Holiday shoppers: You'll spend more on tech this year

CNET's annual shopping study reveals how much Americans plan to spend in 2016 plus some surprises about how millennials shop for gifts (or not).

Lindsey Turrentine EVP, Content and Audience
Lindsey Turrentine is executive vice president for content and audience. She has helped shape digital media since digital media was born.
Lindsey Turrentine
3 min read

Here's the thing about being the biggest technology website with the most tech reviews on the internet: We know quite a bit about how people shop and what they want, especially around the holidays. If you're 35 or younger, for example, we know that you're more likely to ask for a smartwatch than a TV or a tablet if you have to choose just one tech gift.


For the past many years, we've conducted a holiday shopping survey to find out what people who read CNET -- in other words, anyone interested in tech -- think about how they'll spend their holiday shopping cash.

This year, the CNET Holiday Shopping Study is big. During October 2016, we asked more than 1,000 US-based CNET readers a wide range of questions to get a sense for how much you'll spend this year and what you want to buy. We also asked about who gets the gifts you buy and some questions to figure out how your age affects your spending patterns. (Because millennials want nothing more than to hear more reporting on their consumer behaviors. Right, millennials?)

Age matters

Speaking of millennials, it turns out that -- and this probably won't surprise you -- shoppers between the ages of 20 and 35 will spend less ($620) than your average holiday shopper, who's planning to spend $810 (up $10 from last year). Younger shoppers usually have less disposable income and fewer children and relatives to buy for, so smaller millennial budgets don't surprise us. But here's the funny part: More than any other part of the population, millennials plan to spend money on themselves this holiday season. A whopping 75 percent of shoppers under 35 plan to buy presents for themselves compared to 64 percent of the total audience.


The millennial differences don't stop there. Forty-seven percent of millennials plan to spend more on technology this year than last, while only 64 percent of total survey respondents plan to spend more on tech. And when it comes to what you all want to receive this winter, shopping lists vary radically by age.

Tablets top the tech wishlist overall when we asked you all to name all the gifts you want. Thirty-six percent of you want them, just ahead of wireless headphones at 31 percent. Tablets are also the most popular gift to receive among millennials with 45 percent indicating that they would like to receive one, ahead of wireless headphones and phones , both 40 percent.


But when we asked everyone to name they gift you want if you can choose only one, the results look different. Overall, phones come out on top with 12 percent, just ahead of PCs and TVs , each with 11 percent, then tablets (10 percent) and smartwatches (8 percent). Millennials are much more likely (+50 percent) than other generations to name phones when asked to chose one item, but less likely to name TVs. And millennials dig smartwatches: 12 percent name them as their single tech gift choice -- more than TVs (9 percent) or tablets (7 percent).

Smart home rising

Despite all the traditional tech gifts topping wish lists, smart home devices don't fall far behind. Twenty-seven percent of CNET visitors would like to receive smart home tech this year, with 54 percent wanting smart speakers (like Amazon's Alexa-ready Echo speakers). Smart thermostats and connected lights come in at 45 percent and 44 percent respectively.

Overall, our survey says good things for the tech industry . Despite slowing growth in some tech categories (including tablets), a broad swatch of shoppers are ready to spend a little more this year.