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‘C.T.A.’ in Santa’s Sleigh

| November 12, 2015

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant


cookewriterNEW YORK — Elves are running the tech conveyor belt full blast, according to the just-released and always-anticipated Annual CE Holiday Purchase Patterns Study, from what used to be called the Consumer Electronics Association.   

Now – as technology is transforming our lives – CEA is renaming itself the Consumer Technology Association.  president and CEO Gary Shapiro notes the impact of non-gadget-makers like Google, Uber, and Expedia.  “We’ve gone beyond ‘consumer electronics,’” he declares, though his research numbers demonstrate increasing demand for devices:  

  • Overall USA holiday retail tech spending is forecast at nearly $34.2 billion, up 2.3 percent from last year.
  • 65% of all Americans, roughly 160 million people, are planning to buy tech gifts this season, “the biggest on record” according to Shawn DuBravac, CTA’s chief economist & senior director of research.
  • One in three holiday shoppers is looking to purchase emerging technology products such as wearable activity trackers and smartwatches and smart home devices. And lots of drones. 

With so much at stake for radio sales – and programming eager for relevance – this data is instructive.  And heck, we’re all wondering what’ll be under the tree.

Top Holiday Tech Wish List

According to this research, the tech products we most want this year are:

  1. TVs
  2. Tablets
  3. Smartphones
  4. Notebook/laptop computers
  5. Videogame consoles

Stocking stuffers those polled say they’re also shopping for:

  • selfie sticks,
  • headphones and earbuds,
  • portable Bluetooth speakers,
  • videogame accessories.

How and when we shop is “evolving significantly.”

Steve Koenig, CTA senior director, market research, observes that “more consumers outside of the traditional early adopter and Millennial generation are using tech to buy tech. They’re relying heavily on online shopping and mobile devices in an effort to have a more informed and convenient holiday shopping experience.”

“Convenience” defined:

  • Households with children are significantly more likely to shop online (69%) than households without kiddos (56%).
  • Yet while 55% of all gift-givers are likely to shop for tech online this year, 77% still touch-and-feel in brick-and-mortar stores. And stores are offering streamlined hybrid options.  There’s curbside pickup for Sears’ “Shop Your Way” online buyers, and at 121 Target stores (up from just 21 locations last year).  Staples.com tells turkeyday web surfers “Skip the lines.  Buy online and pick-up in store Friday as early as 6:00 am.”

DuBravac figures “Black Friday becomes the victim of its own success.”  Amazon.com has been doing daily deals for several weeks already.  Best Buy’s 4-hour Flash Sales and Target’s “10 Days of Deals” and other promotions spare shoppers the mob scene on November 27.

And with so many stores now joining REI’s widely-publicized decision not to open on Thanksgiving, DuBravac quips that “closed Thursday is the new open Thursday.”

Next stop: Fabulous Las Vegas

It’s massive, it’s mind-boggling, and – although its producer is no longer called CEA – it’s still “CES,” still popularly referred to as “the Consumer Electronics Show.”  It drew 176,000 of us last January, 50,000+ from other countries, and is expecting the same hoard in 2016.

How a biggest-ever 2.3 million square foot Exhibit Hall is allocated demonstrates what’s-hot:

  • 40% more floor space than last year for health & wellness exhibitors. “We’re getting older and doctors are getting fewer” Shapiro shrugs.
  • 80% more space than last year for virtual reality;
  • 208% (not a misprint) more for “Unmanned Systems” (translation: drones);
  • Automotive:+25%, for 9 auto makers and 100+ auto tech companies;
  • Also bigger than ever: 3D printing.
  • And your correspondent will certainly demo Somabar, “the robotic bartender for your home.”

I’ll report here and on “America in the Morning,” “The Jim Bohannon Show,” “Doug Stephan’s Good Day” and my client stations that first week in January from Las Vegas.


Holland Cooke (www.HollandCooke.com) is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet; and he covers industry conferences for TALKERS and RadioInfo. Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke.

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Category: Analysis