Holiday Shopping 2007 — How Wireless is Shaping Up

"˜Tis the season for snow, Santa and shopping till you drop. Merchants across the country are currently in the midst of their busiest season of the year. The wireless industry is no exception, hoping to draw consumer interest (and dollars) from new product launches, bundled deals and blitz advertising campaigns. Q4 2006 saw a 14% increase in mobile phones sales from the previous year. Will this trend continue in 2007? To find out, Compete ranked mobile phone interest by measuring the number of times visitors to major carrier websites viewed detail for specific phone models in the month of November. Models with multiple colors and styles available were not combined.

The most viewed handset in November 2007, the LG Voyager, generated 131% more traffic than the most viewed handset in November 2006. This likely speaks to the large amount of publicity and buzz that Voyager marketing campaigns created pre-launch (check out this superfan’s site) and the heavy promotional activity it received post-launch. Plus, let’s face it; comparisons to the iPhone likely drew curious consumers. The iPhone didn’t suffer much though, as it held the 4th spot in November. Five months post-launch, consumers are still very interested in the device.

On a similar note, T-Mobile improved on its continued success with the Sidekick line of handsets, as three versions of the device landed in the Top 10 in November. The Sidekick is a perennial leader in online interest due to the popularity of messaging-oriented devices and the active user community that surrounds the Sidekick series. The Sidekick and Sony Ericsson’s Walkman series were the only brands to have devices in the Top 10 in both 2006 and 2007.

The mix of devices residing in the Top 10 in 2007 signals a shift from previous years. Smartphones, still less than 15% of the overall market, are beginning to become more popular with consumers. Carriers promote the devices (and their high-margin data plans) heavily at this time of year, include more smartphone devices in their portfolios and recognize consumers’ increasing desire for their mobile phone to do more than just make calls. As a result, the smartphone space looks like a place for continued growth and expansion for the market.

It is interesting to note here that despite the variation in year-over-year percentage change, overall interest increased 15% between November 2006 and November 2007. Large percentage increases in the 8th, 9th and 10th spots suggest that there are more choices of popular smartphones today than in 2006. Increased interest is spread across more handsets, rather than bunched up in only a few. One example of this could be RIM, who claimed four of the Top 10 spots in 2007. The Blackberry’s recent popularity is mostly due to the continued success of the Blackberry Pearl (now available on all four major carriers) and the proliferation of colors as they look to expand the target audience of this device.

With over 80% of shoppers saying they plan to use the Internet to research their next wireless purchase, measuring online behavior provides marketers a chance to observe consumers early in the purchase process. By measuring online demand, carriers and manufacturers can gauge consumer interest in specific products and get results quickly enough to react before the window of opportunity has passed. This is especially important during the holiday season, which can make or break a company’s entire year. Who will be the big holiday winners in 2007? We gave you a look here, but we’ll check back in January for the results.

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