This year my family spent Thanksgiving in Manhattan, making for a memorable post-dinner technology shopping tour in the city. Among the handful of stores I visited Thursday night, a trip to Best Buy on the Upper East Side really stood out. This wasn’t the big store I’m used to in Virginia; this smaller, city-sized Best Buy boasted a club-like atmosphere. It was packed at 10:00 p.m., long after the opening rush at 5:00 p.m., and an in-store Sonos system played Rihanna and Future throughout the building. A Beats mini-store on the lower level featured several headphones to demo. It felt more like a technology shopping party than a post-Thanksgiving bargain hunt.
The vibe in this Best Buy was well timed. According to NPD’s 2016 Holiday Purchase Intentions Study, more than a third (36 percent) of shoppers expect to buy technology products this holiday and shoppers even expect their spending on technology to increase (+5 percent this season). The growth in premium feature segments like television, imaging and tablets are certainly contributing to this, but the growing selection of products in emerging categories are also driving interest in CE around the holiday. In fact, this Black Friday, ample promotions around products like drones, voice-enabled speakers, and virtual reality headsets are helping drive shoppers to the stores.
Most of these new product categories offer a diverse range of price points. For those looking to try VR, products like the Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR are available, as well as Google’s Daydream ($79) and Zeiss VR One ($99). The idea of a voice-controlled speaker was nearly unimaginable for most consumers just two years ago, but Google Home is on sale this weekend for just $99, and Amazon’s Echo Dot can be bought for as little as $39. So far, drone promotions have ranged from $59 to $999. In somewhat of an unusual occurrence, this wide array of pricing has made these new technology products more accessible to shoppers this holiday.
This bodes well for the shopping season. In addition to the attractive promotions on 4K TVs, PCs and cameras that we have become accustomed to, shoppers are flocking to stores to buy these new technology categories – not just try them. To me, that will be the real story of Black Friday – the ability of new, interesting products to get tech shoppers to come out to the stores.