U.S. mobile phone owners spend about $60 on accessories over the life of the handset, and the global wireless handset accessories market is worth about $63 billion in 2009, according to the results of a recent survey conducted by ABI Research.
The survey, conducted in July, polled 1,000 adult consumers about which accessories they acquired when the handset was purchased, and where they sourced the accessories they bought later. Chargers -- car chargers, standard chargers and additional chargers -- led the field in terms of numbers purchased. Carrying or protective cases were the next most popular, followed by batteries and memory cards. Other accessory types include hands-free kits, headsets and cosmetic enhancements.
Within those categories, age demographics played a role in the popularity of accessories. Younger (under age 40) purchasers tended more than those over 40 to buy batteries, data connection cables and protective cases at the time of the phone's purchase. The popularity of data cables and protective cases among younger buyers reflects the greater likelihood that they own a higher-priced media-focused handset or smartphone.
The takeaway is that mobile marketers need to treat older and younger consumers differently, says Michael Morgan, industry analyst of mobile devices at ABI Research.
"It is not necessarily true that younger consumers spend more on accessories, although they have more physical accessories. Older consumers may opt for top-of-the-line Bluetooth headsets, while younger consumers may be purchasing silicone protective cases for their iPhones and a set of wired earbuds," Morgan tells Marketing Daily.
In the end, accessory manufacturers must consider what type of handset their accessory is designed for, and they must understand the type of consumer who purchases that device, where they purchase that device or accessories and when in the ownership cycle they purchase the accessories, he adds. "For the most part, the value of the accessory is understood by consumers, as accessories (except for BT headsets) such as headphones, carrying cases, chargers and bling are not as complex as the cell phones they are paired with," Morgan says.
Charger purchasing patterns are likely to change quite dramatically in a couple of years as a universal charger interface begins to penetrate the market.
Retail stores operated by the major mobile service providers garner most of the accessories purchases. Across the board, about half of all accessories were bought in these outlets, with major retail stores generally running second. Online sales were surprisingly low.
It will be difficult for online marketers to make a strong push with accessories because of the way that accessories are purchased, Morgan says. Consumers usually purchase their handsets in a retail location, and that is also when and where they seek out their accessories.
"Granted, later in the handset ownership cycle, consumers browse through stores such as BestBuy or Walmart and pick up an accessory here or there, but again, this is driven by in-store retail," Morgan says. "For online retail to grab a larger share of the market, they will need to increase consumer awareness, leverage the ability to carry unlimited SKUs and offer more eccentric accessories that retail locations do not carry. Also, Web-specific discounts and bundles may help to garner more sales from consumers who use the Web to research a product before going to a retail location to purchase."
The survey's results are summarized in New York-based ABI Research's brief, "Mobile Device Accessories: U.S. Consumer Purchasing Trends and Channel Analysis," which focuses on 16 key accessory segments and eight acquisition channels to identify the accessories that U.S. consumers are buying, where they are buying, and when.