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Consumer Electronics Market Research & Business Solutions

In home, the car, and the office – consumer electronics are used everywhere, all the time. The devices consumers use are changing rapidly, as are consumers’ preferences. The features they want are converging. And it’s all happening in the midst of some of the highest device-ownership levels we’ve ever seen. To top it off, this is occurring in a mature market.

How do you make sense of it all and drive growth for your business? NPD has been tracking and analyzing trends in the consumer electronics market for more than 25 years, offering both retail and consumer information for all channels, including the Web. You can use this information to understand the rapidly-evolving product landscape and consumer electronics trends at the national and local market levels.

Beyond market measurement, we combine our robust data assets and industry expertise -- including your own data or third-party data, as needed -- to address specific issues at each phase of your business cycle from opportunity identification to marketing evaluation and pricing optimization.


Consumer Electronics
Products


Retail Tracking

The Retail Tracking Service monitors retail sales of consumer technology products. Data provided by our participating channel partners delivers a detailed picture of product movement down to the item level. National information is available weekly and monthly; local market information is available monthly.


Store-Level Enabled Retail Tracking

Store-Level Enabled Retail Tracking complements our national Retail Tracking Service– it can help you determine whether sales are distribution-driven or whether certain parts of the country are contributing more to national share or driving growth. The velocity measure set that is part of Store-Level Enabled Retail Tracking takes into consideration sales volume (Annualized Industry Volume or AIV) rather than considering store count alone, for a more meaningful read on where products are selling and how they are performing.

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Account Level Reports

These reports enable retailers who choose this option to share their information with approved vendors, allowing vendors to analyze business performance at specific retailers down to the item level in many instances. By making this report available to their vendors, retailers can work together with them to optimize performance. These reports may only be made available with the express permission of the retailer.


Consumer Tracking

Explore comprehensive market research on consumer behavior and attitudes across a wide array of industry sectors. This service provides a total market view, encompassing activity at all retailers including Walmart. It delivers critical insights into market trends, demographics, and customer satisfaction to help companies address the challenges of market sizing, competitive analysis and response, new product development, product positioning, and more.


Checkout Tracking

Checkout Tracking℠ provides information on consumer buying behavior at the market basket level, based on receipts for brick-and-mortar retail purchases. You get precise, item-level purchase detail that is linked to buyers and their demographics. Data comes from large-scale longitudinal panels, making it possible to study the same consumers over time, analyze competitive market baskets, and identify purchase patterns.



Consumer Electronics
Solutions


You have opportunities. You face threats. What you need are smart, quantifiable methods of distinguishing one from the other and maximizing your chances of success. NPD’s Analytic Solutions Group includes a team of senior leaders with extensive experience developing and delivering analytic solutions that address strategic marketing, sales, and planning issues.

We combine NPD POS and consumer information, industry expertise, and custom survey research – then add state-of-the-discipline research techniques and methodologies to explain the "why behind the buy.” Through advanced modeling and analytic services, we offer insight into what will happen in the future, not just what has happened in the past, answering your most pressing business questions:

See how clients have used our analytic solutions to solve their business challenges in our Analytic Solutions Case Study Library.


Consumer Electronics
Reports


Taking Stock: Tablet Accessories in U.S. Households

The tablet market is beginning to mature after explosive growth following the device’s introduction. The tablet is now an integral part of the typical American household’s electronics inventory. Our new Tablet Accessory Inventory Report evaluates tablet accessory purchasing and ownership, providing fresh insights straight from consumers and our industry analysts.


Kids and Consumer Electronics

Kids and Consumer Electronics, 2014 Edition delivers new insight on the significant role consumer electronics products play in children’s lives — and how it’s changing, with trended insights back to 2011. Looking at ownership and usage among kids ages 4 to 14, the report covers of a host of consumer electronics products — from smartphones and tablets to gaming consoles and TVs. Discover the frequency with which kids use these devices, the average age they begin using them, and more.


Consumer Technology Reports

What's Driving Consumer Behavior? Our new consumer technology reports explore the products and market trends that matter to your business right now. These timely reports can help you navigate the fast-moving CE and IT landscape.


VAR Tracking Service

The VAR channel represents significant business potential. Now you can get a picture of this elusive technology market! Our VAR Tracking Service delivers detailed monthly sales information with views at the category, brand, item, and feature levels.


Consumer Electronics
Press Releases


December 15, 2016

238 Million Installed Internet-Connected TV Devices Expected by 2019, According to NPD Connected Intelligence

According to the NPD Connected Intelligence Connected Home Forecast, by the end of 2019, 238 million installed devices are expected to be connected to the Internet and able to deliver apps to TVs, representing 59 percent growth from 2015 to 2019. Connected TVs are projected to drive 45 percent of the growth over the coming four years, while less expensive, content-heavy streaming media players are projected to drive 35 percent growth.


December 12, 2016

Unlocked Mobile Phones Account for 12 Percent of the U.S. Market with Growth Expected to Continue, According to a New Report from NPD Connected Intelligence

According to the new Unlocked Phone Demand Report from NPD Connected Intelligence, the unlocked mobile phone market is growing rapidly with an estimated 28 million consumers owning an unlocked device in the U.S., accounting for 12 percent of the market. Additionally, due to limited options available in-store, half of all unlocked phones (51 percent) are being purchased online – a notable deviation from locked phone purchases which traditionally take place in-store. By comparison, 74 percent of locked phones are purchased in stores/kiosks.


December 5, 2016

NPD Adds Virtual and Augmented Reality Headset Category to Retail Tracking Service

Global information company, The NPD Group, today announced that it has expanded its Retail Tracking Service to provide a view of virtual and augmented reality headset sales. The new service is the first to provide retailers and manufacturers with sales data in this emerging category and will include data dating back 12 months.


November 21, 2016

Growing Consumer Interest in 4K UHD TVs and 4K UHD Streaming Media Players Indicates an Impending Shift from Early Adopter to Mass Market Audience

With awareness and interest on the rise, this holiday season could mark the shift in the 4K Ultra-High Definition (UHD) TV consumer base from early adopter to mass market audience. According to The NPD Group Connected Intelligence Home Entertainment Report, 2016 has seen steadily growing consumer interest regarding 4K. In fact, 38 percent of those surveyed said they are very, or somewhat, likely to use a 4K TV in the future, an increase of five percentage points since Q1 of this year.


November 1, 2016

Baker’s Dozen + 1: Stephen Baker’s Top Holiday 2016 Expectations

NPD Highlights: Consumer Tech for the Holidays


October 4, 2016

Video Calling, Shopping and Video Streaming See Highest Smartphone Usage Growth Among Millennials

Whether at home or on-the-go, Millennials are leveraging their smartphones increasingly across a number of activities. From Q2 2015 to Q2 2016, the number of Millennials reportedly using their smartphones for video calling has increased 14 points (to 56 percent), for shopping has increased 10 points (to 59 percent), and for video streaming has increased 9 points (to 40 percent), according to The NPD Group Connected Intelligence Application & Convergence Report.


September 26, 2016

The Internet Surpasses Print and Broadcast Advertising as Preferred Source of Makeup Product Information, According to NPD

Defining many of the most popular, growth-driving trends in makeup today from contouring to draping, the internet went from the least-frequented source of product information four years ago, to the fastest-growing in 2016, swaying both styles and sales, according to global information company The NPD Group’s Makeup In-Depth Consumer Report 2016. More women today are looking to the internet for information on makeup products and brands, up 11 percentage points versus 2014, or more than any other information source.


September 22, 2016

On-device Heart Rate Monitoring is the Number One Feature of Activity Trackers

While overall activity tracker ownership continues to see growth, up more than 11 million devices in Q2 2016 compared to the year prior, the most substantial growth in the category can be seen in the number of devices that now include built-in heart rate monitors. In fact, by Q2 2016 the number of owned activity trackers that included heart rate monitors grew to nearly half (over 44 percent), from just 12 percent a year prior, according to The NPD Group Connected Intelligence Wearables Industry Overview and Forecast.


September 19, 2016

Sales of Waterproof Bluetooth Streaming Speakers Grow to 30 Percent of Category Sales

Sales of waterproof Bluetooth streaming speakers made a splash this summer in the U.S., increasing 137 percent from June through August versus the same period last year, according to global information provider, The NPD Group. During those three months, sales of waterproof streaming speakers accounted for 30 percent of Bluetooth streaming speaker sales, while weather-resistant models accounted for another 15 percent of the category revenue.


September 13, 2016

Warranties Are Selling With Notebooks at a Consistent Rate Year-Over-Year Despite Growing Chromebook Sales, According to NPD

According to The NPD Group’s VAR Invoice Tracking Service, warranties remain a critical part of the notebook sales purchase. Twenty percent of all notebooks sold with a warranty attached during the 12 months ending April 2016. Year-over-year this has remained consistent despite lower priced products like Chromebooks capturing more notebook sales. In the 12 months ending April 2016, notebook average sales prices (on invoices that included a warranty) fell 22 percent versus the prior year, driven by the strong growth of Chromebooks.

Consumer Electronics
Insights


February 17, 2017

Millennials May Do More With Less, But Not When It Comes To Online Shopping

Millennials in the U.S. are known to be frugal — they’re careful about where and how they spend their limited income. And while they shop more frequently at brick-and-mortar retailers, they spend more when they shop online


December 5, 2016

Store-Level Enabled Retail Tracking: How a Headphone Manufacturer Grew Sales by Expanding Distribution

Recently, a consumer electronics manufacturer approached us in its effort to grow its headphone business. It needed a retailer to carry its latest headphone model, but there was just one problem: the item’s overall sales and market share were lower than that of competing brands. Even so, our client knew it had a winner. This client asked us, “How can we convince the retailer to carry our headphones in its stores?”


October 25, 2016

In-Market Testing: How HP, Inc. Determined the Effect of Its Ad Investment on Printer Sales

While HP, Inc. has a strong track record of measuring marketing campaigns using existing modeling and analytics, they wanted to run a market test to quantify ROI on these campaigns and project returns on future campaigns at a national level. In this case, HP, Inc. wanted to look at the entire printing ecosystem, including consumables and hardware . . .


September 14, 2016

Using NPD's VAR Invoice Data to Improve Product Attachment Rates

A leading IT manufacturer wanted to know more about its business with VARs. Specifically, this client asked NPD to show how often its products sold as standalone or single items on an invoice vs. multi-line. NPD helped the client get to the bottom of it, revealing where to focus with VARs and how to add more to the VAR “basket".


August 29, 2016

Drones: See How High They’re Flying

Drones are one of the technology industry’s brightest stars right now, with nearly 300% growth in the course of a year. But it’s been a challenge to get a handle on the details of that remarkable growth – who’s buying, which brands are winning, what accessories the drone customer wants. Only The NPD Group can tell the story of this emerging – and exciting – category. Here’s a look at the latest insights.


July 20, 2016

Drones: Technology’s High-Flying Category

Drones represent excitement and innovation in the U.S. technology industry. It’s a story of rapid growth, and the story is still unfolding. Only The NPD Group can show you how high drones have flown. Here’s a look at the latest insights.


July 5, 2016

The Retail Reality of Virtual Reality

Virtual reality (VR) is one of the most exciting new categories in the technology industry. But like many emerging technologies, the retail story might not be what you expect. Our Checkout Tracking solution can show you how consumers are actually reacting to this brave new virtual world.


June 16, 2016

Tech Talks

This time, our Market Intelligence team focuses on Bluetooth headsets. Where is consumers’ affinity strong? Where are your most promising opportunities?

The newly formed Technology Market Intelligence team is committed to providing actionable intelligence that helps you understand what's driving shifts and trends in your key categories. Through email communications called Tech Talks and Technology Topline, now we'll provide added insights in the categories that matter most to you. The Market Intelligence team will complement our current industry analyst program by focusing on more tactical strategies that are being deployed effectively in the U.S. channel.

Check out the first edition of Tech Talks, our new communication highlighting the latest insights about what is driving the shifts and trends in the industry.


March 29, 2016

Home Automation — A Home Run!

Home automation was up 48% in the six months ending December 2015 compared to a year ago. Here's a look at what's happening in home automation subcategories in the U.S.


March 3, 2016

Power Up Your Wearables Knowledge

Our analysts forecast continued growth for the wearables market. Here's a look at what's happening in the activity tracker and smartwatch categories in the U.S.


Consumer Electronics
Insights and Opinions from our Analysts and Experts


January 30, 2017

Peering Over the Edge: Looking Forward to See How CE Can Get Back to Growth

2016 ended with a mixed bag of holiday sales and proved to be a very uneven year overall for the CE space. As we near the end of the first month of the new year, we’re  stopping to reflect on some of the positive momentum of 2016, as well as looking ahead towards what key technologies, categories and products might change the direction of the tech hardware markets this year (and beyond).

It is fair, I believe, to view 2016 as mostly a transition year; one in which the industry and consumers were introduced to the potential of new categories, new technologies, and new business models.  Viewed from that lens, 2017 is shaping up to be a tipping point year - a year where new technologies will prove their worth or begin to fade away. A year where products will move into the mainstream, or miss their mark and where some level of consistency in demand around new business models will need to be confirmed. From a technology standpoint, the optimistic view is that 2017 appears to be the start of what we experienced in 2009-2011, where new products, new technologies and new use cases provide a burst of opportunity and excitement for the market.  Looking back, those years saw the explosion of the iPhone and flat panel TVs, the beginnings of the deployment of LTE, the introduction of the iPad and the netbook, and the first indications of the re-invention of audio.  It also represented peak camera, GPS, MP3, and printer sales, and should serve as a cautionary tale that technological change goes both ways.

NPD’s recently-distributed tech industry forecast reflects this exciting (and scary) outlook.  Looking ahead over the near-term, we see a slim 2 percent increase for 2017.  That represents a reversal of the worst of the industry’s maturity-based stagnation with the promise that today’s most interesting new technologies will begin to provide the momentum that has been sorely lacking in an older, heavily-saturated hardware environment.  But that forecast comes with its own risks and rewards.  The past year saw an explosion of business models focused on reversing the saturated view of mature markets by refocusing those businesses on premium products and solutions, and away from a volume-based, entry-level focus.  PCs were the harbinger of that, driven by the incredible growth in gaming, the rise in average sales prices overall, and the renewed focus on premium products (not just in price, but in fit, finish and design as well).  4K provided some of that same momentum to TVs, helped along by the growing interest in large screens. But the fall in pricing, and the shift by some consumers back to legacy sizes and products (often fueled by pricing), put a damper on revenue growth.  Even the much-maligned tablet market was restructured to emphasize higher-priced products like Surface Pro and iPad Pro.  All of this reflects a positive reinvention of the view of technology for both brands and retailers and their consumers,  away from a volume perspective towards a growing revenue total addressable market (TAM) for the industry.

But technology shifts are always more exciting and provide the most long-term opportunity for the business.  Among the technology shifts, Smart Home appears to be the one most poised to explode in 2017.  As we exited 2016, it became apparent  that the Smart Home category, and the products that fall within, is the next great hardware opportunity.  The Smart Home category, which grew by over $400 million in U.S. sales in 2016, is being propelled by products like Amazon Echo and Google Home, Nest, Ring and a vast array of security camera makers. This grouping offers the best long-term potential for the tech industry, precisely because its focus on hardware; this means that sales opportunities in the future will remain in retail and will remain focused on hardware, without the cannibalization that gobbled up cameras, GPSs and others.  And while there are many product segments that will show solid growth in the next few years based on the shifting progress of technology (AR/VR and wireless headphones, to name two), only Smart Home seems to have a virtually unlimited TAM, a path to success and a roadmap to get there.



January 25, 2017

Commercial Tech Grows With The Times

The start of a new year is a time for reflection and resolutions. As we move through January we often shape and finalize goals and objectives for the upcoming year. However, in the business world the most important question is how did the last year end? How did the market do and how did my business do? Will we see decline or growth in the year to come? These are great questions which can, and should, be examined.

This year I thought it would be fitting to begin the New Year with a brief analysis of how the Canadian IT Hardware distribution market fared in 2016. According to The NPD Group, the industry posted positive growth of +6 per cent in 2016 over the previous year.

There are a few categories that helped spur this growth. Categories like Notebooks, Large Format Commercial Displays and Solid State Drives all posted double digit growth on the year. Tablets in particular had a role to play in the overall growth of the commercial market in 2016.

Tablets posted an overall growth of +13 per cent for the year. However, if we exclude the retail channel which gives us a pure commercial view, the Tablet category actually grew an impressive of +59 per cent.  This is especially encouraging given the lackluster growth that Tablets have seen in the consumer market over the last 3 years. 

But why has the category seen such stellar growth in the commercial market?

As you can imagine, the use of Tablets is widespread in the commercial space. Not only are they being used by businesses (both large and small) for productivity but they are also being used in places like doctors’ offices and medical clinics, where physicians can take notes and print prescriptions quickly and easily. Other niche businesses are also beginning to utilize Tablets to organize processes and reduce paperwork. For example, if you have visited or taken your children to a paint ball arena, rock climbing gym, or indoor playground, you will notice that owners/operators of these businesses are often utilizing Tablets to manage consent forms, waivers and registration. Another common application includes their use in restaurants where your orders are taken and sent directly to the kitchen for speedy prep and payment.

These applications are also driving certain product sales. For example, it is not surprising that the use of larger Tablets in these environments is common. NPD distributor track non-retail data shows that Tablets with screen sizes of 10+ inches almost doubled their revenue in 2016 vs. the year prior.

While Tablets have quickly become a useful tool for businesses of all kinds, the question remains whether or not this momentum will continue, and for how long?

My contention is that as long as businesses are able to save time and money by leveraging Tablets the category will continue to grow in the commercial space.


January 19, 2017

Canadians Put Premium Notebooks on Their Holiday Wish List

Another Holiday season has come to an end and based on The NPD Group’s sales results, the past 6 weeks for the IT Hardware market did very well.  Across the consumer IT industry the majority of categories delivered positive revenue results, which has not been seen for quite some time.  Standing on top is the Notebook market which, during holiday, I would say exceeded expectations with volume growth at +9% and revenue results at +20%.  I am not surprised by the revenue results as we have been tracking the Premium Price/Performance market throughout the year and Canadians continue to embrace these higher performing Notebooks – and certainly seem prepared to pay for that higher performance!  Premium Notebooks, priced above $800 experienced revenue growth of 29% during Holiday.

For those who wished to find a Premium Notebook under their tree they were not disappointed.  Over 63% of every dollar spent for a Notebook during Holiday 2016 was spent on a Notebook priced above $800.  Despite the increased focus on Black Friday and tremendous deals being offered throughout the holiday, Canadian consumers have shown a desire to have Premium Notebooks to address their computing needs.  In fact it is the Ultra-Premium market, $1,200 and above, that delivered the strongest performance with volume sales up 24% and revenue results almost 50% stronger than Holiday 2015.

For the industry, what I see as a very encouraging sign is that 10 of the top 11 vendors in the market all experienced an increase in both volume and revenue results in this Premium market.  A fantastic way to end 2016 and hoping that as we look towards 2017 that this industry embraces these strong Premium results, during a time typically driven by low-end sales, and uses this as a springboard for 2017.  Let’s hope for continued focus on Premium Notebook product lines to meet the needs of what Canadians are demanding.



January 16, 2017

Promo Wars Black Friday versus Boxing Week

For the past few years, the Canadian Retail calendar has been marked by two key promotional events which take place during an extraordinarily condensed period of time:  Black Friday/Cyber Monday and Boxing Week.  Not surprisingly, the Consumer Technology sector has typically been a key focal point of attention and spending for many shoppers for both of these events.  As Black Friday has increased in importance, one key question asked by both manufacturers and retailers is the impact of that shift on the proceeding weeks and particularly on Boxing Week.

In examining the 2016 holiday sales results, for the first time since Black Friday became a phenomenon in Canada, the sales for that week (Nov 20-26) surpassed Boxing Week (Dec 25-31) by 5%, making it the most important sales week of the year in Consumer Technology.  From a share perspective over the past four years (2013-2016), if we break the 6-week holiday season into two week chunks, the share of dollars spent in the first two weeks (Black Friday/Cyber Monday) increased by 4 points to 38%, the share of dollars spent in the ensuing two weeks declined by 6 points to 24% and the share of dollars spent in the final two weeks of the holiday season (which includes Boxing Week) increased by 2 points to 38%.  So indeed, over a relatively short period of time, Black Friday has eclipsed Boxing Week in the Consumer Technology sector, driven primarily by a sharp drop in sales in the interim weeks.

From a growth perspective versus 2015, dollar sales over the six-week holiday season grew by 3%.  That growth was fueled during the first two weeks of 9% and during the last two weeks of 6%, while the interim two weeks declined by 9%.  Televisions and Notebook Computers were the key growth drivers increasing by 21% and 36% respectively and together accounting for 57% of the dollar gain versus last year.  Other key growth engines included Stereo Headphones (+20%), Health & Fitness Trackers (+16%), Mobile Power (+24%) and Monitors (+41%).  Amongst declining categories, Tablets decreased by 15% and accounted for 40% of the overall decline.  Other key categories contributing declines to the marketplace were MP3 Players (-31%), Point & Shoot Cameras (-31%), and Streaming Media Players (-21%).

Black Friday is certainly here to stay and appears poised to become the dominant event during the holiday season; but at the same time, the heritage of Boxing Week in Canada cannot be underestimated as it too has grown in share and importance in 2016.  Seems like a winning situation long-term for the Canadian technology shopper.



January 12, 2017

Sitting Pretty in the Post-Mobile Era

If there was any doubt that we are entering the post-mobile era, this year’s CES ratified the fact. The absence of mobile integration as a core discussion, and “must show-off” checkbox, demonstrates that the ground has shifted. Where iOS and Android integrations were the must-have stamp of approval in previous years, this year the badge of honor was to show-off Alexa integration.

Of course, that’s not to say that mobile integration has been abandoned. Far from it; all home automation and other products still need to work well with mobile. The “post-mobile era” simply means that mobile is no longer the absolute center of the tech universe. There is now room for a new operating system or interface to control the surrounding tech devices, particularly as the range of devices that need connecting are primarily static devices within the home. The simple power of an always-listening voice interface that can work across a broad range of devices, (almost) regardless of brand, is compelling and is seen as a way to help drive demand for new tech categories such as home automation.

This fundamental shift in power regarding who controls the consumer connection has the potential to shake up the industry. As a case in point, the last such change was the shift from mundane mobile phones to mobile computing platforms (aka, the smartphone), which saw a dramatic change in tech leadership, with the ascent of Apple and Samsung in particular, the collapse of Nokia and Blackberry, and a twilight zone of struggling OEMs in the middle.

As such, while Amazon was clearly the winner at CES – without even showing up – Apple should be concerned that Siri was rarely mentioned as an interface for home automation solutions. Of course, Apple still holds a key card when it comes to the consumer, thanks to the iPhone, while Amazon has not succeeded in making an impression in the mobile space. As a result, Amazon still has to address the mobile part of the post-mobile era, which remains key; however, that does not necessarily mean that it needs to build a mobile phone. Rather, if Alexa’s momentum continues, there is the potential to communicate with Alexa through an app as opposed to owning the hardware… and let’s not forget, at least one Amazon app is typically found on most smartphones, regardless of the underlying OS.

While Amazon’s Alexa was last week’s big winner, Google has the potential to ultimately benefit the most. The combination of Google Home, Android phones, Nest devices, Android-based TVs and set-top devices provides a comprehensive base that supports a unified consumer/device communication via whatever device type the consumer happens to be using. Further, with tighter integration into the operating system, and its own search engine backing all of those random inquiries, Google certainly owns enough of the ecosystem to compete in whatever the post-mobile world brings… including more phones.



December 8, 2016

Chaos & Technology

As we embark on the holiday season, two distinct dynamics tend to converge: chaos; and new technology. Is your work done? Are you ready to take the week off between Christmas and New Year’s Day? Have you even started your holiday shopping? I can firmly say no to all of these questions, yet I’m sitting here writing a blog about this year’s trendy new devices. As you read on, I hope you spot a gift idea for that tech-crazed special someone on your list.


Holiday gift list for the tech geek:

  • Consider picking up a pair of the new Spectacles from Snap. That is, if you’re lucky enough to live in a trendy town where Snap has embedded a pop-up kiosk offering you the privilege of standing in line for a couple of hours. Ah, demand creation genius. Simple, stylish, and a little bit retro; these $140 Wearables pick-up where Google Glass left off. Instead of a do-everything device, they do one thing well, recording a 10-second video and posting it to Snapchat. Let’s just say these made the list by being cool.
  • Butler anyone? The technology is getting there and artificial intelligence is making its way into robots manufactured for the consumer retail market. But for this holiday season most of us will need to settle for a personal assistant. There are two primary choices here: Google Home; and Amazon Echo. Echo has the head start, and its Alexa voice assistant API is quickly finding its way into numerous other devices; yes an eco-system is forming. But don’t count Google out. The company’s deep integrated search data is critical as artificial intelligence is only as good as the data that informs it.
  • A modern View-Master: after years of development, 2016 is the year virtual reality headsets will finally be under the Christmas tree. Entry level options include Google’s $15 cardboard, and $79 Daydream View. Those looking for high processing power and an immersive gaming experience can fork over $599 for the Oculus Rift PC-compatible headset, or $399 for Sony’s PlayStation 4-compatible VR. For the Samsung loyalist, Gear VR is compatible with newer Samsung mobile phones and offers a virtual reality experience for $99.
  • Panoramas are so last year, but check out the new 360-degree cameras. Virtual reality headsets offer gaming and other entertainment experiences, so why not add a 360-degree camera and capture immersive videos as you head down the slopes this winter? Indeed, Samsung promotes the Gear 360 camera alongside its VR headset. This little accessory will set you back another $299 … no one ever said being an early adopter was economical.
  • The NES Classic Edition, a $59 blast from the past comes with HDMI-inputs for our modern TVs. This updated version of the 1985 mega-hit game console comes with 30 of Nintendo’s most popular games built-in. Intentional or not, it’s priming the market for Mario’s return on the Nintendo Switch console coming in early 2017. As with Snap’s spectacles, the short supply is generating buzz and driving up the price. The least expensive one on Amazon today is $220. If this is the gift for you, consider doing what I did a couple of years ago and buy a refurbished original. You’re bound to have a few friends willing to pull their game collections out of the attic. For more on the NES launch check out my blog about being a Tech Luddite.  

By now you’ve realized this is not a list of new products like 4K UHD TVs that will drive a large part of retail revenue this season. However, there are a few themes we’re seeing in the technology that are capturing consumer’s attention, including single-function use cases, integration of artificial intelligence, marketing strategies to facilitate demand creation, development of eco-systems, and a splash of retro design. Indeed, there was an industry message to this holiday gift list after all.


December 5, 2016

Store-Level Enabled Retail Tracking: How a Headphone Manufacturer Grew Sales by Expanding Distribution

Recently, a consumer electronics manufacturer approached us in its effort to grow its headphone business. It needed a retailer to carry its latest headphone model, but there was just one problem: the item’s overall sales and market share were lower than that of competing brands. Even so, our client knew it had a winner. This client asked us, “How can we convince the retailer to carry our headphones in its stores?”


November 25, 2016

It’s Time to Change Again

Last year in our Black Friday blog we noted that it appeared most retailers had the holiday figured out. When to open on Thanksgiving, how focused to be on online shopping vs in-store, when to promote and how to do it. Sadly, I think we were a bit premature in declaring a victory (or least an armistice) in the holiday shopping wars. This year many electronics brick-and-mortar retailers succumbed to the reality that opening on Thanksgiving was only for the biggest traffic aggregators, like the malls, and pushed their promotions to Friday morning. Unfortunately, what they missed is that Black Friday, as an event and a shopping experience, has ceased to exist. There were few if any lines at 6:00 a.m. on Black Friday, as that traffic long ago migrated to Thanksgiving Eve or online, yet many retailers continue to chase it.

While I am sure that there will be plenty of volume on Friday afternoon and over the weekend, the need to open early and promotionally on Friday morning seems to have passed. It’s now truly the  Thanksgiving weekend that kicks off the holiday season. And the imperative is now to be truly successful over both Thanksgiving week and Cyber Week. That will be what makes, or breaks, the season for retail. We have seen Thanksgiving week share of holiday sales increase by about 2.5 points over the past 10 years. When combined with Cyber Week, those two weeks are approximately one-third of the nine week holiday season results, up about 5 points overall from results posted in the last 2000’s.

We noted on Twitter the strong lines on Thanksgiving evening, but most of those were at the largest retailers. Best Buy’s success on Thanksgiving, as a more specialty retailer, seems more and more like an aberration, a function of the strength of electronics as a draw for promotionally focused early holiday shoppers (as we would once again note that many of Thanksgiving night’s retailers, even those with only a tangential relationship to CE, such as Kohl’s and Dick’s, led with or focused on CE products as traffic drivers and interest builders).

On the product side, my colleague Ben Arnold has done an admirable job of calling out the new  sales opportunities for consumer electronics in 2016, including Smart Home, VR, Drones and Smart Hubs. However, the real focus of holiday 2016 has been big screen and 4K/UHD TV with record low pricing and seemingly endless demand over the last two days (check out my Twitter timeline for some comments on that) propelling what promises to be a record end, to a record year in TV sales.  Among the other traditional categories, PCs, tablets and mobile phones remain heavily promoted, but the broad appeal of TV, especially the newer technology and bigger screens, has been the prime catalyst for retail interest. Alongside TVs, an increased emphasis on mounts, cables and soundbars, all of which are exceptionally well positioned add-ons to big screen TVs, and benefit from the cleaner sales floor environment (less pile-it-high, pallet stack outs for 60 inch TVs than 32 inch TVs in the past) allowing retailers to fulfill demand for accessories that can add revenue and profit to the challenging Thanksgiving week TV pricing environment.

Despite the positive sprouts we have seen during Thanksgiving week, we would be remiss if we did not note the lackluster results for the first two weeks of November for CE  and the weaker start to Q4 for CE. While these results can be explained by looking at the difficult comparisons to strong launch events in 2015 (iPad Pro and SP4/Surface Book), they do not account for the entire story. Sales in 2015 never capitalized on that strong beginning and left CE with poor results. Those weak comparisons give us reason for hope for this year’s performance. While the final judgment of the holiday, as always, awaits a complete accounting of sales for the entire nine week holiday season (which we will provide in our CES Research Summit wrap up) the CE business has faced challenges around pricing and demand throughout 2016 and despite the easy comparisons, success is not guaranteed.


November 25, 2016

New Consumer Electronics Products Help Bring Out the Black Friday Crowds

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.    


November 11, 2016

Perhaps, to be Practical is Madness

We find ourselves among a new generation, one that is redefining the technology that will shape their lives. Not the often publicized Millennials, but their successors, Generation Z. While no dates squarely define their age and few characteristics evoke imagery of who they will become, one thing cannot be argued: they were born into an always-on, always-connected world.

As in the generations before them, the undefined nature of youth is personified through the new technology that is beginning to surface. The breakthrough devices for Generation Z remain on the horizon, as the Commodore 64 and iPod once did for generations past. Yet, the intelligence that will power these devices is already taking shape. When you wake, do you see the world as it is today or imagine the virtual reality of the future?

I awoke the other day to my son dancing in the kitchen. Having told his new friend Alexa what tracks to play, it became a 6:00 a.m. dance party. Just as iPads trained children to expect every screen to be touch enabled, soon they’ll expect all devices to work simply by speaking to them. But the future is not about a migration to voice commands; rather, it’s a shift towards intelligent devices. Voice assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa are constantly learning our behaviors and interests. As this massive trove of data is processed, we will see a shift toward assistants anticipating and reacting to our needs as opposed to merely doing what they are told.

The groundwork is being laid through devices that already integrate elements of artificial intelligence. Devices, like the Nest learning thermostat, and the skills of Siri and Alexa are introducing this concept throughout our homes. While usage of voice commands is growing rapidly, it remains a basic interaction, such as telling Siri to call someone; but, technology is on the verge of enabling interaction with devices in a more human-like manner.

Will Generation Z grow up to see each day for its endless possibilities and refuse to accept the practical boundaries of the status quo?



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