Evolving Smart Tech and the 2021 Consumer

Published Jan 15, 2021

To keep our finger on the pulse, we surveyed more than 11,000 global consumers in the Toluna Start platform ahead of CES 2021.

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As fast as times are changing, so is the technology available to consumers everywhere. And people’s needs and expectations are shifting just as quickly. So what is today’s consumer saying about these ever-changing smart technologies and how they fit into daily life?

To keep our finger on the pulse, we surveyed more than 11,000 global consumers in the Toluna Start platform ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2021 — one of the most influential tech events out there. It’s clear today’s consumer demands tomorrow’s technology, and they’re putting a lot of thought into their purchases. Here’s what they’re saying.

Tech Purchases and COVID-19

As expected, half of respondents report that their use of tech has changed as a result of COVID-19. The pandemic has had a profound impact on consumer attitudes and behaviors, changing the way they spend and leaving them cautious. They’re also more willing to choose brands based on cost and availability.

With that in mind, we asked which tech they’re most likely to invest in following COVID-19, and 52% said health tech to maintain fitness, with improved home networking just behind at 47%. Home technology (including security) is an area 43% of consumers are interested in, and 37% say they may purchase connected appliances in 2021.

Smart Home and IoT-Connected Devices

Many of us have been at home more than ever before, and 2020 saw a spike in home improvement and home fitness purchases. The 2021 consumer continues to be interested in smart home and IoT-connected devices, with solid reasoning behind their possible investments.

Forty one percent of consumers would consider purchasing smart light bulbs, and 38% would consider connected appliances including smart refrigerators, washing machines, and beyond. Home security devices or systems — such as SimpliSafe, Ring, and Vivant SmartHome — interest 36% of consumers, and 30% are interested in connected home devices including Google Nest and Ecobee. Connected home fitness purchases are a possibility for 22% of consumers, including the Peloton and Mirror.

So why are consumers motivated to purchase these smart technologies? The majority say for security (44%), with 39% citing entertainment and 38% wanting to monitor health and fitness activity. Other reasons include automating tasks (37%); measuring behavioral data (24%); sharing on social media (17%); and receiving more personalized ads (14%).

Still, more than half of consumers — 64% — say they don’t purchase smart home or IoT-connected devices because of the price. Forty two percent say they have uncertainty about how they’d benefit from owning these products, and 36% have privacy concerns.

Adopting New Technologies

The 2021 consumer is well-acquainted with existing technologies and devices, with more than 85% reporting that they own at least one of the following: Smart TV (54%); speech recognition or voice search device such as Siri or Alexa) (33%); smartwatch (30%); cloud services (29%); smart speaker with vocal assistant (27%);  a connected, wearable device to measure physical and health activity (25%); or a connected household appliance (21%). Of the smart speaker owners, 60% report using it at least once a day.

And their interest in purchasing new or additional tech in the next six months continues. Twenty nine percent of consumers would consider a Smart TV purchase, while 23% would consider a smartwatch or 5G technology. Connected household appliances and connected lights or bulbs interest 22% of consumers, and connected security equipment and smart speakers with vocal assistant interest 20%. More than half of respondents say they’d be more likely to make a purchase if they could virtually try it on or see how it would look in their home.

Future Trends

What we’re hearing from consumers is that they’re interested in smart technologies to support pandemic living with more time spent at home. They’re especially interested in health tech, home networking and technology, and connected appliances. The 2021 consumer is most concerned with security, entertainment, and monitoring their health and fitness efforts.

Interested in seeing more insights from this study? Download our infographic here.

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