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New Consumer Electronics Online Product Reviews


Regarding computer and consumer electronics (CE) sales, are people that purchase new devices showing a significant preference for online retailers over traditional stores? What roles do product application videos and detailed reviews have during the research phase of the buying process? And, has the new purchase model changed the way that people are using online search?

These are the key questions that eMarketer asked as they conducted their latest market assessment of the typical CE product purchase path.

Many traditional computer and consumer electronics retailers are already struggling to adapt to the latest market trends -- and the apparent ongoing shifts in new product demand.

eMarketer found that some legacy products face significant disruption from the ascent of smartphones and tablets, both of which provide a number of the functions that several different older devices once did.

However, while the market is in transition, sales of consumer electronics on the web are growing. In fact, eMarketer projects that online sales of consumer electronics will climb from $48.6 billion in 2012 to $80.2 billion in 2016.

But growth in online purchasing is only a part of the evolving story. Digital sales channels play a key role throughout the purchase path -- regardless of where the final purchase takes place.

A survey conducted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) in December 2011 found that 91 percent of internet users had researched electronics products online before making a purchase in-store.

And online search is where that research process often starts. "Search is used at the beginning, middle and end of the research process, by both wireless shoppers and portable PC shoppers," said Robin Hutto, technology industry director at Google.

In addition, informed shoppers who have a clear idea of what they want will go to a retailer's website to research product details. An August 2012 report from Compete found that retailer websites outpaced all other online resources as the top tool used by U.S. online consumers to research devices.

No surprise, product reviews are another key component in the purchase process. An April 2011 Google study found that 54 percent of U.S. consumer electronics purchasers had read online reviews of products during their research phase.

But consumers are demonstrating how the traditional linear path to purchase has changed. In the past, people would arrive at the awareness stage largely through paid advertising that relied on some form of mass media as its delivery channel.

Today, the awareness stage is likely influenced by a friend's online comment about the recent purchase of a new device or software application. That, in turn, can help to launch the research phase among those in the purchaser’s social network.

As an example, periodically I describe my own application scenarios and product reviews. I include brief reviews of products that I've used -- either at work, within my home environment or while mobile. My friends and associates tell me that they find that insight useful.

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