CES Unveiled events are peppered throughout the calendar, but what makes the annual New York event one of the more exciting ones to attend is how perfectly positioned this one is ahead of one of the busiest times of year for retailers. As such, beyond the products on display at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Manhattan, CES Unveiled New York featured a press conference where the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) gave its “state of the industry” update to the gathered press.
Mixed in with announcements about featured areas at January’s CES 2018 trade show, CTA announced the results of its 2017 Pre-Black Friday Survey—part of the association’s holiday shopping coverage.
Among the many revelations in this year’s survey, what stood out most was the fact that, for the first time, more consumers said they would shop online via their smartphone this year than any other device. According to the survey, 61 percent of consumers said they planned to use their smartphone for holiday shopping, followed by laptops (54 percent), and desktop computers (46 percent). Additionally, 19 percent of U.S. adult shoppers said they plan to use a voice-activated speaker—such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home—to shop online during the holidays.
CTA specifically pointed to efforts by major retailers like Best Buy, Target, Walmart, and Home Depot, which have already started to think about a voice shopping strategy by partnering with either Google or Amazon to get in on those voice platforms.
“November 2017 marks a seismic shift in when and how American adults are shopping for holiday gifts,” Steve Koenig, CTA’s senior director of market research, said in a statement. “Not only will the use of smartphones eclipse laptops and desktops for online holiday shopping for the first time, but this year also marks the introduction of what we consider to be a new sales channel. Voice-activated smart speakers will be a popular gift to give this year and play a much larger role in the shopping process. This season, voice shopping joins the channel mix.”
In all, CTA said it expects 58 percent of U.S. adults to shop online during the month of November.
When and Where?
Brick and mortar still has it’s place in the holiday shopping season, obviously. And CTA didn’t overlook that it in pre-Black Friday survey. The association asked consumers to specifically identify when and where they planned to shop, and the results were really telling, as far as how Black Friday has evolved over the years.
Starting with the where, there was great news for retailers: Every store type was up, as far as the percentage of consumers who said they’d shop them. Big box stores—or mass merchants, as CTA identified them—lead the way at 63 percent (up from 61 percent last year), followed by electronics stores at 58 percent (57 percent last year), club stores at 42 percent (38 percent last year), and department stores with 39 percent (34 percent last year).
Additionally, CTA found that specialty stores gained traction with consumers. According to the survey, 21 percent of consumers said they would shop at a pop-up store this year and 31 percent said they would shop at a brand-specific retail location (a la, an Apple Store).
Turning to the when, the survey results were incredibly interesting. Despite this being a Black Friday survey, the actual day itself ranked the lowest out of the time periods consumers identified as when they planned to shop. Only 38 percent of U.S. adults said they planned to shop on actual Black Friday this year. Instead, the most popular time period consumers identified was the days after the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend (57 percent). Cyber Monday came in second (51 percent), followed by early to mid-November before Thanksgiving week (44 percent).
According to CTA, this marks the first year that more consumers plan to shop on Cyber Monday across all channels than Black Friday.
The top tech products identified by U.S. adults planning to purchase tech products during the holiday season will shock no one. In order, they were: video game consoles, smartphones, TVs, laptops, and tablets.
That said, CTA had some lofty projections for tech products across the board. With a few exceptions, the association said it expects double-digit growth for shipment volume by product category. Leading the way there is VR headsets, shipments of which CTA said will exceed 2.68 million, up 283 percent from last year. Other big gainers included 4K UHD TVs (up 48 percent to 6.68 million units), and smart thermostats (up 40 percent, 1.6 million units).
Products that it expects will decrease in shipment volume included smart watches (down 26 percent to 4.05 million units) and fitness trackers (down 5 percent to 11.95 million units).
CTA estimated that total spend for the holiday quarter (from October through December) would reach $96.846 billion, up a modest 1 percent over last year.