With Black Friday kicking off Holiday 2019 next week, the best deals from various retailers have started to trickle out. As we continue to highlight, there’s the fewest possible number of days between Black Friday and Christmas with Thanksgiving falling so late in November this year. That means every retailer from Amazon and Best Buy to Walmart and department stores are trying to get a head start.
Each year we keep an eye on these deals to gauge the most popular product offerings and consequently the tech companies most exposed to Holiday spending. We’ll include links to Black Friday deals at the end of this note, but we broke it all down into categories to identify which product segments have been growing or waning in interest over the last five years. We used Google Trends, which measures how often Americans enter a word or phrase into the company’s search engine.
#1: Smartwatch/Apple Watch/FitBit
- Searches for “Smartwatch” peak around the holidays in December of each year. The all-time high over the past 5 years was in 2017, but 2018 pretty much matched that record level of attention.
- FitBit searches outnumbered those for Apple Watch in 2015, but the latter caught up to the former in 2016 and has dominated the past couple of years.
- Whereas searches for FitBit peaked in December 2015/2016, searches for Apple Watch continue to grow and reached a record high last December.
Upshot: smartwatches are still a growth category, with Apple the major player here.
- Searches for “tablet” reach their annual highs in November and December of each year, but peaked back in November 2014. Interest in tablets have fallen every year since.
- While searches for “laptop” also peaked in November 2014, its annual highs in November have remained steady over the past 4 years. Searches for laptop continue to therefore best those for tablet.
- Even though searches for laptop beat tablet, searches for “iPad” have exceeded “MacBook” by pretty much double over the past 5 years. Searches for iPad peaked in December 2014; its annual highs in November/December fell the next 2 years and remained steady the past couple of years. Searches for MacBook around the holidays have also kept steady over the past few years.
Upshot: tablets and laptops are not growth markets in the US. The former continues to lose Americans’ interest, but laptops have at least held attention.
- Searches for “smartphone” hit its top in November 2014, fell the next couple of years and were relatively steady in 2017 and 2018.
- Searches for “iPhone” dominate the smartphone market as one would expect. Interest here peaks around new “iPhone” announcements in September of each year. The peak was in September 2016. This year was at least better than 2018, but modest in comparison to attention in 2016/2017.
Upshot: this is a slow growth market given that most Americans already have a smartphone, and only need to upgrade every few years.
#4: Smart TV/Smart speaker
- Searchers for “smart TV” peak in November of each year. While attention here hit its all-time high in 2016, interest neared those record levels in the same month over the past 2 years as well.
- People also mostly Google “smart speaker” around the holidays. Searches here continue to grow quickly each year and hit a high in November/December 2018.
- That said, the annual highs in searches for “Amazon Echo” in December have fallen each year since the peak in 2016. The chart is similar for “Google Home”, except the peak happened in December 2017.
Upshot: smart home products like TVs and speakers continue to grow in popularity. The fall in searches for Amazon and Google’s smart speakers over the past few years, however, leaves an opening for Apple and Facebook to gain market share with their newer offerings.
#5: AirPods/Wireless headphones
- Searches for “wireless headphones” continue to best prior year highs in November of each year, reaching its highest level so far in November 2018.
- Searches for Apple’s “AirPods” just hit an all-time high this past October with the arrival of Apple AirPods Pro.
Upshot: no surprise that Amazon just came out with a cheaper offering, called Echo Buds. Now those visiting Amazon for wireless headphones will see both AirPods and Echo Buds; they’re not much different except that the latter comes at a more competitive price point.
Bottom line, the holidays are an enabler of disruption, but there are certain tech companies set to gain more than others this season:
- Apple and Amazon are once again most exposed to holiday spending this year. Amazon benefits from leading in the growing smart home space. The company is also branching out into important tech product segments like wireless headphones. And of course, it’s a major purchasing destination for its rivals’ offerings.
- Apple leads in stagnant or shrinking markets relative to smartphones and tablets, but at least dominates in fast growing categories like smartwatches and wireless headphones.
- Facebook and Google have tried to play catch up with certain products, such as their smart speakers, but ultimately get overshadowed by Apple and Amazon in most holiday gift tech categories.