CTA’s Steve Koenig delivers holiday cheer at CES 2018 Unveiled

For 2017, Black Friday has become a moniker more for the price-slashing mania during all of November than for the traditional Friday after Thanksgiving selling bonanza.

According to Consumer Technology Association (CTA) market research presented at the annual CES 2018 Unveiled media event in the New York Metropolitan Pavilion Thursday, retailers are competing furiously throughout the month, before and after Thanksgiving, with special deals, many of which involve some sort of technology device.

From a CTA consumer study conducted just last weekend, 44 percent of those surveyed said they plan to shop now through the beginning of Thanksgiving week; 33 percent are shopping on Black Friday,  and 51 percent are shopping on Cyber Monday.

The activity is being driven by more and more promotion and targeted advertising through new high-tech means, and customers are coming into stores knowing what to expect in the way of pricing.

“Black Friday is less about the actual date and more of a marketing term today because it elicits an almost Pavlovian response from the consumer,” said Steve Koenig, the CTAs senior director of market research.

Read more this year’s Black Friday consumer shopping patterns after the jump:

Koenig added that so far this year the association has observed “the highest level of targeted ads in any holiday season.” Retailers are increasingly turning toward advanced technologies like voice-powered digital assistants and artificial intelligence (AI) to take verbal orders and data mine for consumer preferences that can be used to push targeted deals to user email inboxes and through online advertising.

“Retailers have been collecting a lot of customer data and big data analysis and they are mining that to generate mining personas to better understand you, the customer,” Koenig revealed. “That translates through to marketing strategy. Just think about all the myriad of push notifications you have found in your inbox this year. This is where AI’s come in that are starting to shape marketing strategy, leveraging data and turning this over very, very, quickly.”

According to newly released CTA consumer research, roughly 170 million U.S. adults will be buying tech gifts this year, which is “probably the highest it’s ever been.”

According to the data, on average, people plan to spend about $478 on tech gifts. The highest spenders among the demographic “personas” shopping this year will be early adopters, and the top tech gift (46 percent of early adopters) plan on giving are drones, CTA data has found.

Top Black Friday Trends

Among the top emerging trends, this holiday season is the emergence of the so-called omni-shopper, which are people who use technology to shop anywhere and at anything. A lot of this omni-shopping involves people getting and reacting to push notifications they continually receive through their smartphones.

“And it’s not just about Thanksgiving week or Black Friday or even the holiday season – it’s way ahead of time,” Koenig said.

Another form of omni-shopping comes from those using voice-powered personal digital assistants, like Alexa and Google Home Assistants to search for deals and make purchases. This can occur from digital speakers with far-field microphones, like the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and related devices and the Google Home speaker. It is also occurring through smartphones and tablets carrying apps to provide similar functionality.

Voice shopping registered what Koenig called “an astonishing 1-in-5 holiday shoppers” planning to learn about deals through platforms like Alexa.

“We are going to build upon that in 2018 and voice is going to become quite common,” he predicted, adding that retailers are beginning to align themselves behind the different platforms – Alexa, Google Home Assistant, etc.

“It’s not really a stretch to see how you are going to be able to order with your voice when you are behind the wheel, at home, in the office over Alexa, Google or whatever it is. And it probably is going to be able to happen faster than the online uptake or mobile uptake happened. That is something to really look forward to,” Koenig said.

“One of the bigger revelations this year is that the preferred device for online shopping is the smartphone,” Koenig said. “Most of us pick up our smartphones in the morning before we pick up a cup of coffee.”

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Koenig said retailers that haven’t optimized their sites for mobile traffic are missing out on a huge opportunity.

“Think about the rise of the omni-shopper. People are going to be shopping even when they aren’t thinking about it, or intending to,” he said.

In-Store Traffic To Fall

This new activity will likely impinge on the foot traffic that is traditional measured with great interest at this time of year as an indicator of sales and store comps.

“We expect foot traffic to be slightly lower, just based on the strength of online these days,” Koenig said. “The data suggests there is still pretty strong engagement and a will to shop at stores.”

Some 63 percent of tech shoppers will do so at mass merchants, followed by electronics stores (58 percent); warehouse clubs (42 percent) and department stores (39 percent). Other channels include pop-up stores (21 percent) and brand stores (31 percent).

Already dealers like Best Buy, Walmart and Macy’s have started to list those Black Friday deals.

Koenig reminded that another date to put on the shopping calendar this year is the full weekend available for shopping before Christmas.

“This plays right into the hands of those perennial last-minute shoppers. This will be your last chance to get that last-minute gift when everyone’s off work,” he observed.

Game of Telephone

This year as in past years, people are learning about the biggest deals through circulars, online and via email, but above all it’s by word of mouth. Word of mouth Black Friday communication is up 11 percent since November 2016.

Wish Lists vs. Gift Lists

As usual topping the wish lists of top tech items are devices with screens.

Other key areas this year include drones and the resurgence of digital imaging products, which is a category that has struggled as of late.

Shoppers will find a lot of camera deals this year, especially in the areas of action cams and 360-degree cameras.

Over half of all U.S. adults plan to shop this holiday season for some sort of communications device. This includes smartphones, but also represents a lot of related accessory items.

Computing devices like laptops and tablets will be about the same as last year, with 58 percent of shoppers planning to shop for computing-related gift items. Smartphones top the list of items at 61 percent, followed by laptops at 54 percent and desktop PCs at 46 percent.


Some 37 percent of shoppers plan to purchase some sort of video or television product as a gift this year. Of the 20 percent subset of shoppers looking for a TV, 58 percent plan to purchase a big-screen 4K Ultra HD TV, according to the CTA pre-holiday shopping data. Retailers are robustly merchandising television on store floors again this year.

“Probably the sweetest 4K TV deal we have seen so far this year has been a Sharp 50-inch 4K TV with Roku, in-store only at Best Buy for $179,” Koenig offered. “There are others, like a Polaroid 32-inch Full HD 1080p set for $89. There will be a lot of amazing deals, as usual, for TV.”


Approximately 131 million U.S. shoppers will be looking for some sort of audio product as a gift. Much of this (38 percent) will include headphones of some form, including in-ear, over-the-ear, back-band, wireless, and wired. Probably the biggest driver this year will be for new wireless headphones (88 percent of forecast headphone sales) of some type, in part, for use with the latest smartphones. Other popular sellers will be Bluetooth speakers (27 percent), Wi-Fi speakers (20 percent) soundbars (15 percent), MP3 players (14 percent) and Hi-Res Audio players (8 percent).


Gaming is also a perennial favorite for the holidays. This year, 32 percent of U.S. shoppers plan to give a video gaming product, with accessories (25 percent), including Virtual Reality devices, topping the list. One popular item will be Oculus Go headsets at $200.

Smart Home

Smart home products are also up-and-coming this year with 33 percent of shoppers intending to buy from the category. Digital voice assistants (15 percent), smart cameras (13 percent) and thermostats (12 percent) lead the pack.


By Greg Tarr


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