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Tech Spending to Surpass $97B This Holiday

image for Milkos / Getty Images
Milkos / Getty Images
  • From now until the end of December, approximately 186 million American adults will buy a tech item as a holiday gift.
  • Approximately 71% of U.S. adults will buy a content-related gift, such as video games and streaming services.
  • Laptops are at the top of consumers' wish lists this year, while smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home remain popular Christmas and Hanukkah gifts.

As the holidays quickly approach, businesses everywhere are getting ready to put away spooky Halloween fare and haul out their festive year-end specials. While millions of Americans are anticipated to spend several billion dollars at retailers like they did last year, researchers at the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) say that the latest gadgets and tech gifts will dominate the market.

Designed and formulated by CTA Market Research, the 26th Annual Consumer Technology Purchase Patterns study found that not only do 74% of U.S. adults (186 million) plan to spend money on tech gifts this year, but they will spend $97.1 billion in the process.

This year's study is based on consumer tech sales data, forecasts, consumer research and historical trends. Researchers also conducted an online survey in September 2019 of 2,009 U.S. adults.

Researchers also found that 71% of holiday shoppers are likely to buy content-related gifts like video games (43%) and subscriptions to services like Netflix or Hulu (39%). Lesley Rohrbaugh, director of market research at CTA, suggested that much attention to content rather than gadgets is a product of the times. "We are in the golden age of content as more people consume more content across more devices," she said.

Digital content may be an important aspect of this year's holiday shopping season, but researchers found that 87% of American adults plan to do their Christmas and Hanukkah shopping at brick-and-mortar stores. Conversely, 80% said they plan to shop online, with 65% planning to do so on a mobile device and 33% expecting to shop "using a voice-activated digital assistant." [Read related article: How to Attract Last-Minute Holiday Gift Shoppers]

While it may seem like there's some new gizmo that catches everyone's attention each year, researchers suggest that the usual suspects will remain at the top of this year's list of the most coveted tech.

According to the study, consumers will most likely want laptops as gifts, with smartphones, televisions, tablets and wearables rounding out the top five. This year, desktop computers and digital cameras fell from the top five. This list shouldn't be shocking to anyone paying attention to consumer tech news, as blockbuster announcements from Apple and Google took place just weeks ago.

"New video streaming services, more 4K Ultra HD content, and larger screens on TVs and smartphones are putting entertainment on gift lists this holiday," Rohrbaugh said. "Screens like laptops, smartphones and TVs will top wish lists, and we'll see a rise in emerging tech categories like smart home devices and wearables too."

Unsurprisingly, video games will be a wildly popular gift this year, with half of U.S. adults planning to purchase them as gifts. Even though new video game consoles are slated for release next year, 33% of respondents said they planned on buying an Xbox One X or PlayStation 4 Pro.

Newer tech categories will also make a splash this year, researchers said, as consumers are expected to buy these items as gifts and for themselves.

The concept of turning your home into a voice-activated automated system has been steadily gaining traction in recent years. With the associated tech becoming more affordable as time goes on, researchers believe smart home devices will make a large impact. Approximately 59% of U.S. adults are planning to buy items like smart doorbell cameras and smart lightbulbs. [Read related article: The Best Days for Holiday Sales: A Guide for Businesses]

Smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon Echo are at the top of the smart home craze, according to the study, which found 38% of adults expecting to pick one up this year. CTA researchers said they anticipate 11.3 million units to ship, which would mark a 42% year-to-year decline in sales. They attribute this downshift in sales not to the level of interest, but to the fact that other devices, like televisions, are incorporating smart tech.

Wearable tech like smartwatches and fitness trackers are also expected to take a chunk of the tech market this holiday shopping season. Researchers found that 43% of respondents said they planned to purchase a wearable device. If the numbers are consistent with actual sales, the survey suggests that more than 9 million smartwatches will be sold, marking a 2% increase.

Eight million units of wireless earbuds will round out the emergent tech this year, marking a 45% increase from last year. This kind of tech is expected to become even more popular with consumers as smartphones continue to eschew headphone jacks in their designs.

Andrew Martins

Andrew Martins is an award-winning journalist with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Ramapo College of New Jersey. Before joining business.com and Business News Daily, he wrote for a regional publication and served as the managing editor for six weekly papers that spanned four counties. Currently, he is responsible for reviewing tax software and online fax services. He is a New Jersey native and a first-generation Portuguese American, and he has a penchant for the nerdy.