Chris Ely

Chris Ely is the Senior Manager of Industry Analysis at the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).

Accessories, a key segment of the consumer electronics industry, are often overshadowed by top selling devices such as smartphones and tablets. Nevertheless, accessories are a strong growth driver for the industry as a whole. They add significant revenue in a number of different CE categories, and sales estimates look promising for 2013 and beyond.

Accessories are sometimes overlooked in the CE product mix, even as they quietly strengthen the industry’s bottom line. Accessories abound in almost every CE product category including televisions, digital cameras, tablets, smartphones, gaming consoles, receivers, MP3 players and home theater systems. CEA’s recent Sales and Forecasts survey (January 2013) estimates accessory sales will reach $9.8 billion in 2013—a three percent increase from 2012. Looking ahead to 2014, CEA forecasts accessories to grow five percent to $9.9 billion wholesale.

As 2012 comes to a close and we start wondering what 2013 will bring, many eyes are on the holiday shopping season and what it might mean for our industry.
Indeed, holiday sales often ‘make or break’ a retailer’s bottom line. We know the upcoming holiday is especially important for the consumer electronics (CE) industry, given the popularity of CE as gifts.

Though often perceived as a side dish to the devices they support, accessories represent a significant piece of the consumer electronics industry. Total accessories accounted for about 5 percent of U.S. CE revenue in 2011.

Facebook and other social media platforms have emerged as an important consumer shopping resource that CE retailers can’t ignore. A recent CEA survey found that eight out of 10 social media users who researched electronics prior to purchase found Facebook and other social sites useful in helping them make buying decisions. A quarter of all social media users, and two-thirds of users who spend more than 13.5 hours a week on social sites, said they always or almost always refer to the sites before buying CE products.

CE Retailers See Benefits
While not everyone has figured out the perfect strategy for their business, successful retailers understand the value of social media and the important role it plays in engaging customers and building relationships with them. But there is no magic bullet. Retailers and retail experts say a viable social media strategy is about knowing your customers and finding the right message and medium to engage them. It’s also about gaining insights into consumer interests, intentions, motivations and perceptions by looking at what they say and do on Facebook and other social platforms.

 “The importance of social media is that consumers can access it when they want,” said Jeff Pearson, senior vice president of marketing for hhgregg, the Indianapolis-based chain with more than 200 stores in 17 states. “When you come to our website and our stores, we show you all the different ways you can stay connected with hhgregg, whether that means signing up for a rewards account, getting on our email list, liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter or joining our Pinterest section. We want to engage with consumers however they want to engage with us and we want to be important in all those channels.”

More than four fifths of consumer electronics shoppers use online social networks to seek information about their purchase decisions, according to a study released this week by the Consumer Electronics Association.

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