Accessories Take On New Definitions

Accessories Take On New Definitions

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Of companies fail to innovate today, they're left behind tomorrow. By constantly delivering innovative technologies and products to a wide variety of consumers, the CE industry has fared better than many others over the last few years. As any retailer knows, innovative core products always drive the sales of accessories.

Despite the sputtering economic recovery, strong accessories sales have proven to be a constant. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, total accessory shipments are expected to increase 3 percent while revenues are projected to grow by 5 percent by the end of this year. In the past 12 months, more than half of consumers who shopped for accessories held off making purchases because of the economy. This is great opportunity to reach out to these consumers and show them what accessories they need in order to get the most out of their consumer electronics. Selling the “full solution” around a core product has become the retail mantra over the last year. A solution is far from full without the proper accessories.

The opportunity to sell full solutions has increased now that convergence has become a fact of life in many homes.

Single devices have more capabilities than ever before and will continue to improve. That phenomenon is creating a change in how we define accessories. Accessories have always reached across a broad range of CE products. Traditionally, they were physical products that connected one thing to another. But today we have to include virtual accessories such as applications and service contracts. As “accessories” take on new definitions, the market segments and the industry will continue to grow. Historically, the sale of TVs and A/V drove the accessories market. Today, it's all about wireless, which touches just about any device that can connect to a network.

One of the most important devices to enter that category is the iPad, along with other quality tablets and e-readers. All of them present endless opportunities for accessory sales, including camera-connection kits, external keyboards, cases, cables, docks, warranties, etc. Despite the popularity of the iPad and the promise of the Android tablets, don't discount single-purpose e-readers. The category is set to increase nearly two-fold in by the end of this year, producing yet another major driver of accessory product sales. Smartphones also continue their popularity boom, creating more potential accessory consumers. More than 60 million units were expected to have shipped in the U.S. during 2010, a 30 percent year-over-year increase—and that growth shows no signs of slowing.

Digital health is another growth area accessory manufacturers and retailers should keep a close watch on. Popular TV shows like “The Biggest Loser” and “Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution” help the category by showing Americans fighting obesity and striving to live healthier lives. Consumers are increasingly turning to consumer electronics to help them exercise and monitor their health, especially those who have grown up in today's digital world. Heart-rate monitors, GPS watches and even wellness-promoting mp3 players let consumers track their exercise and vital stats like stress level, body fat and calorie intake. Runners are always on the lookout for headphones, armbands and other gear that are durable, comfortable and easy to use. Video games encouraging exercise require all sorts of peripheral equipment.

In most cases, the data from these products can be shared in an online community, providing a level of accountability and encouragement to keep consumers on track toward reaching their health and fitness goals. Showing consumers how your accessories can help them achieve a slim waistline and a healthy lifestyle can be your route to a healthy bottom line.

Innovative technologies and products will continue to propel the accessories market. Being in front of the next big trend with products that ease connectivity, increase the performance of core devices and improve lifestyles is what it will take for retailers to gain a competitive advantage and grow their businesses. 

Colleen Lerro is a communications specialist for the Consumer Electronics Association. CEA Accessories Division member George Stepancich of Invisionate contributed to this article.

By Colleen Lerro & George Stepancich

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