COVID influences how U.S. consumers buy new smartphones

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While COVID-19 is making itself heard loud and clear again in the U.S., data released today by NPD shows how the virus plays a part in determining how Americans purchase their new smartphones. During the second quarter of this year when the pandemic was still creating havoc in the states, online smartphone sales rose 13% from the first quarter. During the same period, smartphone purchases made by telephone were responsible for 12% of handset sales.
With online handset sales rising and consumers making purchases over the phone, it shouldn’t come as a shock that smartphone sales made in retail stores declined by double digit numbers from Q1 to Q2. It also should be noted that some carriers shut a large number of company-owned units in March. Verizon, the nation’s largest carrier, started shuttering some of its own retail locations in March even as some authorized resellers remained open.

NPD Checkout data shows that during the second quarter, 69% of tech-related sales were handled via e-commerce compared to 48% on a year-over-year basis. And while predictions call for that figure to remain above 60% in the future, there have been signs that consumers have been returning to retail stores to make purchases. As restrictions were being lifted and the economy started reopening, retail stores saw their share of tech purchases rise 11 percentage points from Q2 to Q3.

Brad Akyuz, executive director, industry analyst, NPD Connected Intelligence, said, “In Q2, the pandemic drove consumers away from retail, but the increase we saw in telesales and curbside pickup of online orders indicated that consumers were still looking for assistance when purchasing mobile devices. With restrictions expected to return in some areas, we may continue to see fluctuation in purchase channels, but believe in-store smartphone purchases will get close to the pre-pandemic levels in the future.”

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