More Gadgets Please

Smart tech ownership grows relentlessly

Consumer tech products have proven hugely successful in capturing people’s imaginations and, importantly, making them open their wallets.

Ten years ago, most people even in advanced markets owned few connected devices: many, but not all, had a mobile phone and some had a home PC. A few early adopters owned a tablet, and smart TVs were still a novelty.

The past decade has brought an extraordinary shift as people have embraced new technology. In pursuit of growth, tech companies have created and launched a huge range of new types of smart tech product. At CCS Insight, we always start our consumer research by asking people what personal and household gadgets they own, and in 2020 this question spanned no less than 15 categories of device. For many of these, demand hasn’t disappointed.

The regular surveys we conduct in the UK and US — two of the most advanced consumer tech markets in the world — reveal that smartwatches, fitness trackers, smart speakers and other connected home devices like smart doorbells, alarms and lighting have enjoyed widespread adoption by new users recently. Smart home speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home are outperforming the lot and have seen their adoption in the UK leap from 14% in late 2018 to almost 40% at the end of 2020 (see chart below). Similarly, the number of users of smart wrist-worn wearables has doubled within that time, as the start of the Covid-19 pandemic encouraged people to focus more on physical activity and fitness.

Adoption of some categories of smart devices in the UK, by share of the population. Source: CCS Insight consumer surveys

Overall, based on our nationally representative surveys, we estimate that at the end of 2020 the average UK consumer owned 5.2 categories of smart device and their US counterpart 4.8. Note that this refers to the number of categories rather than individual devices. Many households now have multiple smartphones, smart TVs, smart speakers, and with the spike in remote work and online learning in 2020, many have bought a second or even third tablet or PC for their family.

We’re also seeing another interesting change in device ownership through the lens of the people we call tech enthusiasts — in other words, people who own at least two of six categories of relatively novel connected devices. We have chosen this definition because we consider an entertainment enthusiast, who a few years ago owned one of the first TV streaming devices and one of the first VR headsets, equally as tech-savvy as someone who embraced smart speakers and smart home lights at their dawn. We use this group as a field to gauge appetite for more devices, what would make them consider buying a new type of gadget and how much they’d be willing to pay.

Our survey data reveals that in late 2018, technology enthusiasts made up 13% of the UK population and 17% of the US — very much early adopters. But by the second half of 2020, this same group had expanded to 32% for the UK and 30% for the US, as highlighted in the chart below.

Tech enthusiasts as a proportion of the population in the UK and US. Source: CCS Insight consumer surveys

One in three households is now a member of what was in 2019 a relatively exclusive club of tech enthusiasts, proving that technology is gaining more room in our lives, claiming more space in our homes, more of our time and more of our spending.

As connectivity becomes ubiquitous and more and more objects around us become smart and connected, the great hunger for new gadgets shown by people in advanced markets is good news for device-makers, component suppliers, content developers, distributors, and not least, telecom operators in search of new areas of growth.

To learn more about CCS Insight’s consumer research, get in touch with us.

You can download a free sample of our latest mobile buying research here.

Our survey of existing and potential users of virtual reality devices has just been published. If you’re not a CCS Insight client but are interested in finding out the results, drop us a line.