Editor's Picks: A Brave New World

 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, technology has played a crucial role in keeping businesses afloat and our society functional. With work-from-home and distance learning, the pandemic has increased our reliance on technology for communication, entertainment and work. Online shopping, contactless payment and telehealth services are only a few examples of trends that have accelerated during national lockdowns and stay-at-home mandates. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, consumer internet usage rose anywhere from 40 percent to 100 percent compared to pre-lockdown levels. Video-conferencing services like Zoom have seen increases in usage that are 10 times that of pre-pandemic behaviors, and content delivery services like Akamai have seen a 30-percent increase in usage.

Understanding how end users have recently changed the way they learn, do business, seek medical advice or care, and entertain themselves is crucial for businesses aiming to effectively advertise in this changed market. Technology is now necessary for daily activities like meetings. For example, Google Meet reports two billion minutes of usage per day, and Skype has 40 million daily users, which rose by 40 percent from February to March with Skype-to-Skype calling minutes up 220 percent. Perhaps looking for more face-to-face collaboration, twice as many people are turning on video in Teams now, and video calls skyrocketed by over 1,000 percent in March, according to The New Stack. Promotional tech products that support these trends have the power to meet consumers where they’re at while delivering what they need. 

Consumer electronics revenue is expected to grow three percent annually through 2021 in the U.S., according to the newly released Future of Tech report from The NPD Group. Big-screen TVs, innovations in wireless headphones and home automation along with a piqued interest in smart displays will drive growth. Home automation is anticipated to grow 40 percent through 2021. With the growing purchasing power of consumers, increased investment in infrastructure, growing dependence on technology and government support as the main drivers, the global home automation market was expected to witness this double-digit growth during the period from 2015 to 2020, according to MarketWatch. 

The smartphone-based control applications are also largely driving the home automation market. Today’s consumer is interested in controlling and monitoring home appliances anytime from anywhere with just a click and sometimes, with just their voice. In the U.S., about 29 percent of internet users own a smart speaker, with 70 percent of them using an Amazon Echo device, according to TechCrunch. The Pew Research Center says adults younger than 50 are more likely (29 percent) than those 50 and older (19 percent) to have this type of device in their household. According to NPR and Edison Research’s Smart Audio Report, women (54 percent) are more likely than men to own smart speakers. And those who already own a smart speaker want more. Fifty-eight percent of early mainstream users and 44 percent of early adopters said they plan to purchase another smart speaker, according to the Smart Audio Report. 

In the spring, when local and state regulations encouraged people to stay home, American consumers began buying TVs at a rate similar to that of the holiday season. According to The NPD Group, sales of TVs 65 inches and larger were up 53 percent over the first half of 2020. In 2021, it estimates that one in four TV unit sales will be for screen sizes larger than 65 inches, making this one of the fastest-growing segments in the market. As consumers spend more time at home, they’re investing more to make it enjoyable and comfortable, and as demand goes up, prices are coming down. The average price for a 65-inch TV from April to June 2020 was $644, about $200 lower than the same time a year ago, The NPD Group says.

True wireless headphones have become the top choice for consumers and are expected to see tremendous growth. Based on The NPD Group’s Future of Tech report, true wireless headphones will hold 75 percent of the headphone market dollar share by 2021. Industry analyst and executive director at The NPD Group Ben Arnold says, “True wireless earbuds have evolved into virtual must-have mobile phone accessories, and many products now offer features such as hands-free digital assistant access and touch/tap controls for interfacing and controlling smartphones. This bond between headphone and smartphone will help drive new sales in the future.” High-quality, personalized headphones or earbud cases can make an impact for any marketing strategy. 

While it seems impossible to live without internet, only half the world’s population is connected, according to the UN. Companies like Hiber are using microsatellites in low Earth orbit, which wakes up a modem plugged into your computer or device when it flies over and delivers your data. These satellites are already being used, orbiting the Earth 16 times a day, for access in the most remote places. In 2016, a report from the Human Rights Council of the United Nations General Assembly declared access to the internet to be a basic human right, vital to allowing individuals to "exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression." 

Internet for everyone is almost here, and clients can be ready with user-friendly promotional tech products to improve the day-to-day activities of any demographic. 

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User engagement and revenues for gaming companies and platforms have increased during the pandemic, accelerating existing trends in the gaming industry. Despite the widespread economic disruption, the global video game industry is thriving, offering an engaging distraction for users while social distancing. According to Newzoo’s 2020 Global Games Market Report, the global video game market is expected to be worth $159 billion in 2020, about four times box office revenues ($43 billion) and nearly three times music industry revenues ($57 billion). Gamers in North America account for a quarter of this revenue. 

Consumers today are buying fewer games than in previous decades, but are spending more time on those games, shifting the business model from single unit to recurring revenue generated from a game’s base of active users. This means making video games as compelling as possible by adding additional downloadable content (DLC) through in-game monetization which can include expansion packs, new features, tools and characters, and “loot boxes,” or virtual items that can be redeemed for other virtual items. Forty-eight percent of the industry’s revenue comes from mobile games, and games released during the pandemic are performing well, with titles such as Doom Eternal (a first-person shooter) and Animal Crossing (a world-building simulation) both shattering sales records after launching. According to Comcast, new game downloads have increased by 80 percent. 

Esports has been the most affected part of the industry with its reliance on live events. However, esports also started growing in popularity during COVID-19. With broadcasters looking to fill hours of cancelled sports content, esports competitions are being shown on live TV. NASCAR hosted its iRacing series, having one of the most successful events with one game attracting 1.3 million viewers at its peak. Politicians are also using tech and games to reach this audience. In October, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) made her debut on Twitch, a live-streaming platform, to play Among Us (a multiplayer social deduction game) and encourage viewers to vote. She became one of the platform’s biggest broadcasters with her stream peaking at 435,000 viewers around the time of her first match, according to Twitch. According to Streamlabs, platforms like Twitch, YouTube Gaming and Facebook Gaming have experienced a surge, with nearly a 20-percent increase in usage hours. 

While more consumers decide to join online gaming communities, clients involved in the gaming industry will want brands front and center of this growing audience. Perfect for direct mailing campaigns, promotional products present an opportunity to keep end users engaged and connected.

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This Plug 'N Play Controller comes with 220 built-in games, requires no expensive game console and connects to any TV with AV inputs. Enjoy hours of fun gaming just about anywhere. Powered by built-in USB or three AA batteries (batteries not included).


National Vendor Promotions  /  PPAI 572142, S5  / www.natvenpromos.com

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With these next-level Simsport VR Premium Glasses, your clients will alter the reality of every potential customer. The logo spot on this product is perfect. From park benches, airplane seats and restaurants, each time someone uses these VR glasses, they’ll be displaying your customer’s logo for the world to see.

SunJoy, Inc.  /  PPAI 357417, S7  /  www.sunjoy.us

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Experience high-quality sound—without headphones. That’s the magic of Bose Frames Tempo. These high-performance sport sunglasses are made with a revolutionary Bose Open Ear Audio design that allows you to hear your music and your surroundings at the same time for a workout unlike any other. Users can enjoy the most comfort and stability while finding the best fit from three nose pad options and interchangeable lenses. 

Incentive Concepts  /  PPAI 212912, S10  /  www.incentiveconcepts.com

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These Bose Sport Earbuds are true wireless Bluetooth earbuds engineered for your best workout yet. With acclaimed lifelike sound and a comfortably secure fit, get ready to beat your personal best, again and again, with your earbuds securely in place. 


Incentive Concepts  /  PPAI 212912, S10  /  www.incentiveconcepts.com

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The 5‐in‐1 Charging Cable with antimicrobial additive has a USB‐A tip and Type‐C input tip on one side and a two-in-one dual compatible tip for both Apple® iOS and Android devices on the other side. Charge multiple devices and utilize the 39-inch cable for greater mobility. 


Polyconcept NA  /  PPAI 112361, S13  www.pcna.com/en-us

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Protect your privacy with the iCamCover Metal. Attach to tablets, computer monitors or laptops to keep yourself and others safe from digital voyeurs and hackers. Just slide the webcam cover over your device's built-in camera when not in use. This slim, discreet and must-have tech accessory is available in black or silver with laser engrave capabilities.

iClick  /  PPAI 254537, S11  /  www.iclick.com

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This UV Phone Sanitizer with wireless charging pad uses UV‐C light technology for sanitization to kill 99 percent of microorganisms. Two UV germicidal LEDs are used for optimal sanitization. Press the button once for a short 90-second sanitization, and press the button twice for a five‐minute deep clean sanitization. It can sanitize almost anything that fits inside including large phones (iPhone 11 Pro Max, for example), keys, credit cards, watches, eyeglasses, jewelry, medical supplies such as protective equipment, and even children’s eating utensils. The sanitization will be stopped automatically once the lid is lifted to avoid UV light exposure. The wireless pad supports 5W wireless charging and works with most plastic phone cases, and includes a 39-inch USB to Type C charging cable.


Polyconcept NA  /  PPAI 112361, S13  www.pcna.com

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The Wedge Mobile Device Stand with a built-in wireless charger is a unique and functional mobile device stand. This multifunctional tech accessory supports virtually all smartphones and wirelessly charges them with 7.5/10W of power. Use its unique, attention-grabbing power to showcase brands and fast-charge Apple and Android devices.

Toddy Gear  /  PPAI 516677, S6   /  www.toddypromo.com

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This Koozie Fabric Waterproof Bluetooth speaker, with its unique shape and compact size, allows you to take it almost anywhere. No need to worry about sand on the beach or dirt on the trail; this item is dust, sand and waterproof. Enjoy powerful sound for up to 12 hours that connects from over 30 feet away.

 

BIC Graphic NA  /  PPAI 114187, S13  /  www.bicgraphic.com

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Turn your smartphone into a mobile cleaning device with the UVClean Micro. Like sunlight in your pocket, the built-in ultraviolet light uses short-wavelength ultraviolet light to kill or inactivate microorganisms, so you can sterilize on the go. This little device uses minimal battery life when plugged into your smartphone with the dual lightning/Android connector, or with the attached Type-C adaptor. It’s also great for cleaning your toothbrush while traveling, or high-touch surfaces and items like a remote control. Attach it to your keychain for ultimate portability.

iClick  /  PPAI 254537, S11 /  www.iclick.com

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Print photos easily, even from videos, using the Instax Mini and its accompanying app. This photo printer has Bluetooth technology and lets users add fun filters and frames to photos. Printing only takes 12 seconds and the last photo can be reprinted just from turning the printer upside down and pressing the power button. 

FUJIFILM North American Corporation  /  PPAI 274752, S10  /  www.fujifilm.com

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The CellSlip is your new tool for digital protection. Also known as a Faraday Bag, the CellSlip can be used for several safety purposes. Once your mobile device is securely stored inside, the Cell Slip can prevent incoming signals to your phone while driving, promoting safer driving habits. It can also be used to prevent hacking of your device, especially when running errands. And finally, use it to silence mobile phones during concerts, movies or private events. 

iClick  /  PPAI 254537, S11 /  www.iclick.com

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The USB Wall Charger Turbo 6 transforms one wall outlet into a six‐port USB charging station. With 50 watts of power, it can charge up to six devices simultaneously at blazing fast speeds.

Mobile Edge  /   PPAI 314937, S1  www.mobileedge.com/premiums/

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This Instamax Mini LiPlay captures and instantly prints two-by-three-inch photos from the camera or directly prints from smartphones or tablets using Bluetooth. Easily capture group photos by using your smartphone as a shutter button, and attach a recorded sound to your photo and play back by scanning the QR code. Users can choose from a variety of frames and filters for more printing fun, and review and select photos before printing.

FUJIFILM North American Corporation  /  PPAI 274752, S10  /  www.fujifilm.com

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Kristina Valdez as associate editor of PPB.

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