By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
What role does fashion play in technology? A recent survey by Ebrain, a research company, concluded that women think using female colors on technology equipment is a bad idea, and that both men and women feel that colors and shapes do not play a major factor in their buying decisions.
Consumers, overall, consider functional features to be more important than cosmetic features and are not fooled into buying technology for its looks. Coloring a portable CD player pink will not necessarily give a manufacturer the inside track to female consumers.
A separate survey was conducted to determine whether consumers were influenced by fashion when purchasing accessories, testing the theory that consumers want to personalize their technology by accessorizing. Even when purchasing accessories, overwhelmingly the most important factors in consumer purchase decisions turned out to be quality, value and features.
Nevertheless, we know that consumers have a personal relationship with their technology. They buy accessories to personalize their technology and complement their lifestyle. Accessories like printer cables, chargers and toners are not lifestyle accessories. They are "must sell" attachments. Sales personnel must know and recommend them at the time of purchase. Lifestyle accessories, on the other hand, are strictly discretional purchases, and it pays to understand what influences consumers.
Consumers don't think of CE accessories in the same terms as fashion accessories. They are more interested in what value the accessory adds to their technology. They don't buy accessories to make their technology look good. The top reasons for buying an accessory are to make a product easier to use and to improve its performance. Form follows function.
Consumers look first at what the accessory can do to enhance the experience with the product. Then they choose the product that serves their function and their style at the same time, such as headphones that make an MP3 player sound better, a cellular phone headset that fits better and is more comfortable, a Bluetooth device to give you more freedom and convenience, or a CD storage unit to better manage and organize CDs. All these accessories must appeal to personal style, but first must serve a functional purpose which adds value to a product.
Few consumers said that color or shape had anything to do with their accessory-purchasing decision. However, two out of five said that they were influenced by overall design and "technological appeal." To most consumers, today's technology is in itself appealing, and the accessories that enhance the look and feel are what they are attracted to.
In September, Motorola entered a co-branding agreement with Phat Farm, an urban men's clothing line. The Phat Farm brand is a leader in urban, hip-hop fashion. By associating their wireless phones with Phat Farm, Motorola hopes to appeal to the $6 billion urban consumer market.
Though this may seem to contradict the consumer surveys, it in fact supports them. Phat Farm is a fashion company and understands that the technology in and of itself is cool. Especially to teens, technology is a way of life, and some technology products, like cellular phones, are status symbols. By associating with the latest in "technology cool," Phat Farm affirms its image with its customer base, and Motorola, at the same time, sells itself as a fashionable technology company.
About 40 percent of all CE purchases result in the purchase of at least one accessory within one to two years. Lifestyle accessories are almost always purchased separately from the initial purchase and at a later date. Merchandising lifestyle accessories properly can mean significant profit dollars and can set your store apart from the pack.
These accessory purchases represent incremental sales. They are high-profit impulse purchases. They are sales that are created at the point of purchase and that capitalize on store traffic. They cost less to procure because they don't require advertising or sales assistance for the most part. Nor are they attached to the immediate purchase of any hardware.
Americans love to own personal electronics and they love to accessorize them. When merchandising lifestyle accessories, offer a variety of models with different features and designs. Style plays an important role alongside function. With few exceptions, stay away from fashion trends.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.