Consumers Spent Big This Holiday Season - What and How Did They Buy, and What May Capture Their Attention Next?

Competition. It is an inherent element of our capitalist society. In the arts we compete for the time, attention, and financial support of our stakeholders. There are a lot of options for how people may choose to allocate these resources. There is some level of competition in the cultural sector between museums, theaters, and other similar organizations, but external options, such as other forms of entertainment or educational technology, present a plethora of choices for the consumer. With that in mind, as we start the year let’s take a brief scan of what was hot in the tech world through the 2018 holiday season, and what appears to be on the horizon.

2018 Holiday Season

This season consumers spent an estimated $1T on goods. Yes $1T, a trillion dollars. Mastercard’s SpendingPulse report showed estimated $850B in consumer purchases from December 1-24 alone. Target saw their digital sales rise by 29% this year, and according to Amazon, voice orders places through Alexa tripled.

That leaves me with a question. “Hey Alexa, what were people buying?”


The answer (not actually from Alexa) it seems, is clothing and home goods. Both sectors saw growth compared to 2017. Electronics sales were down slightly this year at -0.7%. That being said, online sales of electronics grew 8.5%. Mobile spending in general rose an estimated 57%. In the tech realm the top three electronics sold on Amazon were:

  • Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II) Wireless Headphones were tops

  • Samsung’s 65-inch 4K UHD 8 Series TV.

  • Apple’s 32GB Wi-Fi-only iPad

Adobe Analytica reported similar items as the top purchased electronics.

  • Nintendo Switch,

  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate,

  • LG and Samsung televisions,

  • iPad,

  • Fire TV, Roku, and Chromecast (video streaming devices).

While many of these goods directly compete for the time, attention, and resources of potential arts patrons, the purchase data provides insight into the ways in which the public consumes information. This consumer information can be useful to an institution looking to expand their offerings beyond their physical walls through avenues such as live streaming or AR/VR home experiences.


Looking forward

Continuing the idea of looking at how consumer tech, and increasing tech adoption can not only compete with, but also enhance the arts, the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show, presently happening in Las Vegas, presents a few emerging technologies that arts organizations may wish explore.

For example, the Vie Pro Eye VR headset features innovations that allow for eye tracking, a feature that leads to an enhanced immersive experience. In the music realm, the Sphero Specdrums allow people of all ages to use color in the world around them to learn music theory. Robots aboud at the CES, and Scribit, a drawing robot, is described by the company as “a vertical plotter that can draw any content sourced from the web - and update it in real time.”

While some of these technologies are still shifting into the production phase, new ways of presenting interactive content are rapidly emerging. Christmas Carol in VR provided an immersive, participatory experience with traditional material. Netflix’s sci-fi futurist dystopian Black Mirror offered BANDERSNATCH a choose your own adventure through a view to the past, a nod to the emergence of choose your own adventure gaming phenomena. Both offer views to potential futures for active participation with a narrative art form while revealing that a) not everyone wants or likes those formats and b) VR and tv-based audience-choice drama has a ways to go to achieve seamless art and entertainment.

Tech options are ever evolving, and we are looking forward to providing you insight into their use and options for the arts in 2019!