Consumers still confused by PC shopping: survey

In the channel, we often talk about selling to the business needs and offering solutions over the “feeds and speeds” approach to telling technology. It would appear that tech retailers would benefit from the same approach.

According to survey commissioned by chipmaker AMD, almost one quarter of consumers are still confused by the process of buying a new computer, particularly when it comes to what exactly they’re getting for their money.

The Zogby International survey of 2,100 North American consumers showed that eight in 10 have purchased a PC recently or plan to buy one in the next 12 months. But 23 per cent admit to having some confusion about the whole process.

Based on IDC figures of 79 million PCs sold in North America, that means there are some 18 million confused computer shoppers running around the continent, according to Tracey Carroll, AMD’s director of North American consumer marketing.

“We as an industry have a problem translating the ‘how’ to the ‘what’ – the feeds and speeds to what it delivers to the end user. Our customers really need help with that.”

Even among those who feel they understand the technology and what it can do for them, buying a PC is not exactly seen as a pleasurable experience. Sixty per cent of those surveyed described PC shopping as a chore or a necessity. That in turn results in less time spent trying to decipher what those feeds and speeds mean, Carroll suggested.

Internally, AMD offers its Vision rating system for systems built on its CPU/GPU combinations. Vision attempts to translate those feeds and speeds into customer benefits, separating systems powered by AMD equipment into four tiers: Vision; Vision Premium; Vision Ultimate and Vision Black. The requirements for each scale up from simple e-mail and surfing at the basic level to extremely high-end gaming or high-performance computing at the Black level.

The company has offered the Vision guidance since September 2009, starting out with notebooks and more recently adding desktops. Carroll said it’s been popular (resulting in AMD processors in three times as many notebooks as last year,) but that making the PC buying experience less muddy for consumers isn’t an AMD-only thing. It’s got to be an industry-wide effort, she said.

“I think that keeping it simple is really important, and speeds and feeds aren’t simple, but that’s the model we’ve been going with for more than ten years now,” Carroll said. “Consumers just want to know how it’s going to make their life easier, how it’s going to make their Facebook-ing or Call of Duty-ing better.”

She said technology retailers and other manufacturers – both their fellow component-makers and system builders – also have to do their part to help explain to consumers what they should expect form the new computer they’re eyeing. It’s all about offering “a more holistic view” of technology products, Carroll said.

From AMD’s perspective, it’s staying the course with its Vision effort, just one third of the way into the three-year program it has planned. It plans to drive the message of clarity and customer benefit deeper with its retail and e-tail customers, she said.

Other notes from the AMD-sponsored research in buying patterns: Performance and price are the main drivers of the consumer PC buying pattern, and only one per cent consider appearance the most important factor. The report gives high marks to the Best Buy and Future Shop sales teams – more than three quarters reported that computer salespeople were helpful in making the right decision. Carroll said AMD supports that by “really investing with our retail partners to make sure they have the right information at the right time to make the purchasing process as easy as possible.”