Buyers Bewildered By Techno-Speak

Consumers that don’t know their Bluetooth from their megahertz are likely to find new technology daunting, according to a joint study from AMD Global Consumer Advisory Board (GCAB) and MetaFacts Inc.

The survey of more than 1,500 consumers in China, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States was created to examine whether potential buyers understand the language of the technology industry, and if they are delaying their purchases because products and terminology are too complex.

The study confirmed new technology purchasing delays because of the perceived complexity of certain devices. For instance, 48 percent of respondents delayed their digital camera purchase because the devices are too complicated, 44 percent put PDA purchases on hold, and 44 percent put off home computer purchases too.

Nearly half of all respondents (46 percent) strongly state they don’t buy anything that is complicated to set up, and 62 percent strongly agree with the statement that they “wish to have things work and not spend time setting up.”

The Least Understood
Technology Terms Worldwide
Term Those That
DVR (Digital Video Recorder) 32%
Bluetooth [define] 44%
WAP [define] 46%
MP3 [define] 62%
Megahertz [define] 65%
DPI [define] 65%
Source: AMD Global Consumer Advisory Board (GCAB) and MetaFacts Inc.

Only 3 percent of respondents correctly identified all 11 terms, while the majority got 7 or fewer correct. Less than one-quarter (22 percent) guessed correctly on 5 or fewer questions, while 9 percent only got 3 or fewer correct.

The study also suggests that the PC is a gateway to the adoption of other consumer technology products, noting that 87 percent of those who plan to buy a DVR in the next 12 months already use a home PC, and 80 percent of those who plan to buy a DVD player in the next 12 months already use a home PC.

“The high-tech industry is spending more than $10 billion a year in the U.S. alone advertising the speeds and feeds of the products. But the industry is not getting the full value of their advertising dollars when, for example, only slightly more than half of the PC users we spoke with don’t understand the term ‘megahertz’ – which is used in a vast majority of personal computer (PC) advertisements,” said Patrick Moorhead, chairman of the GCAB and vice president of corporate marketing at AMD. “The technology industry must simplify its vocabulary so that consumers around the world can better understand the benefits technology can bring to their lives.”

The mostly female (62 percent), mostly American (58 percent) respondents were compartmentalized into different groups, depending on their tech-knowledge:

  • 10 percent felt confused by most technology products, with 65 percent admitting to never using a PC. More than half (57 percent) have a high school diploma or less, and many believe tech terms are made up.
  • 14 percent are described as being curious, yet cautious, with 38 percent of this group agreeing to try new technology before they need it.
  • 19 percent indicated correct responses for most of the tech terms, but 36 percent are late adopters, having only used a PC for 5 years or less.
  • 14 percent are considered to be comfortable with technology, with only 5 percent agreeing that computers are difficult to use.
  • 27 percent – the largest segment – are mainstream techies, composed of mostly 30-something, 3+ person households.
  • 16 percent are categorized as “gadget hunters” – those that are the least confused and most adventurous about technology. Nearly all (93 percent) are Internet users; 87 percent like learning about new products; and 73 percent claim to read the manual when they have questions.

Despite the confusing jargon, a joint Arbitron and Edison Media Research study of more than 2,000 Americans during January 2003 revealed that 59 percent own a DVD player; 48 percent own a universal remote control; 34 percent own a digital camera; 24 percent own a Sony PlayStation; and 21 percent have satellite TV/DSS [define].

They Might Be Buying
Device Those That Are Very Interested
Plasma/flat panel TV [define] 17%
Digital camera 15%
Flat panel computer monitor 14%
HDTV [define] 12%
Digital video camera 11%
Source: Arbitron and Edison Media Research

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