Market Force Survey Reveals Nearly Everyone Owns a Computer, Printer and Digital Camera

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iPad most sought-after consumer electronics device

A new study by leading customer intelligence firm Market Force Information shows that demand for consumer electronics is steadily on the rise, even for those products that consumers already own.

Market Force surveyed more than 5,600 consumers to understand their electronics purchasing behaviors, as well as to uncover trends in the tablet PC, gaming and computer categories.

Consumer Electronics - What We Currently Own
The Market Force study showed that consumers own a wide variety of electronic devices – from the relatively new tablet PC and electronic reader, to the requisite computer and printer – North American households are well stocked with consumer electronics.

Virtually everyone surveyed owns a computer (98%), printer (97%) and digital camera (95%). The majority of homes (two-thirds) have an HDTV and 15% have gaming systems. Meanwhile, the adoption of Blu-ray players was relatively low (about 15%), despite prices dropping significantly in the past year.

Demand for Consumer Electronics Continues to Increase
It was surprising that, even in this difficult economy, 90% of consumers reported purchasing at least one electronic device either during the first half of 2010 (16%), in the last half of the year (62%) or immediately following the 2010 holidays (12%). By contrast, only 10% said they did not purchase any consumer electronics devices in 2010.

The survey also asked consumers which electronic devices they coveted – what they would buy if money were not a factor. This was an open-ended question and the most frequently mentioned items were grouped into 16 major categories. The iPad topped the list, followed closely by HDTV/TV upgrades and smartphones ranked third. Finally, even though 98% of homes already own computers, 14% of respondents said they want a new desktop, laptop or Apple computer. See Graph 1.

TABLETS
The introduction of the iPad spurred huge demand for tablet computers. The Market Force study revealed that that 8% of consumers currently own a tablet, and penetration is trending to reach 25% in the next six months. This demand seems to be driven by three factors: Ease of mobility of tablets, frustration with small mobile phone screens and the availability of interesting applications. Twenty-nine percent of consumers want a tablet simply because they’re “cool.”

When Market Force asked consumers how they learn about tablet products, the heavy influence of social media was apparent. Sixty-four percent said they read reviews posted by previous buyers, 62% visit manufacturer’s websites, and 60% receive referrals from friends and colleagues. Sales associates also exude a strong influence, with 44% reporting that they assisted with their research and purchasing decisions.

So which tablet will consumers ultimately buy? iPad was the clear favorite with 62%, however, almost a quarter indicated that they plan to purchase Android tablets (24%), while some are holding out for the new Microsoft Windows tablets (7%) and HP PalmPads (2%). In other words, about a third of tablet purchasers were already aware of Apple’s tablet competitors and are planning to purchase them—even though not all are on the market today.

About a third of consumers who intend to purchase tablets will do so online, primarily from
e-tailers such as Amazon. However, the majority said they would purchase from a retail store – either an electronics specialty store (24%) or a manufacturer’s store (23%).

GAMING
Sixty percent of families surveyed have a gaming console in their homes today and 12% plan to purchase one in the next six months. The desire to own the coolest and latest technology is the top reason (cited by 33%), followed by 24% who plan to do so because their children want one, and 19% are influenced by the actual games that are available on various gaming consoles.

The survey also looked at the factors influencing gaming purchases. Referrals from friends and colleagues topped the list with 58% of the mentions, with 51% citing consumer product reviews and 43% saying they are swayed by media reviews.

Xbox 360 and Nintendo® WiiTM will continue to capture strong sales, but analysts predict that Nintendo Wii sales will slow, which points to an open window of opportunity for competitors. For instance, PlayStation®3 is sought after by 19% of consumers and there is a small segment (5%) who would like a computer specifically built for gaming. See Graph 2.

Games are becoming a household staple, based on the study findings. The majority of homes (80%) own more than five games, but a respectable percentage (35%) report owning more than 20 games. In addition, almost half of households have downloaded a video game within the past three months.

Seventy-nine percent of consumers will purchase consoles at retailers. Mass merchandisers (such at Target and Walmart) will dominate, with about one third of consumers indicating they are likely to purchase from this channel. Meanwhile, 41% will purchase consoles from a specialty retailer such as GameStop or Best Buy, and 21% will purchase online.

COMPUTERS
Even though 98% of survey respondents own a computer, about one fifth are planning to purchase a new one in the next six months. The driving factor behind the selection process is reliability/product life, followed by value and available features/functions ranked third. Other factors such as compatibility with other devices and warranties are also taken into consideration.

The manufacturer’s website is the key influencer for computer purchases (61%), with customer reviews (56%) coming in a close second, just ahead of media reviews (54%). Sales people at specialty electronics retailers such as Best Buy (51%) ranked just below referrals from friends/colleagues (52%), proving the importance of informed sales associates in the consumer purchasing process.

Mobility continues to be a big influencer for consumers’ computer purchases, with 74% planning to purchase a laptop and only 25% planning to purchase a desktop. HP and Dell top the list of preferred brands, followed by Apple and Toshiba. The remaining players have much less mindshare among consumers. See Graph 3.

The survey also looked at the criteria consumers use when choosing one brand over another. Among the top four computer makers, there is a fair amount of differentiation. Apple scored high on features and functions, as well as on good reviews in trade industry publications. However, it scored markedly lower on value. So, even though consumers believe Apple has the best features and functions, they find their machines pricey.

Dell scored well on customization and HP scored highest on compatibility with other devices. See Graph 4.

When asked where they plan to make a computer purchase, 31% of consumers said they would buy online, while 69% said they would buy from a retail store. When the retail segments are broken out, electronics specialty retail stores came out on top (32%), followed by mass merchandisers and office supply stores (with 11% each).

Survey Demographics
The survey was conducted in December 2010 across the United States and Canada. The pool of 5,600 respondents reflected a broad spectrum of income levels, with approximately 70% reporting household incomes of more than $50,000 a year. Respondents’ ages ranged from 19- to 70-years old. Approximately three-quarters of respondents were women - the primary household consumer purchasers – and an equal percentage work full- or part-time. Half of the respondents have children at home and two thirds are married.

About Market Force Information
Market Force Information, Inc. is the leading global customer intelligence solutions company for business-to-consumer companies including major retailers, restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, financial institutions, entertainment studios and consumer packaged goods companies. Market Force Information has pioneered the industry with a suite of customer intelligence solutions that provide clients with the business intelligence they need to delight their customers and drive bottom-line results. The company measures store-level operations and customer attitudes through mystery shopping, customer feedback, market audits and merchandising services, with the analytics to drive targeted improvements. For more information, please visit: http://www.marketforce.com and follow us on Twitter @MarketForce.

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Rebecca Scanlan
GroundFloor Media for Market Force
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