Tech Gifts Top Holiday Shopping Lists

Two-thirds of U.S. adults — 170 million people — are planning to spend an average of $478 on tech gifts this holiday season as overall tech spending reaches a record breaking $96.8 billion, according to the Consumer Technology Association’s 24th annual holiday outlook forecast.

TVs top the list of the top 10 tech gifts consumers most want to receive, followed in descending order by laptops, smartphones, tablets, videogame consoles, smartwatches, cameras, drones, fitness activity trackers, and robotic vacuum cleaners. The CTA said 2017 is the first year drones, wearable electronics, and smart-home devices made consumers’ top 10 wish list.

The survey found that 79 million people — more people than ever before — plan to buy products in emerging product categories. Sales of drones, for example, are expected to reach 1.6 million units this holiday season, up 31 percent over last year, with 15 percent of Americans planning to buy a drone. Other highlights include:

  • One third (33 percent) plan to purchase smart home devices, up 9 percent over last year. The category is led by digital assistant devices (15 percent vs. 9 percent in 2016), in-home cameras (13 percent), and smart thermostats (12 percent).
  • The CTA projects digital assistant devices that use voice services such as Amazon's Alexa and Google Home will sell 4.4 million units during the holiday season (up 22 percent over 2016), with the percentage of consumers who plan to buy one as a gift almost tripling this year.
  • 67 million adults (27 percent) plan to buy a wearable electronics device, led by fitness activity trackers (17 percent) and smart watches (16 percent).
  • 15 percent plan to purchase connected or digital toys, up 4 percent over last year.
  • Sales of VR headsets are projected to reach 2.7 million units during the holiday season, up a whopping 283 percent over 2016.
In the traditional AV categories, half of survey respondents cited audio and computer related gifts when asked about purchase intent. In audio, the top-named products were Bluetooth or Wi-Fi-enabled speakers (47 percent) and headphones (38 percent). Soundbars, MP3 players, and hi-res audio players were less popular choices at 15, 14, and 8 percent, respectively. In computing, notebooks and laptops accounted for 25 percent, tablets 23 percent, and external storage (18 percent).

Video gifts, led by TV, were cited by 37 percent of those surveyed when asked about planned holiday purchases. Within the category, regular or Ultra HD Blu-ray players and DVD players made 22 percent of the respondents’ shopping lists and digital media players from companies such as Roku were also cited by 22 percent of the respondents.

Gifts related to gaming, led by accessories (25 percent) — including VR headsets — was cited by 32 percent of the respondents when asked about purchase intent. Game consoles were mentioned by 17 percent and portable gaming devices by 11 percent.

Shop Until You Drop
More consumers than ever before are planning to shop for tech online (59 percent vs. 57 percent in 2016), while 79 percent plan to shop at physical stores, up from 74 percent last year. Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of brick-and-mortar devotees plan to shop at mass merchants such as Target, with 58 percent planning to shop at electronics stores, 42 percent at warehouse clubs, and 39 percent at department stores.

The CTA attributes the increase in consumers who plan to shop in physical stores to the rise of brand stores (31 percent of U.S. adults plan to shop in a brand store such as Apple or Microsoft) and pop-up stores (21 percent plan to shop in pop-ups such as Amazon).

As for spending, 52 percent of those surveyed plan to spend the same on tech gifts as last year, while 19 percent plan to spend more. More than a quarter (26 percent) of U.S. shoppers, however, are planning to spend less, with one-third citing concerns about the “current U.S. political climate” as the reason for holding back.

On the question of how U.S. shoppers will find deals this holiday season, the survey found that 68 percent will look to friends and family, while 63 percent look to TV advertisements and 60 percent to in-store signs and advertisements. Internet searches (59 percent), newspaper circulars (59 percent), and online/email advertisements (54 percent), are also popular sources of deals. Meanwhile, retailer websites (49 percent), social media sites (42 percent), apps (24 percent), and text notifications (18 percent) were less popular, cited by fewer than half of the survey’s respondents as likely sources of deals.

Other highlights of the study include:

  • Two-thirds of U.S. shoppers plan to start shopping in November (43 percent) or December (23 percent) with 46 percent expecting to make purchases in November and 39 percent in December.
  • 56 percent say they will likely make an unplanned purchased based on a specific deal.
  • 53 percent plan to shop specific online holiday sales events.
  • 40 percent plan to shop specific in-store holiday sales events
  • Consumers plan to pay more attention to return policies

Trends to Watch
The 2017 holiday season will see a continuation of trends the CTA has observed in recent years, including an increase in online shopping, a focus on tech gifts and fading emphasis on Black Friday. Key trends expected to emerge this season include:

  • The debut of “voice computing,” through the use of smart devices such as the popular Amazon Echo, as a means of learning about deals and making purchases.
  • A surge in the number of Americans who plan to use shipping programs (63 percent vs. 55 percent in 2016) such as two-day shipping or free shipping. Additionally, more than half (54 percent) plan to take advantage of guaranteed delivery by the holidays, 51 percent plan to use free returns for online orders, 44 percent plan to use in-store pickup for online orders, and 36 percent plan to use same-day delivery for online orders.
  • An increase in Black Friday-like deals, which will span all of November as more shoppers plan to start their holiday gift shopping earlier.

The CTA’s holiday outlook study is based on a survey of 1008 randomly selected U.S. adults,

How does technology figure in to your holiday shopping plans? Leave a comment.