Core tech device shipments such as smartphones, TVs and laptops will decline in 2020 as consumers struggle with economic uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®. The Special 2020 Industry Forecast Update: Assessing COVID-19 Impact
report also finds consumer spending on streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime will rise amid stay-at-home orders, performing better than expected.
“Unemployment and downward pressure on consumer spending caused by this pandemic will bring significant headwinds to the tech industry outlook this year,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CTA. “The tech industry has weathered many economic storms over the last few decades but as a whole the tech sector remains resilient and plays an indispensable role in our lives. Technology will be a catalyst for America’s comeback from crisis.”
The report – a special update to CTA’s bi-annual U.S. Consumer Technology Sales and Forecasts Report
– examines unit shipments for core device categories only and includes upper and lower bound scenarios for each category. CTA’s analysis also notes innovation in emerging technologies can provide tailwinds to the outlook.
CTA factors four major considerations into the updated 2020 projections including longevity of the health crisis, economic hardship placing downward pressure on spending, effects of the fiscal stimulus and shifts in consumer behavior. As a result, the updated outlook for core device categories are:
With uncertain economic conditions, CTA expects consumers will delay big-ticket purchases such as smartphones, and the timeline to upgrade them will lengthen. Manufacturers may delay 5G-enabled releases and other flagship models until consumer confidence returns. CTA now projects smartphones will sell between 138-153 million units in 2020 (a -15% to -6% drop from 2019).
Despite excitement for 8K Ultra HD and OLED technologies, the economic downturn will dampen household upgrades to premium TVs. As a result, CTA projects between 34-37 million units will sell in 2020 (a -14% to -8% decline year-over-year). Near-term opportunities for TV sales include households looking to add screens to accommodate more in-home video demand and upgrades in the commercial market, as businesses enhance video conferencing capabilities.
Consumer demand for laptops jumped at the start of the outbreak, as the workforce and students prepared to work and learn remotely. While laptops remain the dominant computing device, the drag of a recession will nonetheless pull down sales. CTA projects between 46-51 million units will sell in 2020 (a range of -12% and -4% decline from last year).
Video Streaming Services:
A bright spot in 2020 tech device and service spending will come from video streaming services. Recent CTA research
shows about half of U.S. households are watching live TV and online streaming video more often now than they typically do. As such, CTA has upwardly revised projections and expects video streaming services spending will reach between $24-$25 billion in revenue (up 29-35% over 2019 levels).
“The financial health of the consumer and their willingness to spend presents the biggest swing factor to the tech industry outlook,” says Steve Koenig, vice president, research, CTA. “While downside risks are in the majority right now, there are bright spots – and sales of some tech devices and services may perform better than expected.”
CTA publishes its flagship U.S. Consumer Technology Sales and Forecasts
twice a year, in January and July, reporting factory sales to U.S. dealers. It was designed and formulated by CTA, the most comprehensive source of sales data, forecasts, consumer research and trends for the consumer technology industry. For more information, visit CTA.tech/SalesandForecasts