The Connected Holidays: How Technology is Reshaping Holiday Shopping

Technology isn’t just an essential part of our day-to-day lives, it also plays a major role in our enjoyment of certain cultural celebrations, like the winter holidays. From buying and receiving tech products as holiday gifts, to streaming your favorite holiday movies or music, in many ways technology isn’t just part of today’s holiday experience, it is the holiday experience.

When we asked Pandora listeners what gifts they planned to give last holiday season, nearly 4 in 10 said they planned to give a tech product. Video games and video game consoles (unsurprisingly) topped the list as the most common gifts, with 56% of Pandora listeners intending to give one last year. Other familiar items like TVs, laptops and smartphones topped the list as well.[1]

But what piqued our interest most was the growing popularity of audio-centric tech products; 40% of Pandora listeners said they planned to purchase a speaker, headphones or other audio or voice-activated device last holiday season. This included smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home, which saw huge spikes in sales last holiday season. According to Adobe Analytics Cloud, 3 out of 4 voice assistant devices were sold during the holidays last year. Now, approximately 11% of the U.S. population (35.6 million people) has one and we can expect adoption to continue on its growth trajectory this holiday season as well.[2]

Smart Speakers: The Newest eCommerce Platform

These powerful, little devices can do wonders for setting the holiday mood. Indeed, listening to music is the #1 use for smart speakers. However, as people feel more comfortable with voice technology, they are beginning to use them for other, more personal activities, like shopping.

According to NPR and Edison Research’s “The Smart Audio Report,” 57% of smart speaker owners have used the device to purchase a product. Across genders and age groups, this behavior seems to be catching on. Of those who had purchased through their smart speaker, 65% added an item to their cart to review later, 58% ordered a new product they had not previously purchased, and 49% reordered an item.[3]

However, what is most striking is that 31% say they are spending more money on Amazon and Google since getting their smart speaker. Of course, these two platforms in particular benefit from being the makers of the two most popular smart speaker devices on the market, but the trend is there. With consumers turning to their smart speakers to make quick purchases, retailers are now having to think of it as a new ecommerce platform--one that could impact how consumers complete their holiday shopping this season.[3]
Eric Gohs, the Vice President of Marketing Strategy at Lane Bryant, the nation’s leading women’s speciality size apparel brand, recently spoke with us about some of the challenges associated with smart speaker shopping. “When somebody is interacting with an Alexa device and they hear an ad, what does that call-to-action look like?” He explained, “Because you don’t have a display ad companion where you can click-through, what does that call-to-action look like, and how does it evolve through the years?”

Retailers are particularly concerned with driving traffic back to their ecommerce site and/or promote sales or offer coupon codes to encourage buying. While it remains to be seen how brands will adapt to purchasing via a voice-activated device, one thing remains true: the consumer experience needs to be tailored to their environment.

Think About Reaching Holiday Consumers Across ALL Devices

That is why embracing an audio strategy now will likely be a key advantage for brands as this screenless world becomes a reality. How will your brand capture attention in audio? What will your call-to-action be without a screen? How will consumers be able to identify your brand without seeing a logo? As the desire for audio products and voice-activated devices increases, so too does our exposure to audio. But for brands, this may not be a bad thing. When it comes to communicating a message, there isn’t another medium more pervasive and immersive than audio.

As the most natural form of communication, audio allows us to multitask more efficiently and interact with our devices regardless of where attention is focused. It’s no wonder that we’re starting to see more technologies embrace audio and voice as the future. For holiday marketers, in particular, getting started on an audio strategy will allow you to be there through the holiday experience, connecting with tech savvy consumers when it matters most.

Want to learn more? Earlier this year, we released our holiday marketing eBook titled, “Music to our Ears: 2017 Holiday Shopping Trends Revealed.” In this year’s report, we take a deep dive into how technology is shaping (and reshaping) holiday purchase patterns. In case you missed it, there’s still time to get your copy here:

Sources: [1] Pandora Soundboard, Holiday Study, November 2016 [2] eMarketer, “US Holiday Shopping 2017: Shoppers Continue Online Migration for This Year’s Season,” August 2017 [3] Edison Research and NPR, “The Smart Audio Report,” 2017