The pandemic year of 2020 was a good year for TVs and PCs, as well as surprising products like webcams, monitors and PC headsets, although the news was less positive for headphones and the smartphones.
That’s according to Stephen Baker of the research firm NPD Group, who delivered a presentation Wednesday as part of a virtual media event held ahead of next week’s virtual International CES, and hosted by conference host Techfluence.
In the presentation, titled “Right Place, Right Product, Right Time, The Go-To Consumer Technology Products For the Pandemic,” Baker shared several trends in tech from 2020, and discussed whether they will continue in a post-pandemic world.
“Certainly, it’s been one kind of an extraordinary year,” Baker said. He said that growth in 2020 was driven by such traditional categories as TVs, PCs and tablets, and was clear that tech spending should not be considered “discretionary,” but rather necessary. And that necessity has led to lots of upgrades.
In looking at the industry’s growth over 2019, NPD found that the industry had $14 billion in added revenue over 2019 in March and later. While year-over-year growth was relatively flat in January and February, it jumped significantly in the summer and fall. In April, NPD said that TV sales were the highest they had ever been for a non-holiday season period.
On the year, the other big change, perhaps unsurprisingly, brought a change in the share of revenue for the electronics sector that was online. For most of 2018 and 2019, the online share of consumer electronics revenue was in the 40s, before hitting 51 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019, and staying there in the first quarter of 2020. But that number jumped to 68 percent of the second quarter, to 58 percent in the third and 61 percent in the fourth.
NPD named five “winners” from the year 2020, all categories that had their fortunes helped by people being stuck at home: DIY components, monitors, gaming, PC headsets and networking products. Gaming hardware, in particular, saw a $1 billion revenue increase in 2020. There was also a fivefold increase in sales of webcams, a formerly moribund product that returned to prominence in the pandemic year.
“We were successful because we had the right products at the right time,” Baker said. “Technology is certainly leading the way in that.”
Other surprising growth categories included networking cables, digital picture frames and cleaning accessories.
As for categories that underperformed in 2020, against expectations, those included the smart home, headphones, and wireless power products.
NPD will announce its forecast for 2021 later in the week.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.