Tablets, Notebooks Top Consumer Holiday Shopping Lists

Emerging products, which just a few years ago were too small to track, are now listed as products that many consumers are likely to purchase as a gift.

CEA and consumer electronics

The 2014 holiday season will see the highest levels of consumer spending on consumer electronics (CE) since the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) began tracking holiday spending in 1994, according to the organization's holiday outlook.

Total tech spending during the holidays is expected to increase 2.5 percent (up from 0.9 percent growth in 2013) to reach a record $33.76 billion during the 2014 holiday season.

The five CE gifts U.S. adults most want to receive—tablets, notebook computers, televisions, smartphones and video game consoles—are also the five products driving the majority (51 percent) of total revenue for the CE industry in 2014. Combined, these products are expected to generate $108.8 billion in revenue in 2014.

"Tablets remain extremely popular with consumers," Steve Koenig, director of industry analysis at CEA, told eWEEK. "Product segmentation has created solutions for all consumers—we now have child-specific tablets, for example—and through apps and accessories the utility of tablets has never been greater."

CEA expects headphones and earbuds (27 and 26 percent, respectively) to be the most popular CE devices that consumers give during the 2014 holiday season.

Emerging product categories, which just a few years ago were too small to track, are now listed as products that one in five consumers (19 percent) are likely to purchase as a gift, such as a fitness device (10 percent), a smart device for the home (9 percent) or a smartwatch (8 percent).

Not only do consumers want to receive consumer electronics as gifts this holiday season, 63 percent of U.S. adults plan to also give the gift of technology this year.

For the first time, the study found over half (54 percent) of consumers are likely to purchase CE products online this year, increasing from 45 percent in 2013.

Further, 26 percent of consumers indicate they are likely to purchase more CE products online this year compared with last year.

However, traditional retail channels remain vital for tech gift purchases, with 77 percent of consumers likely to purchase from a brick-and-mortar location.

In addition, about two-thirds (67 percent) of consumers who plan to spend money on CE are likely to use a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet, to help them shop.

"The appeal and demand for technology is almost universal, and our industry's innovations excite and inspire. There is always something new to give. Technology has a massive imprint on consumers, so tech gifts meet real needs," Koenig explained. "Self-gifting technology products is another purchase driver we've seen tick higher in recent years. Finally, the universe of technology products is constantly expanding: More devices are part of our industry's narrative."

Interestingly, those likely to use mobile devices to help them shop for CE plan to spend more money on CE this holiday season.

More consumers plan to shop early this year, but most will still wait to finish their shopping later in the season, when they feel the best deals are available.

While most consumers (61 percent) plan to wait until November or December to start their holiday shopping, one-third (31 percent) indicate they anticipate shopping before November, up from 25 percent of consumers who planned to shop early last year.

There also is a corresponding decline (7 percentage points from 2013) in consumers who start in December to search for the perfect gift.