What digital home categories does GfK track at the moment?
Gary Lamb (GL): An enormously wide range including consumer electronics, IT hardware and software, imaging and memory, interactive gaming hardware and software, DVD software and telecommunication devices excluding mobile phones at the moment.
Why are you not measuring the mobile phone market? Surely that is a very important category.
GL: It is an important category but it has been difficult for us to recruit the cooperation of the network service providers. We need to collect data from the retail universe in the categories we measure and, historically, we just haven't been able to get that cooperation locally. It is moving forward.
Do you have those relationships elsewhere in the world?
GL: More or less everywhere except Australia.
And is it a situation that will be remedied in the near future?
GL: Yes. There will be a retail tracking measurement for mobile phones in Australia by the third quarter of this year.
At the moment you track all of these categories by individual device. Are there any plans to change the way this is done?
GL: There's a major worldwide GfK project going on at the moment where we are moving away from having discreet local processing facilities for the data that goes into the reports. Information from discreet categories like televisions, digital cameras or whatever they happen to be will now be moved to a global data warehouse where all data from every category and every country in the world will reside in a single depository. This is GfK gearing up to measure convergence because the world is moving away from discreet categories. We need to be in a position to measure not just the categories themselves but the size and value of the digital market worldwide, within a region or within a country. We will be able to fuse things together to get the size of digital imaging or everything that is high definition. There will be a lot more opportunity for analysis that aggregate regions, categories or features. At the moment, because we apply the same methodology in every country, we can aggregate regions quite well - so we can produce a report on colour televisions in Asia-Pacific - but it's difficult for us to aggregate product categories because we have to add up the value of all the different categories. Once we have the data warehouse we can aggregate from there.
You touched on mobile phones as a category we can expect to see GfK tracking in the near future. Are there any others?
GL: Absolutely - we will be measuring the sale of home networking products and car navigation devices. A bit further down the line we will measure in-car entertainment systems.
Home networking is a message that is being pushed hard by the vendors but still seems quite slow to me. It will be interesting to see what those numbers are like. I imagine thEY are hard to quantify because a lot of home networking is for SOHO and SMB use.
GL: That's right. The retail tracking of that category might help us to make some assumptions on that. There's also the possibility of moving into these areas with our consumer panel measurements to get into usage and attitudinal stuff. We should be able to answer some of these questions more definitively. My suspicion is that the home networking gear out there is used mainly to help families share peripherals like a single printer.