Parks Associates: Headphones Likely to Experience Sales Spike Due to Coronavirus

Thanks in part to a record number of work-from-home employees, sales of headphones, earphones, smart speakers and more are expected to rise throughout 2020.

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A recent study by Parks Associates, a technology-based marketing and research company, finds that 44% of US broadband households own speakers, 37% own headphones bought separately from a phone or music player, and 33% own a separate set of earbuds. Purchase intentions were flat prior to the coronavirus outbreak, due in large part to the emergence of smart speakers, but demand for headphones and earbuds will likely experience an initial spike with work-at-home and entertainment-in-place now the standard for many households.

This new demand will not diminish consumer expectations for advanced functionality, so Parks says device manufacturers still need to prioritize app development and software enhancements to enhance the user experience.

The study, titled “Smart Product Market Assessment – Audio Devices” addresses future growth in the connected audio device market, including market drivers and inhibitors, identification of key players, consumer purchasing decisions, and user experience.

“Everyone in the household now needs their own headphones and earbuds for privacy during this time of shelter-in-place orders and work-at-home mandates,” says Steve Nason, research director, Parks Associates.

“Following this initial wave of purchases, users will look to integrate these standalone products with their smart speakers and other connected devices in the home. This trend was already underway with the gradual dissolution of the ‘home theater system’ concept, and now households feature a collection of different audio products, brands, and devices that must work together to deliver a seamless user experience.”

Entire Audio Category Gets a Boost From At-Home Workers

Soundbars are now a prominent standalone product category in the audio device landscape, with adoption at nearly one-fourth of US broadband households. It is the most likely audio device to be connected to the TV, so soundbars have not been as impacted by smart speakers and displays as other audio products. However, growth has remained flat. Adoption of more niche audio devices such as internet-connected AV receivers and multiroom music systems has remained low.

“Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the traditional audio device category was at a crossroads,” says Nason.

“Adoption and usage of devices such as wired/wireless speakers without voice assistants, audio/visual receivers, home theater systems, and multiroom music systems had waned. While consumers are making purchases now to accommodate work-at-home and home schooling needs, manufacturers need to maintain their emphasis on innovation, particularly the integration with voice assistants, so that their devices can have value beyond the initial stop-gap usage.”

Parks Associates notes device manufacturers and voice assistant providers alike have to better market and communicate the value that integrated voice control brings to audio devices. Increased integration of audio devices and the use of high-resolution and 3D audio with the most-used CE video device, smart TVs, will also raise the profile of the audio category.