Why eCommerce Can Thrive in a Soft LCD TV Market

Old Television

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CNN Money recently reported that for the first time ever, shipments of LCD TVs were down in Q1 2012. The article attributes the decline to market saturation – most consumers already own a flatpanel TV, and those who don’t are likely willing to defer their purchase, especially given the weak global economy.

We’ve seen from past research that the majority of TV purchases are made offline – it’s an expensive, highly considered purchase for most consumers and seeing the product in person provides some reassurance that you’re making the right decision.

However, the online channel plays an important role for many consumers, in particular early in the research process. Retail websites are among the most popular resources for TV shoppers, who visit sites like BestBuy.com and Amazon to read consumer reviews and comparison shop feature sets and prices of TVs.

If interest in flatpanel TVs is waning, we would expect to see evidence of that in the online shopping behavior of US consumers. To test this, we looked at the volume of consumers shopping for LCD TVs at BestBuy.com, a leading online retailer of TVs.

LCD TV Researchers at BestBuy.com

Interest in LCD TVs on BestBuy.com has actually grown significantly (up 36% Y-O-Y in Q1 2012). This held true in April & May of 2012, where LCD interest was up 62% Y-O-Y vs. 2011.

LCD TV shipments are down, yet online consumers continue to show strong interest in the product category – what’s driving the diverging trends? Consumers are still interested in buying TVs, they’re just becoming more cautious about pulling the trigger. As a result, consumers are likely spending more time researching and shopping for deals from multiple sources online.

As online consumers become increasingly savvy about seeking deals for TVs and considering alternative options like tablets, the pressure will be on OEMs and retailers to optimize their campaigns and eCommerce experiences to compete for a shrinking pool of dollars.