Apple’s new fall lineup of iPads has been introduced, and I find myself struggling to analyze the myriad of SKUs and configurations available. One thing is for sure – the iPad has been struggling in 2014. For the first 40 weeks of the year sales are down 16 percent; performance that has caused many U.S. retailers, who were counting on the iPad to continue to provide sales lift, to seek alternatives. One of those alternatives has been Android tablets, whose sales growth was a boon earlier in the year. However, the fact is that Android has also fallen victim to challenging product positioning and a murderous pricing cycle.
With taglines including “Better Sound Through Research” and “People Aren’t Hearing All the Music” from companies like Bose and Beats by Dre, sound quality is, and continues to be, a pillar of audio marketing. And with good reason, according to The NPD Group’s Headphone Ownership and Application Study, 58 percent of premium headphone buyers say sound quality is an important purchase motivator- the highest rated factor measured. The same goes for wireless speakers, where 89 percent of owners say sound quality was the leading motivator in their decision to buy, according to NPD’s recent Wireless Speaker Study. But what exactly defines good sound quality? Is it deep base? Clear vocals? A perfect reproduction of a live performance? Defining sound quality is like art in many ways “I know it when I see (or hear) it.”
Tuesday’s Apple event proved, once again, that the industry should never underestimate how successfully Apple can break the mold or flaunt conventional wisdom. Everyone knew two new iPhones were coming – and that they would be 4.7” and 5.5” and that they would look nice, and that they would fit neatly into the current buying, stocking, and usage trends for smartphones in the U.S. (as we discussed in our press release last week). But seeing a mock-up, or sketching something out as a model, or examining a pirated photograph is a poor substitute for seeing something in person. And it is impossible to express how slick both new iPhone models are until you see them in person and hold them in your hand.
As I sat with the rest of the world watching Apple’s annual Fall product announcement, I could sense in those I connected with on Twitter a feeling of excitement as Tim Cook finished the first part of the program and led into his “one more thing”. Apple certainly did not disappoint. If NPD Connected Intelligence’s Eddie Hold asked Apple to amaze him and I’ve asked companies to push the smartwatch beyond what we’ve seen thus far, then we both got our wish. The Apple Watch fits what a smartwatch should be- a nicely designed fashion accessory and a piece of technology (that does more than relay phone notifications to your wrist).
Today we had a chance to participate in a webinar with our friends from TWICE, sponsored by New Age Electronics. While it always seems early to talk about Christmas in July, those of us on the retail calendar are always far ahead of the seasonal calendar, so it likely is the perfect time to be talking about holiday expectations.
In 1964, Bob Dylan released this iconic song that, at the time, was written as an anthem that spoke of changes in civil rights and folk music. If a similar song was written today it could very well speak to Canadian consumer habits and their use of screens within their homes. According to NPD’s just released Battle of the Screens Report, Canadians not only have numerous media/entertainment devices in their household, (more than 9), but their usage of these devices is changing.
In a move rivaling only LeBron James’ decision to join the Miami Heat, Apple is reportedly in talks to acquire Beats by Dre. From the Beats perspective, what can be gained by such a merger? They already own 62 percent of revenues in the premium ($100+) headphone market which, through the 12 months ending in March, has grown to over $1 billion. And in the rapidly ascendant wireless speaker category, Beats has managed to grow their line of Pill speakers and now account for a 9 percent of revenues in a category I expect will double this year. I don’t believe the merger with Apple is about growing their headphone or speaker business—they’ve got it covered.
The consumer technology landscape is shifting rapidly. More than ever before new products are changing the way we interact with our electronics; our electronics are interacting with each other more than ever before as well. As products change, the way we merchandise and think about sales at retail has to change as well. In the last year, product displays, sales floors, and retail formats have gone through more changes than in the entire previous decade. Progress has been made in many areas, except for one; the home theater department. The lack of progress is especially evident in the classic retail TV wall display which remains much the same as it was originally envisioned at the dawn of the flat-panel era, and that revision was hardly much of a change from the tube world, except you couldn’t mount tubes on the wall.
April 15 is significant for two reasons: it’s Tax Day- a time when many Americans settle last year’s tax bill with the IRS; it also happens to mark Google’s one-day sale of its most intriguing product: Google Glass. Closed betas for emerging products are common in the tech industry; however one day sales of new products, especially those as notable as Glass, are not. So what’s behind the move? [Read more...]
For nearly a year, the tech industry has been abuzz with rumors and speculation that Amazon would enter the rapidly growing media streaming device market; challenging category incumbents Apple, Google, and Roku who accounted for 88 percent of category revenue during the 12 months ending February. Wednesday, Amazon did just that, announcing their Amazon Fire TV to much fanfare.
One of my favourite scenes from “Wayne’s World” is when Wayne, Garth, and their two buddies belted out Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” while driving through the night streets of Aurora, Illinois in their AMC Pacer. We all do it – fantasize ourselves as rock stars, singing at the top of our lungs in the safe confines of our automobile. That was true 50 years ago and it’s no different today. While the technology of both audio devices and audio media has changed dramatically in just a few short years, according to NPD’s Audio Consumption in Canada study, the car is still the most popular place for Canadians to tune in to their favourite songs.
One of my first tech coverage areas as a young(er) analyst in 2009 was the home automation market. As I studied up on the space- the major products, companies, and consumer segments most willing to purchase the systems – I had a feeling that the connected home was the future. Our home appliances, utilities, climate control, and entertainment would all soon be programmable through a single interface and come to know our habits and activities. The momentum I felt in the market suggested this transformation would happen en masse, and that improved broadband speeds and increased mobile phone ownership would be the main catalysts. Then, early in 2010 the technology universe went tablet crazy, and the momentum in home automation market suddenly went on standby.
Sony announced today that it is shutting down its worldwide PC business and selling it off to a Japanese investment firm that will maintain the business in that country. Of course, the trends in the traditional PC business have been difficult for the last few years, but in general we believe Sony’s problems (to the extent there really were problems) are more self-made than a function of the industry troubles.
Yesterday Google announced that they were selling the Motorola handset business they acquired just a couple of years ago to Lenovo. While most of the analysis to date has concentrated on how this represents a retreat from the hardware business by Google (and it does – read more from Eddie Hold) we also think an equal amount of attention should be paid to the potential this creates for setting up another strong global hardware company.
I grew up on vinyl. While I didn’t appreciate it at the time, the sound of those records was truly magnificent, even with the odd snap, crackle, and pop. When I moved out of my parents’ house, my number one priority, well ahead of which TV to purchase (at the time 27 inches was considered large), was finding the best sound system that I could afford, which unfortunately was not nearly as much as I would have liked to invest.
Every year the technology industry introduces the next great thing to keep the industry, and the consumers engaged. Today, it’s all about wearable devices. At NPD’s CES reception at Treasure Island, NPD’s analysts sat down to discuss these devices.
From Internet-connected toothbrushes all the way to thermostats that know your daily routine, personalization seems to be one of the recurring themes so far at CES. The 2014 CES Press Day (affectionately dubbed Day 0) featured numerous innovations aimed at making technology devices more personal- either through branding and design or features that make the user more recognizable to the device. I took note of a couple announcements today that are surely just the first of many more “lifestylized” products to be exhibited at the show.
By now you’ve likely read that this year’s holiday shopping season got off to a great start. According to The NPD Group’s Retail Tracking Service, consumer technology sales grew 10 percent over Black Friday, breaking a string of two consecutive years where sales growth was negative. One of the feel-good stories so far from the holiday shopping season has been soundbars which, according to The NPD Group’s Weekly Tracking Service, grew 74 percent (units) Black Friday week and more than doubled the following week compared to 2012. At first blush, one might think doorbusters and outrageous discounts may have driven the volume growth, however ASPs during Black Friday actually increased 8 percent. So what’s the story?
NPD just reported a sales increase of 10 percent for Thanksgiving week as interesting promotions, some solid category performances, and nice results from some mid-size categories helped propel results to a more than $400 million increase in revenue over the previous three years.
As we begin another holiday shopping season and contemplate gifts to give to our friends and family, one product category, seemingly perfect in a variety of ways for gift giving could be poised for a good holiday. Detachable lens cameras.