According to analyst GfK, sales of sound bars and connected devices were on the rise throughout 2013.
We take a look at how retailers can take full advantage of the boom in the audio market this year.
Headphones and headsets are worn by users for long periods, sometimes for hours at a time, so it is important for consumers to get hands-on with these kinds of accessories.
“The era of products being picked off the shelf in boxes or from inside display cases is well and truly over,” explains Bryan Roberts, director of retail insights at analyst Kantar Retail.
“For products like these – where personal preferences and experience are so important – shoppers need to be able to really gauge the look and feel of items.”
Check out the competition
One great way of checking if you’re doing things right is to go out and see how other retailers do it.
“A trip to the Dixons Gaming Bunker or a new Tesco or Media Saturn in Europe can give some good pointers on what good can look like,” says Kantar’s Bryan Roberts.
“Also, don’t be afraid of asking suppliers for help or best practice. They too have a vested interest in creating an engaging and immersive retail experience. This category is one of several where retailers can excel at the things that online retailers cannot do.”
“Audio products such as headsets and speakers are an integral part of a PC, enabling users to become immersed in their multimedia and gaming experiences,” Darren Jackson, purchasing manager, VIP Computers tells PCR.
“From a retailers perspective it is also the ideal opportunity to make add-on sales against each PC purchase.”
Darren Jackson reveals that VIP Computers has seen a rapid growth in gaming headsets.
“Consumers have been educated in seeing the benefits of buying a dedicated gaming headset,” he says.
“Features such as surround sound, in-line volume control and wireless connectivity have played a pivotal role in achieving this growth.”
Sennheiser’s Linda Irvin agrees: “Gaming fans in particular know that the latest technology, designed with gaming in mind, is crucial to augmenting their experience.
“As gaming becomes more socially integrated and people use gaming to talk with friends, gaming headsets will become more an extension of their machine than an add-on accessory.”
“It’s key for retailers to have well-trained staff in-store, who understand how to achieve the connection sale by providing impartial and factual advice about the benefits of the products, and insight into how best to install them,” states Daniel Todaro, MD, Gekko.
“This human element is crucial, and is what many consumers will visit the store for.
“Our research has shown that 53 per cent of consumers researching online will purchase in-store.
“The ability to have a real conversation with an expert and receive guidance in making a decision is key to consumer engagement.”
The connected home
‘The connected home’ is a term that’s been buzzing around the tech channel for a while now, but, as Kantar Retail’s Bryan Roberts points out, connectivity-laden audio products are now becoming an increasingly important part of life for many consumers.
“With the advent of technologies such as smartphones, tablets, audio players and of services such as Spotify and Netflix, products like earphones and peripheral speakers have fast become must-haves rather than discretionary leisure accessories,” Roberts says.
“Factor in other trends such as increased commuting and travel and family multi-device usage and one can quickly identify an ongoing opportunity for incremental sales and profitability.”
Gekko’s Dan Todaro agrees, explaining: “In our connected world streaming music to an audio product is now the norm, and in the case of home entertainment, it’s a connection sale opportunity when linked to any TV, PC or mobile device.
“Complementary products and best-in-class brands at every price point allow the consumer to enhance their choice of streaming product by amplifying the output to enjoy the sound how it should be enjoyed,” he adds.
Sennheiser’s Linda Irvin suggests that as we shift towards a connected world the demand to sync audio equipment to devices will become increasingly more important.
“Manufacturers will begin to realise that they need to adapt – we will undoubtedly see new ranges of connected audio equipment over the next couple of years,” she says.
Jay Pau, CEO of STK Accessories, believes that consumers are more knowledgeable than ever: “They’re looking for a product that delivers not only on fashion, but superior functionality. The line between tech and audio consumers will most likely fade in the coming years.
“If you look around the High Street, it’s apparent there has been a rise in the ‘fashion’ element of headphones.
“It’s not uncommon for some enthusiasts to have a few sets from different brands,” adds Pau.
However, Wavemaster MD Peter Hirshfeld says: “When it comes to lifestyle products in the audio market, consumers buy as much on emotion as they do on logic.
“Our increased investment in German design means that our products look amazing – but our intelligent manufacturing process also means we can keep costs down.”
Linda Irvin, consumer business development manager at Sennheiser, points out a trend in the fashion industry: “Onlookers are keen to make sure that if they are going to wear a pair of headphones, they will be pair that turn people’s heads and make them look good.”
Stock a variety
“There are consumers who are both audio and tech fans, but they will often buy both a headset and headphones,” explains VIP Computers’ Darren Jackson.
“The difference between the two is more than just a microphone though – the brands that address this by clearly differentiating between them and targeting the different segments individually often do well.”
Jackson points out that brands matter the most to audio fans.
“Consumers spend time researching the brands they are considering buying online before making a purchase, so ensuring you are stocking key brands such as Razer and Creative is crucial to success,” he advises.
STK Accessories’ Jay Pau adds that the audio headphone category is highly fragmented by type and price.
“It is only by understanding the gaps in the market, both in price and product category, that a retailer will become able to fully maximise their retail space,” he says.
“My advice for retailers is to stock a wide range of products from standalone manufacturers and brands which complement the other ranges in their stores,” adds Todaro.
“Let consumers decide what’s best for them when it comes to enhancing a TV or PC.”
Follow the trends
The ways in which people consume audio is always changing, so it’s important to know the latest trends.
“The product landscape is constantly evolving,” Sennheiser’s Linda Irvin tells PCR.
“Retailers can maximise opportunities by listening to the market – meaning they can give consumers what they want.
“By carefully observing the different ways that consumers use audio products, and the ways that they are willing to buy separate products for specific purposes, technology retailers can tap into a market of people that are constantly on the lookout for equipment to improve their individual experiences.”