Goodbye Single Function Electronics, Hello Smartphones and Tablets
Released just in time to be able to correlate findings with what is now taking place at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, a new Accenture (News - Alert) survey, its 2013 Global Consumer Electronics Products and Services Usage Report arrived today, and it brings with it some interesting though not particularly revelatory insights on consumer electronics buying trends.
As it turns out, as we head into 2013, consumers are now reporting a reduced interest in purchasing single function electronic products in the next year, while intentions to buy multifunction devices have increased dramatically. What's a single function device?
As one might imagine, it refers to electronic products that do one thing - for example, a CD or DVD player or an MP3 player that does only one thing, play MP3s. It also refers to such things as a pure standalone camera that does nothing but take pictures. A multifunction device, of course, would be something like, say, a smartphone - which is a camera, an MP3 player, a streaming video player…and lest we forget a mobile phone as well - all rolled up into a single multipurpose piece of electronic gear.
You get the picture.
As is typical of Accenture surveys, the one in question had a very deep number of participants. Panelists for this online survey numbered more than 11,000 consumers spread across 11 countries: Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. The panelists were equally split by gender and all were at least 18 years of age.
The survey was conducted in September 2012 and focused on consumer electronics devices that include the following:
- Basic mobile phones
- Digital video cameras
- PCs (desktops, laptops, netbooks and Ultrabooks)
- Digital photo cameras
- Blu-ray DVD players
- Non-Blu-ray DVD players
- Digital video recorders (DVRs)
- eBook readers (eReaders)
- Game consoles
- GPS devices
- Health and fitness devices
- Portable gaming devices
- Portable music players
- Regular TVs
- Tablet computers
The survey specifically explored consumer usage and spending habits for these consumer electronic devices, most of which perform a single function and five of which deliver multiple functions. Let's get right to the heart of the findings: as we move apace into 2013 and beyond, consumers are already shifting their purchasing priorities, and they are clearly demonstrating that the trend will be away from single function devices to acquiring multifunction electronics.
Panelist intentions to buy single function hardware has either fallen or remained flat compared with survey numbers for 2012 (which was conducted in late 2011). The percentage of survey respondents planning to buy Blu-ray DVD players (keeping in mind that Blu-ray is still a relatively new technology for most consumers), for example, fell slightly, from 11 percent last year to 10 percent for 2013, while purchase intentions for digital photo cameras, digital video cameras, and game consoles (all of which, again, are single function devices) remained flat.
Panelists offered a markedly sharp contrast when asked about likely purchases for multifunction electronics. The percentage of respondents planning to buy multi-function devices in 2013 increased significantly - from 16 percent a year ago to 36 percent for desktop and laptop PCs (which in and of itself is odd considering the great deal of noise surrounding the vast decline in purchases of the PC); from 27 percent to 41 percent for smartphones; from 20 percent to 33 percent for HDTVs; and from 16 percent to 23 percent for tablet computers (which is surprising to us in that it isn't a higher percentage).
There are some single-function electronics that show more promise (or rather, a less drastic outlook for purchases) than those noted above. For example, basic mobile phones are still considered for purchase though these may be hanging in there merely due to pricing. Global positioning satellite (GPS) devices are not quite ready to die yet, health and fitness devices are still going to be purchased (even though smartphone apps are quickly replacing standalone gadgets). To a lesser extent, eBooks/eReaders appear to still be in contention.
The percentage of survey respondents intending to purchase these devices rose, though the year-to-year comparisons rely on a small base. The likelihood of purchasing basic mobile phones increased from six percent to 10 percent, GPS likely purchases went from nine percent to 11 percent, health and fitness devices moved from seven percent to nine percent and eBooks increased from eight percent to nine percent). The eBook number is actually surprising to us as other research clearly indicates that eBooks are rapidly going to disappear as standalone devices - tablets are rapidly eroding the pure eBook market.
But the functionality of these devices is increasingly being integrated into multi-function products. There is nothing the above devices do that your smartphone doesn't also do - and in most cases your smartphone may do it better and for less money. A mobile mapping app such as Waze delivers everything a driver can possible need at absolutely no cost.
In a bit of a non sequitur, the survey also asked panelists about their operating system preferences. It turns out that for this particular group of panelists there isn't much loyalty attached to any single operating system when it comes down to what multi-function devices to acquire. Here's the breakdown:
- 66 percent indicated that they might consider purchasing a mobile or computing device with a different operating system than what they already primarily use.
- 24 percent said they would consider a switch to “see what else is on the market.”
- 23 percent would switch on the promise of a “better user experience with another operating system.”
- 23 percent would switch to “get access to more innovative services and applications.”
"The consumer electronics market is now predominantly a four-horse race among multi-function devices - PCs, smartphones, tablets and HDTVs,” says Mattias Lewren, managing director for Accenture’s Electronics and High-Tech industry group. “This development amounts to a call to action for electronics manufacturers. They need to focus squarely on innovative devices with multiple applications, from browsing to media consumption to communications in various settings. Consumers want ‘do-it-all’ capabilities in various sizes and user experiences that fit their different lifestyle needs.”
Well, as we noted at the beginning of this article, there is nothing revelatory here - but it does underscore for certain what we already know to be the case. A good example of a company that is already executing on the advice suggested by Lewren is NVIDIA (News - Alert), which very recently announced a new multifunction game controller - one that happens to also function as a smart mobile device.
"The lack of consumer commitment to any single platform offers numerous opportunities for electronics manufacturers,” adds Lewren. “The platforms that offer a more intuitive user experience, and diverse and sticky applications with compatibility across devices, will be key to creating consumer loyalty in this four-horse race.”
We couldn't agree more.
The full 2013 Global Consumer Electronics Products and Services Usage Report is available on the Accenture Web site.