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The Secret Lives of Consumers Who Buy Tech Accessories

Today’s tech accessories do more than cover, control, carry, connect and charge.

They add style, features and functionality to the consumer technology experience. Just as consumer tech makes our lives better, accessories improve the “life” of consumer tech. But with such a diverse range of solutions accessorizing everything from TVs to tablets, it’s important to understand where opportunity exists and more importantly, who’s buying?

CTA produces a robust industry forecast as part of its Consumer Technology Sales and Forecasts report. The latest analysis pegs the wholesale value of the U.S. tech accessories market at $11.3 billion – on par with 2015’s value.

Smartphone accessories including cases, chargers, headsets and other products represent the largest segment within the accessories arena, echoing the overall market for tech. This is a $3.5 billion market, with cases accounting for 42 percent of this year’s value. Headphones are another large accessories segment worth about $2.2 billion this year with strong growth potential stemming from Apple’s decision to delete the headphone jack from the iPhone 7. However, where TV accessories are concerned, cables still rule. This year, CTA expects shipment revenues from audio/ video cables to reach $360 million.

Virtual reality (VR), encompassing a range of headsets and controllers will be a boon to the videogame accessories segment. Controllers and other game accoutrements have long led the opportunity with both wired and wireless solutions, but VR accessories will up the ante on opportunity here from its current $1.2 billion market value. Computing accessories are another bright spot, composed mostly of cases, carrying bags and, of course, input devices. In addition, biometrics is also boosting the accessibility and convenience of input devices for all.

Who is Buying Accessories?

Ironically, while tech accessories are ubiquitous, they are not a one size fits all proposition. Accessories have evolved to become the personal effects of technology. To fully tap opportunities in the accessories market it’s crucial to understand the accessories buyer. In CTA’s Consumer Tech Accessories: Customer Segments (Sept. 2016) study, we identify three main customer segments for these products.

The quintessential “Tech Accessory Consumer” makes up more than half (53 percent) of the U.S. population and are the most likely to buy accessories with a specific solution in mind. Their purchases are purpose driven. Women make up 61 percent of this group and half of the individuals in this segment are age 50 or older. Just over a third are employed full-time (36 percent) and a quarter of this population is retired (24 percent). This segment is also more likely to use technology products that others have tried.

Making up 35 percent of the U.S. population, the “On-The-Road Family Supporter” segment represents consumers who often use technology devices and accessories to support their daily routines on-the-go or traveling for work. As a result, these consumers want accessories to enhance their tech devices and are keen on personalization. Men represent 59 percent of this segment, and nearly two in five (37 percent) are between the ages of 30 and 39. Eighty-two percent are employed full-time or part-time. Nearly three quarters (71 percent) also have children in their household.

“Quantified Self and Home” consumers make up nine percent of the population and are early adopters of technologies and the accessories that go with them. They also value a healthy lifestyle. A wide range of age groups are in this segment, and three in five (58 percent) are men. Eight in 10 (79 percent) are employed and three in five (63 percent) have children at home. Almost nine in 10 (85 percent) own their own home and 62 percent have a household income of $75,000 or more. Accessories continue to enhance consumer’s experience and enjoyment of technology.

Expect wireless headphones to be a major audio theme at CES 2017.

Steve Koenig, CTA