Emerging tech seen at forefront of holiday spending | Crain's Charlotte

Emerging tech seen at forefront of holiday spending

“Smart Home powered by b8ta” is available at 70 Lowe's Home Improvement stores nationwide, including at stores in Charlotte and Raleigh. | Photo courtesy of Lowe's Companies, Inc.

The 2017 holiday shopping season is shaping up to be all about technology – and not just as a gift idea, but also in terms of getting it done. 

And elements of emerging technology – drones, wearables, smart home products – are set for their biggest year yet, according to the 24th Annual Consumer Technology Holiday Purchase Patterns Study commissioned by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). As for amounts the CTA estimates that Americans will spend a record $96.8 billion on technology during the 2017 holiday season, which began in October. 

"Technology remains the gift to give and receive during the holidays. But this season, we expect to see changes in how and when consumers shop, and new product categories to really take off,” said CTA President and CEO Gary Shapiro.

Take drones, for example. According to Lesley Rohrbaugh, Senior Manager of Market Research at CTA, drone sales continue to spike.

“We’ve seen the increase over the past three years,” Rohrbaugh said. “This year, 15 percent of U.S. adults are expecting to purchase a drone as a gift. More people are becoming familiar with drones, which is aiding in the growth.”

Smart homes and speakers

Not only are voice-activated smart speakers expected to be given as a popular gift this season, but they’re also anticipated to play a role in the shopping process, Rohrbaugh said. In other words, Alexa, Siri and their brethren won’t just be under your tree, they'll order what else is.

“One in five, or 19 percent, of U.S. adults are going to use a voice-activated smart speaker to shop during November,” Rohrbaugh said.

With more people shopping online – 61 percent of whom will shop online with their smartphone, according to the holiday report – how will retailers get consumers off the computer and into their stores?

Lowe’s Companies, Inc., based just outside of Charlotte in Mooresville, is answering the call by partnering with software-powered retailer b8ta to provide a smart-home shopping experience at 70 Lowe’s stores nationwide, including at stores in Charlotte and Raleigh.

“Smart Home powered by b8ta,” which is being billed as a “store-within-a-store”’ will allow shoppers to peruse a curated selection of smart home products complete with onsite support from “b8ta testers,” who are specially trained on the products, according to Ruth Crowley, vice president of customer experience design at Lowe’s.

“Consumers aspire to live a connected life and crave solutions that make this possible,” Crowley said. “Smart home products simplify life, but the technology can sometimes be confusing or intimidating. So, we developed Smart Home powered by b8ta to emulate a ‘lab-like’ atmosphere that empowers customers to make informed decisions.” 

The try-before-you-by display will feature more than 60 products hot this seasons from brands like Google, GE, Sonos, Iris, Samsung and Ring. 

“One in three U.S. adults are planning to shop for some sort of smart home product this year, which includes digital assistance devices, a smart door lock, home cameras, and home robotic vacuums,” Rohrbaugh said. “For digital assistance devices, like Amazon Alexa or Google Home, that number has almost tripled since last holiday season, which is huge.

"This year, for digital assistance devices, specifically, 15 percent of people intend to purchase one as a gift. Last year, it was 6 percent.”

In addition to drones and smart home devices, sales of wearables – including fitness trackers and smart watches – are expected to increase 27 percent, while connected or digital toys are slated for a 15 percent increase from last year. But perhaps the biggest spike in spending on emerging technology is in virtual reality headsets, which the CTA estimates will see a 283 percent increase in sales this holiday season.

November 15, 2017 - 10:27am