- U.S. consumers are expected to spend a record $96.1 billion on tech products in the 2018 holiday season, a year-over-year rise of 3.4%, reported the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). Sixty-six percent, or 164 million U.S. adults, plan to buy tech products as gifts this year, which is about the same as last year.
- Many of the top categories this holiday season involve voice technologies of some kind, such as smart speakers, smart home devices, smartwatches and wireless earbuds, CTA said in its 25th Annual Consumer Technology Holiday Purchase Patterns Study. Drones also will be a key category.
- However, the most-desired tech gifts on consumer wish lists are televisions, building on a trend to high-ticket hub devices. Other most-wanted tech gifts are: laptops; smartphones and tablets, which were tied; smartwatches; and desktop computers and "any type of camera," which were also tied.
Sight and sound will drive holiday technology gift sales this year to record sales. Televisions and smart speakers equipped with video displays are among the leading gift choices, and voice tech is driving growth in that category of products, as well as voice as a method of shopping, reported CTA.
Voice became a fourth sales channel last year, as shoppers used that technology in its various forms — phones and tablets, smart speakers, smartwatches with a voice functionality and chat — in addition to brick-and-mortar, e-commerce and mobile commerce, CTA said. For example, 24% of survey respondents intend to research planned purchases using a digital assistant, and 16% think they will use voice tech to make a purchase. As more of the voice-enabled devices are bought by consumers, that, in turn, will propel this shopping trend into the future.
"Once again, voice will come to define this holiday season with more smart speakers on wish lists, added voice compatibility in tech devices and more voice shopping," said Lesley Rohrbaugh, director of market research at CTA, in a press release. "Technology is playing the biggest role in not only what we buy as gifts, but how."
A related trend identified by CTA is a growing number of purchases of smart home devices — including smart speakers, security cameras, video door bells and smart lightbulbs — by people who have realized the potential of voice tech to enhance their everyday lives. Thirty-six percent of CTA's sample intends to buy such a product. Meanwhile, 22 million units of smart speakers are predicted to be sold this holiday season, which will be up 44% from last year. Smart speakers with video screens, like Echo Show and Google Home Hub, will be bought by 6% of overall shoppers, while 12% plan to buy a smart speaker without a screen.
Drones will continue their popularity as a top holiday technology gift. Sales of drones will increase 8% over last year, with sales reaching 1.5 million units.
The study also touched on emerging retail channels. CTA found that 52% of U.S. consumers plan to shop online for holiday tech gifts, while 77% expect to shop in brick-and-mortar stores. Both online and offline purchase intent are down slightly from last year, but that decrease is made up by mobile commerce, with 58% saying they will use a mobile device, a number that is higher than online shoppers for the second consecutive year. About 33% plan to use same-day delivery, while 31% will opt for in-home delivery services like Amazon Key or Walmart Delivery, and 9% intend to use in-app features such as camera search.
Mass merchants lead as the preferred destination for buying tech products, with 67% signaling intent to go there this year, up from 63% in 2017, while electronics stores declined slightly to 56% in 2018 from 58% last year, and online merchants dropped to 52% this year from 59% a year ago, CTA reported. As always, shoppers are focused on deals, with 50% saying they will make an unplanned purchase when confronted with a deal, another 50% said they intend to shop specific online holiday sales events, while 38% will be on the lookout for specific in-store holiday sales events.