success of user-oriented products and services.
  • References to "end users" as customers are most common in the technology industry.

Understanding End Users

In order to create a successful product or service, the people who create, develop, test, and market it must think not of their own needs, but of the end user's. Delivery to the end user is the last step after all those aforementioned processes have concluded, and the goal is to empower the end user to accomplish something that wasn't possible previously.

For example, a computer programmer designing a software platform for trading foreign currencies would need to think about the level of interface sophistication and the steps taken by the end user — how this customer would approach a trade, what the trader needs to see, how they would access data and information, how trades are to be executed, and what has to be done post-trade.

End users are not always the ones who purchased the product or service from the provider.

Special Considerations

References to end users are common in the technology industry, suggesting that a base level of technical expertise is expected of these customers. On March 1, 2018, Proofpoint, Inc., a cybersecurity company, announced an acquisition of a security awareness training company. The CEO of Proofpoint stated the following:

As cybercriminals continue to look for new ways to exploit employees, companies need to be vigilant about changing end-user behavior and reducing risk with cybersecurity education solutions.

In the healthcare sector, the expression is used frequently. "At the end-user level, our products are growing," commented the CEO of Dentsply Sirona, a dental supply company, in a quarterly press release in 2016. The end user alluded to here is a dental professional, again someone who applies skills in usage of the product.

Note that end users often do not have much knowledge about how the products or services that they use were developed or how they work. The average end user of a computer operating system, such as Microsoft Windows, for instance, would not understand the lines of code, user experience research, or debugging that went into the product. All the end user will often care about is the ease of use, functionality, and stability. This means that companies should typically develop their products with such a lay end user in mind, and not an expert.

It's important for all types of companies to keep close track of changing technologies and the evolving needs of their end users, so they can take steps to ensure they stay happy and continue doing business with the company. This can best be accomplished by offering high-quality products and stellar customer service.

End User Experience

Since end users are most often lay individuals without expert knowledge or particular skills, companies need to ensure that the user experience is straightforward, intuitive, and effective. User experience (UX) has become its own profession, with UX teams employed by many firms across a wide range of industries and involved with a wide range of products.

User experience utilizes both quantitative and qualitative research methods to identify and iron out bugs, design flaws, common user errors, and crowdsource new ideas for updated versions. If an end user experience is difficult to navigate, the product is unlikely to become successful—especially in the age of social media and online reviews where dissatisfied customers can air their grievances for all to see.

End User vs. Customer

As stated, the term "end user" is common when it comes to technology, where it may also go by the more technical term "revenue-generating unit" or RGU.

In comparison, a customer is the person performing the purchasing transaction of the technology, who may or may not also be the ultimate end user. At a place of business, for example, the boss may be the one that purchases the computer, so the boss is the customer, but a junior-level employee would be the actual end user.

Examples of End Users

Tech companies have millions, if not billions of end users. Microsoft, for instance, has end users that contain anybody who owns or works with a Windows machine or uses MS Office tools such as Word, Excel, or PowerPoint. Apple's end users involve those who run iOS on their iPhone, or who use a Mac.

The number of end users for a company or product is likely to change with demand, competition, innovation, or in response to some external pressure. For instance, the number of end users of video conferencing platforms like Microsoft Teams and Zoom skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic as people around the world entered lockdowns and were forced to work from home or take classes online.

End User FAQs

What Is an End User License Agreement?

An end user license agreement, or EULA, contains the terms of service, disclaimers, and acknowledgments that users of various software packages or online services must agree to before proceeding. Often many pages long and worded in technical jargon and legalese, researchers have found that very few people actually read EULAs before clicking that they agree to their terms.

 What Is End User Authentication?

End user authentication refers to any of several techniques used to ensure that the end user is authorized to use the product or service they are trying to access. These may include having an active license or activation code, two-factor authentication (2FA), biometric data (such as a fingerprint scan), or any combination thereof.

What Is End User Computing?

End user computing (EUC) provides computer programming, developing, or design capabilities to otherwise non-programmers. Visual or object-oriented programming languages allow for development environments that do not require knowledge of line-specific code or machine language. Web building platforms that use drag & drop modules or widgets and templates are another example for those who do not know HTML, javascript, or CSS.

What Is End User Support?

End user support combines aspects of customer support and technical support. The goal is to help users navigate the software or platform, correct errors, and take bug reports.