Holiday gift guide collage

Nothing Says the Holidays Like Holiday Gift Guides

With the holiday shopping frenzy approaching the zero hour in the coming days, and tens of millions of Americans stuck at home as Mother Nature does her best to ensure a white Christmas for the majority of the country, the question on everyone’s mind is, “What do I buy for my friends and loved ones this year?” There is no shortage of amazing tech products to consider, but sifting through the thousands of choices is daunting to say the least.

Holiday gift guides have become all too influential in recent years, as companies and their hard working public relations staff bombard publications seeking one of the few coveted spots that could make all the difference between a mediocre holiday season and a great one. While we at Phorus have our own ideas as to what we think you should buy, there are some interesting trends developing in terms of how consumers are doing research and shopping.

Let your fingers do the buying.

According to the most recent data, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is forecasting a 4.0 percent sales increase for the traditional November through December holiday sales period.  While those numbers are positive, they don’t tell the entire story. Not only are online sales expected to grow 18 percent, or nearly 5x as fast, during the holiday season to reach $57 billion – but the CEA is predicting that mobile online sales will grow 35 percent during the 2013 holiday season and will pass $8 billion. Mobile online sales are expected to represent nearly 15 percent of total online sales during the 2013 holiday season.

Online Black Friday sales topped $1 billion alone in a twenty-four hour period last month; exceeding the staggering projections of the CEA.  This gives a lot of credence to the argument that consumers are not only relying on online shopping guides, but are then simply making that one additional click through to purchase what they desire online. The CEA isn’t alone in looking at shopping patterns this holiday season; comprehensive research is also available from our friends over at Google and Deloitte.

All of this highlights some very important trends - consumers are not only making smartphones and tablets the two most desired items on their wish lists, but they are using them for more than just surfing, streaming, and downloads. The portable wireless device has also become their music store, video rental box, and personal shopper.

For all of us in the wireless audio business, this shift in how consumers seek out independent advice in regard to new technology and what to buy means we have to engage with them in whole new ways.

Talking Heads

While companies like us are looking to engage with a wide variety of the tech press, the reality is that many consumers rely on popular, well-known tech journalists such as Mario Armstrong, or Walt Mossberg, whose endorsements are the ultimate seal of approval before they reach for the credit card. Leading publications such as Engadget, Gizmodo, Digital Trends, and even smaller publications such as Chip Chick and Big Picture Big Sound offer excellent advice each holiday season on not only what to buy, but where to find it at the best possible price.  Beyond the experts, outlets like People, The Today Show, Oprah and Ellen are big influencers when they include tech products in their holiday bonanzas.

Holiday buying guides also serve two additional functions for consumers (and companies, if they are included!):  they often highlight the year’s best reviewed items, instantly conferring a “quality” halo and legitimacy to the products and/or the product category, plus they almost always offer up a few curveballs with unique products from unknown brands that might otherwise have escaped consumer’s radar.  Great guides have both: the safe bets, and ideas for giving that aren’t like anybody else.

A few to peruse.

As we looked through this year’s selection of holiday gift buying guides for the music lover in your home, we discovered a lot of repetition; apparently everyone needs a PS4, iPad, or Xbox One. That being said, we did find a few fun lists for you to check out.

One of our favorite lists comes from a publication that we usually don’t look to for tech advice. Rolling Stone recommended a number of excellent audio products this year, including the $400 Wren V5PF wireless loudspeaker with Play-Fi technology.

The folks over at Complex published one of the most comprehensive guides to the best wireless loudspeaker systems and we think it offers the broadest selection we’ve seen from any publication in many years. A good mixture of established brands and new players in the category.

Our favorite holiday gift buying guide for 2013? Surprisingly, it comes from our friends over at Vibe who offer up a really diverse group of products for both the tech lover, music fan, and future contestant on Iron Chef.

The bottom line is that consumers have some great online resources at their disposal this holiday season to make informed buying decisions, and a lot of those decisions will be made from a phone.  And, judging by the amount of audio products in those guides, there has been no better time to be a music fan, regardless of your holiday budget.

Happy Holidays!