'Groupon Effect' On Tap For Black Friday; Customizing Is King For CES

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Black Friday is not only approaching, it’s already begun. In fact, if you go by the retailers’ ads, it never really ended last year.

The Consumer Electronics Association’s Steve Koenig, industry analysis director, and Shawn DuBravac, chief economist and research director, addressed a crowd at the annual CES Unveiled, held here earlier this month, detailing the trends expected for the 2011 holiday season and the 2012 International CES.

“Why waste Cyber Monday on a single day when you can make it an entire week?” Du- Bravac said. Retailers have turned Black Friday and Cyber Monday into promotional terms that can be used throughout the entire year, and retailers such as Amazon are dedicating entire sites to them as the traditional Black Friday approaches.

The Groupon Effect, as CEA called it, has spurred a deal-a-day mentality that keeps consumers going back to sites to see what discounts are going on. As a result, “consumers are pushing their shopping to later in the season and moving from September and October to November and December. They’re looking to see if those deals show up,” DuBravac said.

The return to layaway, on the other hand, aims to pull purchases forward, as retailers try to get consumers to pick their purchases now.

Midnight is now the new 5 a.m., with Best Buy and Macy’s joining Toys “R” Us in opening on Thanksgiving instead of the wee hours on the day after. Koenig quipped, “Why sleep when you can shop?” This could result in late-season shoppers being forced to choose from what’s left instead of what’s cheap, as inventory is eaten up by the early birds.

DuBravac and Koenig also presented what CEA expects to be the five trends of the 2012 International CES. The dichotomy between computing topped the list, as manufacturers struggle between loading devices with more computing power, and stripping these devices of their power to simplify them. Ultrabooks are anticipated to be a popular introduction, with more than 30 models launched at the show.

The customizable experience will also play a prominent role at this year’s show, with OEMs increasingly delivering customizable hardware and services, Koenig explained. Consumers now look to see what services come with their devices before they buy them, instead of just looking at the devices themselves.

“It’s very much becoming not just about these vessels, but also the services and accessories that go with them,” Koenig said.

It will also be the year of the interface at CES, as technology moves from “birth to complication to simplification to natural.”

The final two trends involved car electronics, with one anticipating the return of the aftermarket, and the other seeing rear-seat entertainment changing channels, from high-end headrests to entrylevel iPad brackets.

The pair also focused on what trends are expected to be seen in the TV category at CES 2012, and 4k by 2k was cited as one example, followed by thin bezels, OLED and 3D.

DuBravac cautioned against counting out 3D technology, noting that its current form is in a hybrid state and still evolving. “Think of some of these products as hybrids … they’re stepping stones to what lies ahead,” he said.


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