Technology spending during the 2018 holiday season (October – December) is projected to reach a record-setting $96.1 billion in revenue in the U.S. – a year-over-year increase of 3.4 percent – according to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). CTA’s 25th Annual Consumer Technology Holiday Purchase Patterns Study
says 164 million U.S. adults (66 percent) plan to purchase a tech product as a gift this year – on par with 2017. Consumers will spend a record amount on key categories this season such as smart speakers, smart home devices, smartwatches and more.
“2018 has shown us that consumers are willing to spend a premium on technology that is essential to their everyday lives – such as smartphones, laptops and TVs – and we expect that dynamic to continue through the season, driving overall holiday consumer tech sales to a new high this year,” said Ben Arnold, senior director of innovation and trends, CTA. “In addition to those core devices, key emerging categories to watch this holiday season are smart home devices – powered by voice technology – smartwatches and wireless earbuds.”
More People Than Ever Plan to Buy Emerging Tech
This season, consumers will spend a record amount on emerging tech such as smart speakers, smart home devices and smartwatches.
Top Five Most Wanted Tech Gifts Consumers Want to Receive
- Smart Speakers: CTA projects smart speakers such as Amazon's Echo and Google Home, will have another strong holiday season, selling an expected 22 million units (up 44 percent over 2017). New for 2018 is the emergence of smart speakers with displays – six percent of overall shoppers plan to purchase a smart speaker with a screen and 12 percent plan to purchase a smart speaker without a screen.
- Smart Home Devices: Fueled by the popularity of voice technology, 36 percent of respondents plan to purchase a smart home product in 2018 – including smart speakers, security cameras, smart lightbulbs and video door bells.
- Smartwatches: Jumping up from last year, nearly one in five of U.S. adults plan to buy a smartwatch this year. CTA expects over seven million smartwatches will sell this holiday season – a 26 percent increase.
- Wireless Earbuds: Wireless earbuds are now a key holiday tech gift, with 5.3 million units expected to sell – a 60 percent increase over 2017. Forty percent of the U.S. adults planning to purchase a gift within the headphones/earbuds category say they’re likely to buy wireless earbuds this season.
- Drones: With expected sales of 1.5 million units this holiday season (up eight percent over 2017), drones continue to be a popular tech gift.
Once again, televisions are consumers’ most wanted tech gift, continuing the trend of bigger-ticket hub devices topping wish lists.
2018 Holiday Retail Tech Trends
- Smartphone and Tablet (tied)
- Desktop computer and Any Type of Camera (tied)
Some key retail trends CTA expects to emerge this holiday season include:
- Spotlight on Voice: Last year marked the debut of voice as a fourth sales channel joining brick-and-mortar, online and mobile as methods of holiday shopping. In 2018, almost a quarter of respondents plan to research products and sales via a digital assistant and 16 percent plan to make a purchase using voice technology.
- Emerging Retail Channels: In addition to over half of Americans planning to shop online for tech this holiday season (52 percent) and 77 percent planning to shop in brick-and-mortar locations, retail channels will diversify and multiply in 2018. The number of shoppers who plan to shop using mobile devices will rise to 58 percent – surpassing online for the second year in a row. Further, about 33 percent plan to take advantage of same-day delivery, 31 percent in-home delivery (such as Amazon Key or Walmart Delivery), and nine percent plan to use in-app features like camera search.
- Holiday Season Expands: Just as Black Friday was pulled forward into Thanksgiving Day and extended to Cyber Monday, the full holiday shopping season is getting longer. With retailer-specific holidays in July, events such as Singles Day and heavy promotions earlier in the season, 27 percent of respondents indicate they plan to start their holiday shopping in October or earlier. At the same time, 83 percent of respondents don’t plan to purchase their gifts until November or December – likely due to the growing popularity of two- and same-day shipping programs.
“Once again, voice will come to define this holiday season with more smart speakers on wish lists, added voice compatibility in tech devices and more voice shopping,” said Lesley Rohrbaugh, director of market research, CTA. "Technology is playing the biggest role in not only what we buy as gifts, but how.”
CTA Holiday Research
To keep up to date with all of CTA's holiday and Black Friday research throughout the season, visit CTA.tech/holiday
CTA's 25th Annual Consumer Technology Holiday Purchase Patterns Study
was designed and formulated by CTA Market Research, the most comprehensive source of sales data, forecasts, consumer research and historical trends for the consumer technology industry. CTA fielded the survey in September 2018 using a landline and mobile phone sample of 1,007 U.S. adults (18+). The report comes at no cost for CTA members and is available at CTA.tech/holiday