Global Audio Market is Booming
Wireless speakers and headphones lead the way but some sectors are under serious pressure
Audio hardware continues to outpace the wider consumer electronics sector, with global sales in the fourth quarter growing 28% year-on-year to $10.2 billion, according to a report from Futuresource Consulting.
“This resounding Q4 performance underscores a record breaking year for audio hardware sales, clearly demonstrating how recent advances in the market are really connecting with consumers,” says Rasika D’Souza, a Senior Market Analyst at Futuresource. “Our quarterly figures show that home audio and headphones are both pushing the market forward, growing by 33% and 24% respectively, and our forecasts show continued growth throughout 2017.”
The ubiquitous use of Smartphones plus the popularity of music streaming services continue to drive market growth, but this is being boosted by Amazon’s, voice assistant enabled, Echo and Dot wireless speakers launching into more countries. The US launch of Google Home and widespread adoption of wireless headphones have also played their part.
“Our Q4 figures show that Echo and Dot sales are surging forward, accounting for around 30% of wireless speaker sales in the US and seizing 34% of the category’s sales in the UK,” says Zlata Jelisejeva, Research Analyst at Futuresource. “Additionally, Apple’s decision to remove the 3.5mm headphone jack accelerated wireless headphone sales and boosted the wider market, with wireless representing 49% of US headphone sales in Q4.”
In the wireless speaker category, Amazon moved up from fifth position during Q1-Q3 2016 to become the number two brand by Q4 2016 for units shipped worldwide. The wireless speaker segment remains highly concentrated, with a few top audio brands accounting for nearly half of all unit sales.
Despite strong overall performance from the sector, many sub-categories are beginning to shrink or slow down rapidly, placing some vendors in a precarious position. Hi-fi systems, loudspeakers, separates and soundbars are all among the losers in 2016, although audio growth elsewhere is eclipsing this downturn.
“As the world of audio revolves and consumers make their increasingly discerning choices, new technologies, software, content and fashion trends all play their part in the performance,” says D’Souza. “The world is changing. Ten years ago the audio market was dominated by vendors from Japan and Philips, whereas now we see the likes of Bose, Beats (Apple), Harman and Sonos as well as Sony jostling for position among the leading 5. Watch out for key developments in Voice Personal Assistant (VPA) speakers and wireless (and true wireless) headphones as the market surges forward; the winners will be the brands that continue to delight and deliver.”
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