'Super Buyers' Play Critical Role In Adoption Of New 'Toys'

cool electronicsWhat do Apple's iPhone, Canon's PowerShot G9 and Nintendo's Wii have in common? They are all among the most sought-after consumer electronics devices by so-called "Super Buyers," who contribute to the majority of retail purchases.

A Parks Associates study, "Super Buyers: The Key Broadband Segment Buying CE Products," released this week reveals that 87% of the 2,500 consumers with broadband Internet access who responded to the survey had purchased one consumer electronics product within the past 12 months; nearly 67% had purchased two or more.

More than half of the survey respondents had spent at least $500 on consumer electronics, and one-quarter spent upwards of $2,000. Fifty percent earn less than $75,000 annually, and only 4% earn more than $200,000. "A small minority makes up the bulk of the purchases," says John Barrett, research director at Parks Associates. "Many of them are not uber-rich, even if they spend like they are."



Reaching these tech-hungry consumers takes skill, and marketers need to understand the triggers that influence buying decisions. Barrett says Super Buyers are younger and better educated, tend to purchase new products first, view devices as an extension of their identity, and are less likely than others to shop at big-box retailers Best Buy and Circuit City or discount club retailers like Costco. Instead, they gravitate toward specialty electronics stores.

They are less influenced by television, radio or print ads, tend not to take advice from friends or family members, and know the difference between marketing and packaging hype and well-designed devices. They do, however, seek out expert reviews, forums and online shopping comparison sites where they can discuss a product's pros and cons.

"These buyers are part of a community who share information about gadgets," Barrett says. "It's a form of viral marketing, but different than posts on MySpace because they are focused on finding information consumer electronics."

Women, more than men, tend to believe the devices keep them connected to friends and family better. All are less likely than others to perceive consumer electronics devices as being expensive.

Nearly 40% of survey respondents who earn less than $35,000 and spend $2,000 or more annually perceive consumer electronics products as too expensive, compared with 25% of those who average yearly salaries between $75,000 and $99,999.

Positive experiences with one product typically influence the decision to purchase others, and not necessary in the same category. This makes it easier for brands like Apple, which sells the MP3 player iPod and cellular phone iPhone, or Sony, which offers Cybershot cameras and Vaio computers, to have similar successes in multiple product categories.

Unfortunately, it can cause failures to extend from one category to another, too. A bad experience with an MP3 player, for example, may undermine a buyer's loyalty to a line of televisions.

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