As people become more comfortable with using technology and using the internet, it is assumed they’ll be more likely to shop online. But interestingly, when it comes to buying laptops, this trend is not true as the number of people buying laptops in stores now is 56 percent of buyers as opposed to 50 percent two years ago.
This breakdown of buyers online versus in store comes from research done by the NPD group. The NPD group specifically found that 56 percent of laptops sold to consumers in the first quarter of 2006 were bought in a store, up from 50 percent two years ago. And this statistic is the reason some analysts say Dell is losing ground to HP in terms of notebook sales. HP notebooks can be found in just about any retail store, while Dell notebooks are exclusively available on the web. An interesting article in the Wall Street Journal, and republished in the Dallas Star Telegram brings up this very point.
So why are people more likely to go and look for a laptop in a store as opposed to online nowadays? There’s a few reasons this is happening:
- Laptop computers are an item people like to tryout and see before they purchase, people like to test out a notebook by typing on the keyboard, seeing the screen and feeling how much it weighs. Nobody cares too much about “trying out” a desktop computer.
- Spending a $1,000+ online is different than buying a $20 DVD, book or video game online — some people are simply not that comfortable with making large purchases via the web.
- Instant gratification and time sensitive order needs. If you order a notebook online and then can’t know for sure when you’ll get your hands on the product, this can be a deterrent or a huge problem for some. Problems can always arise with shipping and inventory issues on the manufacturer’s end, indeed orders can end up taking months instead of weeks to arrive from certain manufacturers.
- More people are buying laptops than desktop computers these days. With an influx of new consumers that may be less inclined to buy online since they are newer to technology, they will shift the curve towards more in store purchases.
- Some people simply prefer to buy from a bricks and mortar store so that if a problem occurs they can go directly back to that store and deal with someone in person instead of having to call support.
- The rise of the $400 – $600 notebook. Stores such as Wal Mart and Costco now sell notebooks in the $400 – $600 range. In addition, stores such as Circuit City and Best Buy are selling low-end Toshiba and HP notebooks in this price range. People buying these notebooks are totally different consumer set than those that shop for $2,000+ gaming notebooks, and generally this set of consumers are much more likely to buy in store.
These are just a few reasons at least. Personally I think the ultimate notebook shopping experience involves going to a store to actually try out a notebook, and then going online to look for reviews of that notebook, see if I can configure the same model to suit my needs and maybe get a better price. A lot of people use this strategy in fact. Which might be a big reason Dell is losing ground to HP, while Dell does have kiosks sprinkled around 700 or so malls in the U.S., it’s still harder to find a Dell notebook to tryout than it is finding an HP, Toshiba or Apple notebook.
Snapshot of Most Popular Laptops standing for August 31st 2006, the Toshiba A105 on top is very widely available in retail stores
Interestingly, notice that on this sites homepage the Toshiba Satellite A105 is the most popular notebook for visitors to search for information and reviews on. If you were to walk into CompUSA, Circuit City or Best Buy today I guarantee you will see a Toshiba Satellite A105 in the store — it’s in almost every electronics store. The simple explanation as to why this notebook is popular on our site is that people go into these stores, go back home and search and do research on this notebook and opinions on it, and then go back and buy it or find it cheaper online. Proof positive there that retail stores are a very big deal in shopping for notebooks today.