M&E Daily

AI-Powered Smart Speakers, UHD TVs, Movies to Be Heavily Promoted Black Friday

Artificial intelligence (AI)-powered smart speakers and 4K Ultra High-Def (UHD) TVs were especially popular technology products last holiday season and an even wider assortment of them will be heavily promoted by retailers during this year’s Thanksgiving weekend, their holiday ad circulars showed.

Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers are again being widely touted by retailers. But this time the increased number of devices in those product lines is reflected in what’s being promoted.

Examples in Target’s circular include a “doorbuster” Google Home for only $79 ($50 less than its normal price), along with three doorbuster Amazon Echo SKUs: An Echo Dot (Gen 2) for $20 less than usual at $19.99, an Echo Dot (Gen 3) for $25.99 less than usual at $24 and an Echo (Gen 2) for $30.99 less than usual at $69.

Best Buy’s circular, meanwhile, is touting the third-generation Echo Dot for $1 less than Target, the second-generation Echo at $69.99 and Google Home at $79.99. It’s also giving away the third-gen Echo Dot for free to any customer who buys the Ring smart video doorbell Pro and Chime Pro bundle at $179.99 ($120 in savings, according to the retailer) – the sort of incentive that was unheard of when there were fewer Echo models available. Best Buy is also advertising the new Echo Show at $99.99 (a whopping $130 in savings).

Other retailers touting significant savings on Amazon Echo and Google Home this holiday weekend include the regional retailer P.C. Richard & Son in the northeastern U.S.

Meanwhile, the growing shift away from HD TVs in favor of UHD models, especially in larger screen sizes as pricing continues to decline, is being reflected in the TV assortment being promoted by retailers this holiday season.

Best Buy’s circular features three LED-backlit LCD 4K TV doorbusters right on the front page, all including high dynamic range (HDR), reflecting the larger number of models offering that premium feature now: a 43-inch Toshiba at only $129.99 ($200 off its normal price), a 65-inch Samsung at only $599.99 (also $200 off) and a 70-inch LG at only $699.99 ($300 off).

Target’s doorbusters include a 55-inch Samsung LED-backlit LCD 4K TV featuring HDR at $399.99 ($130 cheaper than it normally is). On the circular’s front page is a 55-inch Element LED-backlit LCD 4K TV at only $199.99 ($180 in savings) – pricing that was unheard of for any 4K TV that size, regardless of brand, not that long ago.

While Target’s circular is limited to LCD 4K TVs, P.C. Richard & Son is touting several LG and Sony 4K OLED models, with pricing starting at $1,599.91 for a 55-inch LG model ($700 off its usual price), reflecting the declining prices of 4K OLED this year. Best Buy’s circular features a 55-inch LG OLED model at $1,699.99 ($500 off).

Reflecting growing acceptance of UHD Blu-ray, Target’s circular is also touting a small number of movies in that format, including Fox’s “Deadpool,” at only $9 each as another doorbuster. Target typically sells them at $15-$24.99. Best Buy is advertising “Deadpool 2” and several other UHD Blu-ray titles at $14.99 each, noting 55 titles in all are being offered at that price – apparently more SKUs than Target is offering.

As usual, retailers’ circulars are filled with the latest Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo Switch and Sony PlayStation 4 consoles and software. But PlayStation VR virtual reality is apparently being touted by a growing number of retailers in their holiday circulars. Best Buy, for example, is advertising $100 in savings on all PS VR bundles.

VR demand could be stronger than it was last holiday season, according to Ian Essling, comScore director of survey innovation. But the technology’s popularity likely won’t reach the mass appeal of smart speakers, he predicted in a Nov. 20 blog post.

“Last holiday season saw the emergence of the smart speaker as a force in the connected home arena, and it instantly captured the attention of many consumers,” he noted, adding: “While only 11% of households had a smart speaker in October 2017, this exploded to nearly 20% by February 2018, fueled largely by holiday purchases.”

It’s unlikely that any tech device can achieve that kind of popularity this holiday season, “but there are several new tech advancements which could make some noise,” he said.

An example of “one big trend to watch,” he pointed out, is the number of new smart speakers that add screens, like Amazon’s Echo Show.

VR devices are “another technology where we expect to see some movement this holiday season,” but he predicted it will be “one with a more niche audience.” ComScore’s quarterly State of retail survey found that consumers had mixed opinions on how valuable VR devices will be in the future, he noted. Although about 50% polled said such products will be very valuable for gaming, a larger percentage viewed VR as not useful for retail applications including clothes and furniture shopping, according to Essling.