Consumer Corner: Holiday wish lists looking for an upgrade

By MICHELLE GROENKE, United Press International  |  Nov. 10, 2013 at 6:30 AM
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Take a peek at holiday wish lists and consumers may find it's all about the upgrade this year: a smartphone to replace the old flip phone, the latest iPhone or Android to replace an older model smartphone or an updated version of an older gaming system.

"With a variety of new products and technologies being introduced into the marketplace, this holiday season is all about upgrading your tech," said Trae Bodge, senior editor of The Real Deal by

Experian Marketing Research says the iPad Air, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Kindle Fire and iPad were the top 5 products searched on the Internet last week, based on traffic and search on the most popular search engines.

As consumers upgrade their tech gadgets, they're finding alternatives to their old digital cameras, desktop computers and GPS devices.

A survey conducted by The Omnibus Co. for says smartphones are starting to replace digital cameras, personal music players and global positioning system devices, especially with younger people. The survey found 46 percent of consumers prefer to use a smartphone over a digital camera for most of their photos.

Within the next five years, less than one in five holiday gift givers say they plan to buy someone a portable music player, desktop computer, GPS device or regular cell phone, the survey said.

As expected, age plays a role in the adoption of new technology. The survey found 18- to 49-year-olds are more likely than those more than 50 years of age to say they would prefer to use a smartphone over a digital camera. People living in urban areas are also more likely to say they would prefer to use a smartphone over a digital camera.

"For sure, we are definitely seeing that younger people are the early adopters," Bodge told UPI. "It is driving the GPS away, driving the camera away."

"Older consumers tend to adopt a little more slowly," she said.

Parents are becoming quite comfortable buying tech devices for their kids, Bodge said.

The survey said nearly half of consumers say children 13 or younger should have their own cellphone or tablet. "And because kids are seeing their parents using the devices, they also want those devices for themselves," she said.

"A lot of the more popular toys are very tech focused," she said. Classic tech toys such as Furby and Elmo have been upgraded. "Furby has double the digital content," said Bodge. Big Hugs Elmo has more touch sensors.

Ubooly, a stuffed animal powered by an iPhone or iPod touch, is one of Bodge's favorites for the holiday season.

"It sends your kids on these really wild adventures through the house," she said. "It really helps harness the kids' imagination."

Gaming consoles are still a hot holiday gift, especially with Xbox and PlayStation coming out with new models. Gamers, however, appear to remain loyal to the systems they already have. Seventy percent of survey respondents who own a gaming console said they're more likely to consider upgrading their console to a newer version rather than purchasing a different model this year.

"These upgrades for PlayStation4 and Xbox1 ... they're pretty substantial," Bodge said.

Not surprisingly, dads are more eager than moms to buy gaming consoles for their kids. The survey found 68 percent of dads and 57 percent of moms would consider buying a gaming console.

Best time to shop for bargains? Black Friday still holds the top spot in the minds of shoppers. More than half of consumers (56 percent) said they believe Black Friday provides the most savings of all the major winter holiday sale days, although Bodge said Thanksgiving Day sales often offer the most bang for your buck.

"This year we are seeing retailers post holiday offers well in advance of Black Friday and at more aggressive discounts than in previous years," said Bodge. "With more retailers opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day this year, shoppers can take advantage of Black Friday sales earlier than ever. In fact, last year RetailMeNot found that consumers reported a higher average savings amount on Thanksgiving Day than Black Friday."

Experian Marketing Services says social media and mobile apps are going to play a major role in product promotion this year.

"This holiday season, it's critical that brands deliver deals and promotions via social media channels that their followers and fans find relevant, or they could look elsewhere," said Bill Tancer, Experian's general manager of Global Research, in a statement.

"The 2013 holiday season is the shortest holiday season on record with only 26 shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The aggressive calendar puts retailers on the offensive to encourage consumers to buy sooner and shop less as 52 percent of smartphone users will use mobile this holiday season to research products, redeem coupons and use the Internet and mobile apps to assist in holiday gift purchasing."

Tancer said consumers will likely see more price matching as retailers look for ways to better embrace consumers using their smartphones to find local deals.

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